I took a much-needed yet unintended blogging break in August, but now I’m back with a lot of new topics based on what I’ve been working on lately. Let’s talk PSAs first, my favorite subject.

All nonprofit marketing budgets are the same; they are limited. And often those at the helm have to fight for and defend every dollar they are appropriated. So, when a corporate media partner comes to the table offering help with marketing efforts, there is no way a smart marketer would turn it away. But as soon as the opportunity is laid out, that same smart marketer needs to figure out exactly how this is going to help their efforts now and in the future. If your nonprofit has to shell out cash for any part of the partnership, you need to have the figures straight before you press the go button.

We are often asked by our clients about how to partner with a media company that offers to produce a PSA. PSAs are, no matter how you slice and dice it, a significant investment of time and money. So, help is help. But stations will not run a “PSA” for free if there is any mention, logo, or thank you to a corporate partner, which they often require as part of the agreement. The very nature of PSAs is that they are “advertisements intended to change the public interest, by raising awareness of an issue, affecting public attitudes, and potentially stimulating action” so an informative-only message is the norm. The question remains, how do you make this arrangement work?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of a PSA media partnership.


  • Corporate partner provides the $ to fund production. The value of this can be anywhere from $25K to well above $100K.
  • Corporate support can stretch across multiple media outlets. Take a partnership with Disney for example. They own ABC Entertainment Group, ABC News (20/20, Good Morning America, etc), ABC TV stations in major markets, Disney Channels, Radio Disney, ABC Family, SOAPnet with an interest in the A+E Networks (A+E, Bio, History, Lifetime, among others.) With this partnership your message could have precedence, or at least support from the top (which translates at the station level into “Prioritize and run this message.”) These outlets would equal to a massive amount of media impressions alone.
  • Integrated message solidifies corporate/nonprofit relationship. While working together on a project together and integrating messaging, the corporate partner gets deeper (and personally invested) into supporting your mission. If all goes well, it could mean more opportunity to partner together in the future.
  • Direct Ask Allowed. Because PSAs are run for free, stations are very strict on the type of language that is allowed. Basic calls-to-action are ok, like “Join Us” or “Learn More” but an ask for donations directly is a no-go. With corporate support of the PSA, its quite possible that you could include a very specific ask, like “donate today at” or “Donate $5 and Company X will match it.”


  • Limited creative control. Because you’re not paying for the production directly AND you have a partner in on the project, you will probably lose some creative control. You’ll likely have to mix your ideas with their ideas as well as be ok with their plan for production. If you’re partnering with a media partner, often they will try to piggyback on a current production project they have going, which could mean you get ideal footage (or not-so-ideal footage.)
  • Limited to no play on other networks if corporate-partner specific. If you want to get other media to run the PSA, they may be hesitant (or flat out reject it) if there is any mention of your partner. And most likely, the partner will want credit in creative or call-to-action. We would recommend fighting for an organic PSA message so your nonprofit can have the ultimate flexibility in its use.
  • Limited distribution.  While it’s nice that a media partner will distribute the PSA to their outlets, they won’t distribute it outside of their networks. This means you’ll have to budget for some tape duplication and shipping costs to get it to other stations and networks.
  • Tracking not included. Celebrate – you now have a PSA to air. But, without knowing where and when it runs and how much those airings are worth, how are you able to prove that this partnership was worth it? To ensure you get this information, you’ll need to budget for a distribution partner to track and value your PSA.
  • You don’t “own” the media contacts. Again, it’s nice that your media partner will get the PSA to all of their outlets, but then you don’t “own” those contacts. What if you pursue a non-partnered PSA in the future? You won’t have any way of making your appeal to the specific media gatekeepers, unless you find a way to be included on the corporate outreach.
  • No opportunity to “sell” your cause to the media. Building upon the statement above, if you don’t “own” the contacts, there isn’t an opportunity to talk one-on-one with the media that will be running your spot and get them personally involved in your mission. This would pave the way for you to pitch them or make additional asks in the future.
  • Lack of long-term strategy. We counsel all of our clients and potential clients interested in launching a PSA campaign that they should approach it with a long-term strategy. With the amount of competition vying for the limited unpaid space available, it takes a while to get stations to understand why you’re asking for the time and to get prioritize it above other worthy causes. With a 1-off approach, your success will likely be limited compared to the effects of a long-term approach.

I think as long as you are aware of the potential cons, you have the opportunity to overcome them by asking questions and requesting certain information at the start of your partnership. We’ve worked hand-in-hand on several partnered PSA projects and they’ve turned out very successful from both ends. Email us if you need some advice on how to get started.