Harvey Dzodin worked for the ABC Television Network for nearly 20 years. He was responsible for reviewing all of the commercials broadcast on the network, as well as the placement of several hundred PSAs each year. These included Covering Kids & Families spots during the 2001 Back-to-School Campaign. In this interview, Dzodin offered valuable insight to Covering Kids & Families coalitions that are producing and pitching PSAs to community affairs directors in their communities.
Why does ABC run public service announcements?
In order for our owned stations and affiliates to keep their FCC licenses, the network and every broadcast media outlet must serve the public interest. PSAs are one way to fulfill this responsibility. Many media outlets also see public service work as a way to build good will with the community at large.
What issues do you consider before agreeing to place a PSA into the network's rotation?
A PSA must be produced by a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) tax status to be eligible for free broadcast time. It must also pass the rigorous financial standards of the Better Business Bureau. If a PSA focuses on an issue that is relevant to our viewers nationwide and is not controversial, we will consider airing the spot. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation meets those requirements and that is why ABC placed Covering Kids & Families PSAs into our fall 2001 rotation.
Our media outlets will not air PSAs that promote a commercial product that is tied to a for-profit company. While many stations scrutinize the content of the PSA, we also review the finances of the sponsoring organization to ensure that their funding is used to benefit the community program and not cover overhead costs.
What are the key components of an effective PSA pitch?
The most successful presentations all follow the same rule: they keep it simple. By keeping your pitch to the point -- and presenting the problem and solution in a succinct format -- a group is more likely to catch and hold my attention. Brochures and fact sheets are helpful, but try not to overwhelm your contact with books of information. Simply outline the issue and identify the service you can provide to our viewers.
Are PSAs that feature a celebrity spokesperson more likely to get placed or air more often?
There are positives and negatives to a celebrity's involvement. Personally, I do not think that having a celebrity spokesperson matters. I have seen many well-crafted PSAs that do not have a celebrity component. With a public figure, your organization and issue are tied to their public persona.
Do you advise groups to request a face-to-face meeting with a media outlet in order to pitch their PSA?
It can never hurt to ask. Often, those meetings can help your organization build a relationship with a media outlet. My advice is to be practical and use good judgment. If you are feeling like your contact is interested in learning more about this issue, then suggest a sit-down meeting to discuss how your organizations can work together in the future. Face-to-face meetings are also effective if your organization has a business partner willing to allocate funds to sponsor media outreach.