Getting the message to teens and parents

PSAs that target this dual audience need to employ a strategy that involves social media.

Combining traditional and social media tactics can pay off for PSA campaigns that aim to reach children and parents. The viral nature of social media extends reach and hits highly specific audiences. Therefore, it's important for PR pros to continue to become adept at using online tactics in tandem with traditional outreach.

Susan Jacobsen, SVP of corporate communications at the Ad Council, explains that since last April, when the Ad Council launched its first social media effort, 15 campaigns have incorporated social media and five or six more are in the pipeline.

“We're well on our way to having social media become an integrated piece of all our PR plans when appropriate,” she adds. “We're not looking at a traditional PR plan versus a social media effort. Social media... is a wonderful opportunity to cast the net much wider.”

Annette Minkalis, SVP of PSA services at WestGlen Communications, notes that traditional outlets, which tend to reach “rather general audiences,” are perfectly complemented by social media efforts.

“In the past, [radio] was our only tool to really hone in on specific audiences,” she says. “Now we can hone in on audiences by going to Web sites they're most likely to visit.”

Bev Yehuda, VP of products at MultiVu, advises optimizing PSA content and releasing it for search engines, as well as placing video PSAs directly on multiple video sites, such as YouTube and Metacafe, to increase chances of PSAs getting seen and passed along.

MultiVu also posts PSAs directly on clients' MySpace and Facebook pages, as well as on MultiVu's own pages on those sites.

Jacobsen says while some Ad Council sponsors are still cautious about social media, many have “completely embraced” its integration. She notes that the organization uses a variety of social media tactics, including widgets and user-generated content, for many of its efforts targeted at teens and young adults.

For example, the “Boost” campaign, aimed at high school dropout prevention, includes alarms and ringtones featuring Amaré Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns. Jacobsen adds that the 65-year-old “Smokey Bear” campaign, which was refreshed this year and targeted to young adult audience, garnered 450 friends on Facebook within the first month and 500 total related blog posts.

Minkalis points out that online outlets don't have branding restrictions, so they're great options for corporate-sponsored PSAs. Chris Cavello, VP of Internet and specialized media at WestGlen, notes the value of the one-on-one interaction social media provides. He adds that live links in social media are also valuable in driving audiences to PSAs and client Web sites. This strategy worked well for WestGlen's client The League, which launched a campaign about community service aimed at teens and parents in September.

Cavello advises targeting blogs, but he cautions against blanket pitching. “Customize pitches for bloggers on an individual basis,” he says. “[Read] the blog, learn about it, and participate so they'll be open to pitches. Tell bloggers who you [are] and who you represent. Total transparency upfront is very important.”

Last summer, the Ad Council launched three campaigns targeting tweens. Jacobsen says it rethought its social media strategy after internal research showed the audience is too young to be on many social media sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, that have policies about users under a certain age. Ad Council research also indicated that tweens still listen to their parents, so parents were targeted directly via blogs and online editorial placement. Jacobsen adds that online editorial coverage on tween sites also worked.

“Just five years ago, we weren't doing any of this,” Yehuda says. “It's a completely different game. Social networks will continue to be [increasingly] important. Enabling a piece to become viral is critical.”

Technique Tips

  • Integrate social and traditional media
  • Research audiences and online communities
  • Post PSAs on multiple online video sites
  • Blanket bloggers with impersonal pitches
  • Miss chances to use live links and hyperlinks
  • Neglect to optimize for search engines

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