Paid or Public Service Advertising
Placing PSAs: Getting Started
Updated: 6.1.06 Printable version
Step 1: Do Your Homework
Before pitching your PSAs to broadcast and print outlets in your area, research these media organizations. Your contacts will appreciate the fact that you took the time to understand their company and the media industry.
Identify media outlets in your area that reach parents. Does this station or newspaper reach families with children? In which language(s) does the station air programming and PSAs? You can find out more about the media outlet's target audience by asking its advertising or sales department. By demonstrating your understanding of a station or publication's target audience, you are showing these media professionals that you care about their business and are giving them a reason to care about your issue, namely, because it is important to their readers and viewers. Eliminate the outlets that do not reach your target audience.
Research their current public service efforts. Does this outlet have an ongoing community or public service campaign that corresponds with the Covering Kids & Families mission? Is this outlet promoting a particular community issue on a regular basis -- such as children's health? Does this newspaper, radio station or television station already work with any members of your coalition? Can Covering Kids & Families work--promoting Medicaid and SCHIP enrollment--add value to their current community affairs work? A "yes" to any of these questions could translate into a valuable opportunity for your coalition to successfully place a Covering Kids & Families PSA. Encourage local media outlets to use current and past public service commitments as a springboard for a new partnership with Covering Kids & Families.
For example, if a television station sponsors activities about children's health, Covering Kids & Families materials and on-the-ground outreach efforts can add value to their community affairs work. If an outlet does not have an existing public service campaign, encourage it to consider working with Covering Kids & Families. The outlet's participation would give it the opportunity to provide a tangible service to its readers, viewers or listeners.
Prepare state facts and figures. Before agreeing to run a PSA, public service professionals will want to know why they should promote Medicaid and SCHIP coverage for kids. They will want to understand the scope of the problem of uninsured children in their media market or state and how these programs can help families.
The Templates section has several tools that will help you as you work with the media. The State Press Fact Sheet, which provides state facts and enrollment figures, is a helpful resource for public service professionals and journalists. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Spokespersons covers many of the issues that media professionals are likely to ask you including:
1. What is Covering Kids & Families?
2. Why is it important that children have health insurance?
3. What other ways is [STATE/CITY/COUNTY] educating the public about available health care coverage for families?
4. By getting parents to enroll more children, aren't you pushing up against tight state budgets, placing your outreach efforts at odds with the fiscal reality in some states?
5. What benefits and services are provided for children by our state's program?
6. What are the income eligibility requirements for our state's program? (i.e., What is the maximum income that a family of four can earn in order to qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP coverage?)
7. How can families find out more about this program?
Prepare a media list. Once you have determined which media outlets you will target, prepare a media list. The list should include the contact information for the public service director, community affairs director or public affairs department you will pitch to place a PSA. Call the stations and newspapers in your area to prepare the media list. Include:
- Name and title of contact
- Mailing address
- E-mail address
- Fax and phone numbers
- Specific instructions they provide for submitting PSAs
Step 2: Tailor Your PSAs
Covering Kids & Families can provide your state with radio and television PSAs, plus some tapes (television) or CDs (radio) for distribution. Community calendar announcements, radio readers and print PSAs that you can customize are available in the Templates section of this guide. Public service directors will want to use local versions of PSAs, so customize these scripts with local information in the template blanks.
To learn more about ordering tapes of television ads, print ads and CDs of radio ads with your Medicaid and SCHIP program name, logo, eligibility figures and hotline number, please contact the Covering Kids & Families Communications Team at (202) 338-7227 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 3: Prepare Your Pitch
In addition to the PSAs, there are several documents that you should customize with your Medicaid and SCHIP program names, state eligibility figures and hotline information. The Templates section includes many of the tools you will need for your PSA pitch, including:
Pitch Memos - Pitch memos are your first line of communication with a media outlet. They outline the problem, identify the solution, and suggest how the station or newspaper can reach eligible families. These memos, when written persuasively using state data, will be the key to capturing the attention of a public service director.
Pitch Kit - Along with a pitch memo, a pitch kit is designed to inform media professionals about your cause quickly. A standard kit contains fact sheets about Covering Kids & Families, your coalition, and uninsured children, as well as information about Medicaid and SCHIP coverage (templates are available in the Templates section of the guide). If you have attractive outreach materials designed for families, include samples. Don't forget to insert the tapes, CDs (radio) and/or scripts for the PSAs--including television and radio scripts for taped spots. (Reminder: Only send radio scripts to radio stations and television scripts to television stations.)
PSA Tracking Postcard - This short response postcard is designed to help you track which media outlets are running your PSAs. These postcards will help you gather feedback that can help you plan a future PSA campaign. While there is no guarantee that the public affairs director will return this postcard, you increase your chances of response by: 1) keeping your questions brief; and 2) addressing and affixing the correct postage to the postcard for easy mailing.
Step 4: Prepare a Spokesperson
Once you begin pitching your PSAs, some media contacts may request interviews about the issue of uninsured children and your organization's outreach work. In the Promising Strategies section, you will see that some organizations have found that PSAs can be the impetus for news coverage of Medicaid and SCHIP outreach. These interviews offer the opportunity to talk about your outreach activities and promote enrollment in Medicaid and SCHIP. Your organization should be ready to handle these interview requests. The Talking Points for Spokespersons and PSA Pitching template is a good tool for preparing a spokesperson in case there are requests for media interviews. Use the materials that you prepared for your pitch kit to customize these message points.
Step 5: Make Preliminary Calls
Make introductory pitch calls before sending your PSAs to media outlets. These initial calls give you a chance to double-check your contact information and build a rapport with public service and community affairs professionals. If there is one piece of advice universally provided by media professionals to groups pitching PSAs, it is: keep these conversations short and to the point!
It is important to remember that practice makes perfect. Rehearse your pitch before contacting the media. The Talking Points for Spokespersons and PSA Pitching template provides some general messages that you can use during these conversations. Begin by introducing your organization or coalition. Use these first few moments to briefly explain the purpose of your call -- to learn more about the outlet's policy for placing public service or community announcements. Your contact will probably either explain the procedure for submitting a PSA or refer you to the person who can.
Once you have identified the appropriate contact person and understand the submission process, you can either: 1) let your contact know that you will follow up by sending or delivering information package including the PSAs; or 2) ask if they have a minute to discuss your effort.
Before proceeding to this succinct explanation, consider the tone of the conversation up until this point. If your contact seems rushed or uninterested, simply thank them for their time and promise to follow up by providing a PSA kit. However, if the public affairs representative seems to want to know more about Covering Kids & Families, take a few moments to brief them on three important points:
Follow up on this conversation and e-mail or fax a fact sheet to your contact before mailing or delivering by hand the full PSA kit. To ensure that this issue is still fresh in their minds, be sure that your PSA kit reaches your contact within a few days of this conversation.
Through the PSA pitching process you will want to build a relationship with your media contacts. These early conversations could be the start of an ongoing discussion and future media partnerships. In the Promising Strategies section, you will see how Covering Kids & Families grantees have built relationships with media professionals that resulted in widespread community outreach efforts.