There is no magic formula for producing a Public Service Announcement. Every client is unique with a unique story to tell. And while there is no set template to follow, there are some key considerations worth applying before you dive into production. All of these factors can impact both your creative direction and the strategizing of your messaging platform.
-Clearly Define Your Audience: it seems obvious, and it’s exactly for that reason that this often gets dismissed or overlooked. You need to clearly understand who you are talking to. Are they older or younger? Are they predominately male or female? Are there regional considerations with your message? Is it aimed at a minority population? Is your issue one that leans more ‘conservative’ versus ‘liberal’? Whoever your audience is, your decisions regarding the kind of narrator you use, the kind of music tracks you utilize, the look and feel of your graphics package, and every other aspect of PSA production will all be affected. You need to ‘speak’ to your audience in both a visual and narrative style that will most resonate with them.
-Hot Button Issues: You know your issue/cause better than anyone. You’re the ones out in the trenches promoting the cause and spreading the word. What do you find works best when talking to people? What is it that gets them excited or interested? Sharing this information with your production team will allow them to better frame your message and leverage information properly in the context of your TV or Radio spots.
-Common Objections: Many issues in public service announcements have a good deal of misinformation swirling around them. Some issues are even surrounded in mini ‘controversies’. Know your common hurdles and objections and don’t run from them. Embrace them. Use this knowledge to diffuse these misperceptions in your spots before audiences even have a chance to bring them up.
-Collateral Material: Are your spots going to be part of an existing campaign? Do you already have collateral material circulating about your issue or cause? If so, make sure your spots align properly with any material you’ve already produced. Creatively, how do your current direct mailers, web banners and billboards convey your message? Are they ‘real people’ testimonial style? Do they use a quirky/humorous approach? Dramatic scare tactics? Whatever the case, make sure your TV and Radio creative appropriately match the attitude and voice of your other materials. And not just creatively – but stylistically as well. Employ the same color palette, the same font package. Use the same design elements, tag lines, and slogans. At the end of the day, you want to create as much brand continuity as possible between ALL your media to further enhance audience retention.
It is through these kinds of variables, along with a host of other considerations, that you will be best positioned to produce the most powerful PSA you can. You need to stack the deck in your favor as much as possible, so use what you know. Don’t produce your public service announcement in a vacuum based on a ‘cool’ idea. Instead, wrap your cool idea around qualified information that you can access. It’s a bit of science, a bit of psychology, a bit of ‘gut reaction’, and sprinkle in some luck. Having a keen understanding of this process will be of great benefit to your production process.
Dave Braun is president of Braun Film & Video, a Washington, DC-based video production company that has been providing video production and post production services to non profits, businesses, and government clients since 1992. Specialties include commercials, corporate videos, and public service announcement production.