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PSA Production – Five Tips For Producing Effective Public Service Announcements

July 19, 2010

Five Tips on PSA Production

1.              Where do we start with PSA production? 

Before embarking on PSA production for any campaign, it is critical to understand the full context of the message, the audience, the existing ‘brand’, and any collateral materials that will be distributed in conjunction with the public service announcement. We do not employ any kind of magic ‘template’ for a PSA, as every message is unique, and needs to be custom tailored to best reach its audience. PSA production techniques may range widely based on who the audience is and writing style, shooting and editing should ultimately be dictated based on what is known about the target audience and any secondary audiences. All nuances of the campaign should be considered – what is the end call to action? What do people already think or know about the subject matter? What are some of the common hot buttons around the issue? What are some of the common objections to the issue/cause? What is the projected life span of the PSA? All of these answers, along with a host of additional questions and answers will best prepare you to create a campaign that most effectively leverages your messaging platform, and speaks directly to your audience. 

2.              How much will the public service announcement cost? 

Cost-affecting factors include PSA production parameters such as: how many shooting days? Shooting on film vs. video? How large a crew? Specialty equipment needed like cranes, Steadicams, dollys, etc? Location shooting or studio shooting? Customized props or sets? Union or non-union actors? What types of talent? Are there music and talent usage rights? Library music or original composition? How elaborate a graphics / animation package?, etc. We pride ourselves on our ability to create public service announcement campaigns based around client dictated budgets whether they be small, medium or large and on the fact that we can execute effective campaigns based on either very established brands, or beginning from scratch.

3.              Where/When will the public service announcement air?

It is critical to manage expectations with regards to public service announcement airings. Unlike paid commercial advertising, the airing of a PSA is entirely at the discretion of local station PSA directors. These people are literally inundated with PSA products and pitches from various groups trying to get their messages out. Depending on the timeliness of the issue, the personal sensibilities of the PSA directors, the relevance of the message to the stations’ specific demographic and a host of other intangibles, there is never any guarantee that a public service announcement will see the airwaves. Subsequently, it is important to strategize your PSA marketing campaign to best utilize the information on hand to maximize station airings.

4.              How long should our public service announcement be? 

Typically, a PSA is versioned as both a:30 and a:60 second spot. This increases likelihood of airings since stations can have some flexibility in filling in either time slot. Often:10’s and / or:15’s are created as well. 

5.              What can we expect from the PSA production process? 

Our ‘typical’ process would unfold as follows: 

– Discovery / Q&A – Concept Development (we would propose several generally sketched out ideas for client approval) 

– Final Approach (based on feedback from Concept Development stage, we would fully flesh out a particular concept) 

– Pre-production (planning, storyboards (when appropriate), schedule development and hiring of key individuals) 

– Execution (PSA production, post-production and final formatting) 

– Delivery to Distributor (we work closely with the distributor to ensure delivery of high quality formats and appropriate collateral such as final script, screen grabs for packaging, etc.)

Author: Dave Braun

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