A recent study from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management found some anti-binge drinking PSAs have the opposite effect on their viewers. The study looked anti-alcohol PSAs that focused on emotions of guilt and shame to keep people from drinking, and found the spots did not always have the desired effect, particularly on the target audience of undergraduate college students.
This news reinforces the opportunity PR has to use its experience with successfully engaging consumers to reinforce the message. Going beyond the ads—whether it's through events, social media, or traditional earned media coverage—can add to the effectiveness of a PSA and make sure consumers do not misinterpret or simply ignore the message.
Using Facebook or Twitter, a PSA campaign can interact with consumers, answer questions, and overall help them to better understand the message. An earned media piece can go deeper into the story, discuss statistics, or share stories from real people, putting a face on the campaign.
PR's experience leading messaging can alsohelp determine the best way and best messages to use to effectively reach a target audience. In fact, some recent PSA campaigns have focused more on PR and social media, rather than the traditional TV and print ads, to reach its target demographic.
A recent campaign from One debuted its PSAs online and used celebrities and social media tactics to reach young adults. PR also had a direct result on the ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in October. The PR effort launched prior to the print and TV PSAs, and the campaign saw significant online interaction as a direct result, according to the Ad Council, which also worked on the campaign.
As the traditional format of PSAs is changing, relying more on PR gives the industry another chance to demonstrate its ability to do work that can ultimately change behavior for the better.