Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are the most powerful communications channel available to a nonprofit marketer. Reaching millions of people with your message can be an extremely expensive proposition if you’re using paid media. But, the power of a PSA, when deployed and promoted correctly can be the most cost-effective outreach program. And the great news, PSAs are reserved just for nonprofit messages!

Since 2012, Williams Whittle has been surveying PSA Directors at stations around the country to ask them about what makes a PSA campaign successful. With seven years of data in our vault, we’ve uncovered some interesting trends, some of which may help you plan how to get your PSA on the air.

Here are the highlights from this year’s survey. Don’t forget to download the full report here:


  1. Digital Distribution has reached full adoption – all stations are now asking for PSAs to be sent digitally. This is great news for nonprofits because it won’t bust your budget compared to sending out tapes.
  2. Since the beginning of 2017, the amount of PSA campaigns being tracked on air has decreased. That’s because stations are telling us they are receiving less PSAs. But, the good news is that 1 out of 3 PSA Directors say they have airtime available for more PSAs.
  3. Keep your creative fresh. While 20% of stations are ok with evergreen PSAs that have no expiration date, more than 50% want creative every month to every quarter.
  4. Stations are telling us they will keep a PSA on air for a shorter amount of time than in previous years. This is the first time we’re hearing this from stations, so we’ll have to wait and see how this one turns out in actuality. We still have client campaigns that were distributed almost five years ago that are still on air.
  5. Flexibility is still a key to success. Produce as many spot lengths as you can, but make sure you have a :60 and :30.
  6. Peak times for inventory are during the summer, the holidays and during January/February. If you can get your PSA to the stations at least a month ahead of these timeframes, you’ll have a greater chance of making it on air.
  7. The most important factor that goes into a station’s decision to air a PSA is appealing to their local audience. That means you should spend some time thinking about how to customize your appeal for each market. When you pitch your PSA, whether it be via mail, email or phone, make sure you tell stories about how your nonprofit is making a difference in that station’s backyard.
  8. You can create a PSA that has a “please donate today” message, but it may only run in smaller local markets. (Which is a great thing!)

Do you need help creating or promoting a PSA? With more than two decades of experience promoting PSAs for some of the largest and smallest nonprofits, we like to call ourselves experts. Shoot us your question or challenge and we’ll be happy to connect.