Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Using National PSAs to Support Local Activities

Public Service Announcements, or PSAs, are powerful tools to inform and motivate large audiences, but creating original materials may be beyond the budgets of many volunteer immunization coalitions. National organizations, however, will often provide PSAs at low or no cost to local partners who can assist with their distribution. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for example, recently released free PSAs to promote pre-teen vaccination; local groups are encouraged to use the ads in their communities.

How can your group use national PSAs, like those developed for CDC’s pre-teen campaign, to raise awareness and promote local resources? Consider the following tips before getting started.

1. Have realistic expectations for PSAs.
A well-executed campaign can shape opinions, spotlight services, and motivate audiences to take simple actions, like calling an information line or talking to a doctor. Expect that PSAs alone cannot change complex behaviors or compensate for lack of services. They are most successful when used in a multi-faceted campaign that provides local support.

2. Develop an outreach strategy to promote the PSAs and your coalition.
Boost the impact of PSAs by launching a locally focused outreach effort. Possible activities include expert interviews about the PSA topic, letters to the editor, and community events. Some national campaigns encourage local groups to co-brand their efforts and provide tools, such as logos and templates.

3. Know which audience the PSA is intended to reach.
Effective campaigns often target their message to specific groups in order to create tailored messages. Tailored messages are more likely to resonate with the audience and inspire them to act. CDC, for example, identified mothers of 11 and 12 year old children as the primary audience for their new campaign. Knowing the intended audience will help your coalition identify the best local media outlets to carry the message.

4. Maintain a strong network of media contacts and resources.
Many coalitions already have strong relationships with their local media providers. Utilize your connections with editors and producers to pitch PSAs. Many outlets will require a specific file format, so be sure to inquire about their needs. In addition, consider alternative channels, such as movie theaters, local events, and Web sites to broadcast messages.

5. Use different formats to meet different needs.
The same message can be packaged in different formats and languages to increase its distribution. CDC’s new campaign offers radio PSAs and 15, 30, and 60 second television spots in English and Spanish. Match the PSA options offered by the campaign with the needs and resources in your community. Don’t worry if you don’t use all of the campaign options. It is more important to target the message carefully to ensure its maximum impact in your area.

6. Provide follow up support.
Coalitions provide a key element to any successful PSA campaign-local support. Messages can inspire action, but accessible resources are vital to encourage meaningful and sustained behavior change. Identify the appropriate resources in your community and secure their commitment before you begin broadcasting messages.

Leave us your comments: How has your Coalition used PSAs to encourage vaccination? What successes or lessons learned does your group have to share?

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