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Archive for the ‘Public Service Announcment’ Category

Traditional media measures impressions, the number of times a viewer saw your message for a certain time. What does that mean? How does that translate into a PSA serving it’s purpose of informing the public and resulting in positive changes in behavior.

Recently we started measuring the impact to a website which is featured in the PSA. Also calls to a dedicated phone line featured in the PSA can also be used to some measures to correlate the PSA to those specific actions. A visit to a website and a phone call certainly shows definite interest but this is information gathering behavior in most cases. Was the PSA adopted by audience members in a deeper way which changed their behavior and had a lasting effect?

So how could we PSAs link more tightly to measurable behavior to have a hint about long term effects and deeper changes than just measuring information gathering?

We would need a media which allowed for a behavior to be captured and for it to be clear that the behavior has a relationship to the PSA. Behaviors which we would want to measure include:

  1. Asking for additional information, (not just once but whether is done repeatedly and in depth)
  2. Telling a friend about the information and measuring whether the friend responded.
  3. Giving input about the message such as comments or relevant past experiences.
  4. Checking for updates or news concerning the message.
  5. Creating personal goals to adopt or spread the message.
  6. Providing visual or written examples of how the message has been adopted.
  7. Discussing, adopting or spreading the message.
  8. Continuing these behaviors over time.

All of these are behaviors which can be measured using new media or Web 2.0 techniques through an iPSA or interactive PSA. The set of behaviors above and others correspond to what is termed engagement in new media parlance. Engagement constitutes a deeper connection between the audience and the message and message provider. Engagement behaviors while not a direct measurement of the everyday behaviors which the PSA is intended to effect, do measure behaviors which demonstrate significantly more effort than traditional information gathering behavior.

For example if we wanted to spread the message of exercise, we could create a widget which allowed audience members to:

  1. Get more information about exercise, drill down in depth and return for additional information later.
  2. Send the information about exercise to others
  3. Express preferences for types of exercise or examples of how it helped them in the past or outcomes which they hope to change through exercise.
  4. Create an easy to find location where they can check on updates or sign up for updates to be sent to them.
  5. Create personal exercise goals.
  6. Announce whether they have met exercise goals and provide photos or video of their progress.
  7. Provide discussion boards for audience to discuss their exercise efforts.
  8. Maintain a location for these activities and measure the return of the audience or the active audience members.

We can measure all of these behaviors and know for certain they are directly related to the original message because the behaviors were only possible by encountering and acting directly on the message content.

The interactive PSA or iPSA allows more measures of behavior change which the traditional PSA on its own, cannot offer. The iPSA or new media component of a PSA campaign will be a critical component of any successful PSA in the near future because it allows for the audience to become engaged and for the ais more measurable.


So what is a public service announcement (PSA)?

A nonprofit message distributed voluntarily by commercial entities outlets through media outlets in order to expose the audience to a message.

Goal: Send information to the audience so they are informed by passive viewing.


  1. The audience is leaving the broadcast media.
  2. The free time and space in commercial media is shrinking.
  3. The audience is paying less attention to passive commercials and they are by nature fleeting.

A solution would need to:

  1. Find an outlet where the audience is migrating to.
  2. Remove commercial considerations from distribution.
  3. Create an active message which engages audience members for a long period.

Solution to fit these needs:

1. Online Social Networks (OSNs) as distribution channel for interactive PSAs.
The audience across all demographics is moving to OSNs faster than to any other online media. The news here is what friends, associates and colleagues are doing, reading, thinking and writing. Some OSNs have a large percentage of members who spend more time on the OSN than on watching TV.

2. OSNs put distribution decisions in the hands of audience members.

Individual audience members are the sources for the most valued and trusted content on online social networks. They make decisions based for the most part on personal considerations when it comes to public interest messages. The messages most interesting to the audience at a personal level will get the most distribution.

3. Online widgets can contain interactive messages and create long term engagement with the audience.

Online widgets can be placed on the online social networks at no charge and can be very interactive. They also can stay so long as the audience finds them interesting. They can be updated and even take on a life of their own through new media content which the audience itself contributes.

Interactive and long term engagement create much stronger connections between the audience and the PSA.

4. Added Benefit: OSNs have the potential to spread behavioral change

Recent scientific studies have begun to quantify the power of social networks to spread behavior (See the July 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study on obesity spreading through social networks). Online social networks are after “social networks.” So if behavioral changes can spread through social networks, at least online behavioral changes can spread OSNs. And changes in online behavioral will presumably have an impact on offline behavior.

Social networks can act not only as a distributor channel for a message but also as channels to spread behavioral change, which is something traditional media distribution channels only attempt when their commercial interest is involved.

So what is the new definition of this interactive PSA or (iPSA)?

An interactive message distributed virally by individuals through online communities in order for the message to become part of the conversation between audience members and create long term engagement between the message and message provider.

Goal: Change the behavior of the community by changing the conversations within the community.