Watch, read and listen to local media
Become a media consumer of public service ads. Watch for PSAs on your local TV and cable stations and in your news-papers. Listen for PSAs on the radio. Knowing what types of spots your local media use gives you an opening when working to place PSAs.
Make a call or surf the Internet
To ensure that PSAs receive regular airtime and print space in your community, make personal contact with the public service manager responsible for PSA placement. Call the station or newspaper and ask who you should contact about placing a PSA. Another good place to start is the Internet. TV and radio stations usually post PSA placement information on their web sites.
Cultivate personal contact - it's the key to success
Identify key decision makers at each station. Knowing the right person to contact is important. These people act as gatekeepers and make decisions on which PSAs will be awarded time and space, as well as when they will appear.
After you have found the person in charge of PSAs, set up a meeting. Personal contact is the best way to have PSAs placed because it give public service managers a local connection to your issue. Competition for public service time and space is very intense. Each month, stations receive from a dozen to a hundred local and national PSAs. Although neither radio nor television stations are now required to donate a specific amount of time to PSAs, stations are obligated (as a condition of their FCC license) to determine local needs and respond to the community they serve. There is no such legal incentive for print media.
Start by asking if this is a good time to talk. If it isn't, find out when the person can best be reached. Talk briefly about your ideas and ask to meet to discuss it further, preferably at the station or newspaper.
Preparation for a face-to-face meeting can mean the difference between success or having your PSA sit on the shelf. Here's a basic list of questions you should ask yourself before every meeting.
During your meeting, make sure to do the following:
If the media outlet agrees to run the PSA, ask the manager to send you a list of air or print times. Confirm that the outlet will run a local tagline with your organization name and phone number.
If the station has agreed to produce an original spot, then work to develop a script that highlights your message.
Don't take no for an answer
If you cannot get a commitment to run the PSA, find out why. Are they committed to another program area? Ask what you can do to help the station do a better public affairs job for itself and its community. Many stations may not flat-out refuse, but they may have other reasons why they are unable to commit.
If the station currently has too many PSAs running, ask if you can wait in line until some of the existing PSAs rotate off the schedule.
If you are having problems setting up a meeting, you may want to send a letter outlining your ideas.
Try bartering time
You may also want to consider contacting advertisers in your area to see if they are willing to barter spots with local buys. If companies in your community advertise regularly on television and in newspapers, you can ask them if your organization's ads can be included in a "barter" arrangement in their media placements.
A local grocery story may be willing to put your organization's phone number on its bags or pass out information at checkout counters. Restaurants may put your information on tray inserts. Be creative.
Say "thank you"
Express your appreciation for the time that the station has taken with a thank-you note.
Track your success
Continue to stay in contact with public service managers and continue to monitor PSA placements.
Advertise on billboards and transit systems
In addition to television and print ads, local outdoor advertisers will provide free space provided your agencies pay for the cost of the artwork and installation. The same is true for transit ad. For additional information, contact your public transportation public affairs office or the community affairs offices of the local outdoor advertising company that is listed on the billboard.
This information made possible with permission of the Communications Consortium Media Center (www.ccmc.org), 1200 New York Ave., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005; ph: 202-326-8700.
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