Pitching public service announcement videos

When you’re working for a non-profit or public service group, you’ve got a limited budget for promotion, advertising, and media relations. Sure, there are a few public service groups like the Red Cross that have decent money to spend, but most local and regional groups don’t have that kind of cash. If you want to do a public service announcement video, it’s a big investment, so you have to be ready to sell the concept to the people who make those budgetary decisions.

The first thing to do is to analyze your group’s current media strategy and figure out how a public service announcement video…or a series of them…can increase effectiveness. You have to be honest here, because the answer might be: “It can’t.” If that’s the case, you have to put your ego aside and give up the idea.

If the answer is: “Yes, it can make us much more effective and extend our reach further than we can get with current means,” then the next step is making an effective pitch for it.

If your group needs more than spare change to help the community, a PSA may be the way to go

If your group needs more than spare change to help the community, a PSA may be the way to go

Storyboarding is going to be critical here, because you need to make sure your message is clear and well though out before you try to convince your boss to loosen the purse strings. Going into it, ask yourself these questions: What is the main message of the PSA? What is the call to action? What is the longevity of the PSA (is it for a deadline-specific event like a canned food drive, or is this for an ongoing service like emergency housing for battered women)? Can the video(s) be used in multiple outlets (television, your group’s YouTube/Vimeo page, your website)? Does your group have corporate sponsors who might be willing to defray the cost of the video, or even pick up the cost entirely, in exchange for acknowledgement on your website, possibly in a separate video highlighting the corporations’ contributions to your cause?

While you have to answer all of these questions, the last point is one of the most important. If you can effectively pitch a way to pay for the PSA videos while giving your corporate sponsors some love, you’re well on your way to success. Let’s say you plan a series of three PSAs for the battered women’s shelter mentioned above. You’ve been getting donations from a major company to help keep the shelter running. Of course the company gets a tax write-off, but it wouldn’t hurt to give them some positive strokes with public acknowledgment. So, in addition to the three PSAs, you also plan a video highlighting the company’s contributions to your organization, with the corporate logo prominently displayed at the end. This video can be used on your website as well as the company’s.

The best step in this case is to call the company liaison you work with and ask if this is even doable. If the company is willing to listen, you may have to do a separate pitch for them. Make sure you include storyboarding for the fourth video.

If your organization doesn’t have a corporate sponsor yet, perhaps this is the time to start looking for one. You can highlight the acknowledgement video when presenting your case to them, then work in the PSAs as part of the package. Do some legwork in researching video production companies ahead of time and see if you can get them to cut you a deal on a four-video package. If the potential sponsor only is willing to go for the acknowledgement video now, as well as donating to your organization, don’t give up on the PSAs. You may be able to bring up the concept again at a later date, once you and the sponsor company have solidified your ties.

Another key point for pitching the PSAs is the need to invest in a quality production. Yes, that may mean spending more money for a more polished video, but it also significantly increases your chances of getting airtime on television stations. There are some misconceptions about how much public service programming stations have to provide, because the real requirement is for programming that is in the public interest. That can include educational programming as well as public service spots. That narrows down the amount of free time any station will be willing to give for public service spots. The better your final product looks, the better your group will look, and the more likely you are to get the best possible air slots.

One word of caution: if you’re working with a corporate sponsor on these, be aware that you probably can’t use the corporate logo or mention the company in the PSAs for television (you may be able to cut separate versions for your website and other Internet use that include mentions of the company). TV stations will see this as giving free advertising to the company, and they won’t take the spot.

Pitching a PSA can be daunting, because you have to convince the powers that be in your organization that it’s worth the time and money. One of the last points we want to mention is that you should also present a plan of execution as part of your pitch, meaning you consult a video production company like Hencar to get an idea of what can be done, and how long it will take. If, like Hencar, the company offers delivery services as well as production, make sure to bring that up too. You wouldn’t be working for this organization if you didn’t believe in it. If you think PSAs can increase the group’s effectiveness, then it’s time to believe in yourself too. Now go make that pitch!