ABCs of Audio PSAs

20 10 2011

Audio PSAs (public service announcements) are the nonprofit equivalent of commercials. They are either scripts you’ve written for radio announcers to read over the air, or audio recordings you’ve made for radio staff to play over the air.

The radio stations don’t charge you when they read or play your PSA. It’s free advertising for your program, event, or organization. Radio’s still popular, so it’s an opportunity for publicity that shouldn’t be ignored.

If you want to create a PSA, there are a few things to consider:

  • Radio stations need lead time to get the PSAs into the rotation. If your PSA is associated with a specific date—say you’re hosting a flu clinic on a certain Saturday—get the recording or script to the station three to six weeks prior to that date.
  • PSAs usually come in three lengths: 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 60 seconds. Don’t limit your PSAs to one type, but offer versions in all three lengths if possible. After the announcer runs the paid ads and the music, any small clumps of seconds they have in between or left over go to PSAs.
  • Local groups approaching local stations with community activities have the best chance of getting their PSAs into the mix. Even if the PSA has no mention of local events, your pitch and the letter accompanying the PSA can tie it to a local angle, allowing you to use a more generic PSA that’s been professionally produced.
  • Assigning a person to make follow-up calls to the station a few days after delivery helps catch the attention of the decision-maker. Reiterate the importance of the PSA message and emphasize the local connection or need.
  • Record or script your PSA in multiple languages. Make sure these versions are culturally appropriate and not just translations. Choose the languages based on the demographics of your area.

The nuts and bolts

Let’s assume you don’t have the funds to hire outside help to record your PSA. You’ll need:

  • A computer
  • A quality microphone you can plug into your computer (via USB or 1/8” jack)
  • “Talent” with a clear and pleasant voice
  • A script
  • Sound editing software
  • Background music for an added touch
  • A stopwatch

You’ll need to find software that will capture your recording and allow you to edit that recording. Audacity is a free and popular software, and there are many other free programs available through the Internet.

Write the script, read it, and time it. You want it to be exactly :15, :30, and/or :60 seconds. Whomever you choose to be the “talent” (the person reading into the mic) will be the one you want to time, if possible. Each person reading it may read it at a different speed, so if you’re the writer but not the reader, timing yourself will get you close, but may not be accurate.

Once the recording is done, you will need to edit it as you see fit. The specifications (specs) that one PSA distributor gives for radio PSAs are:

  • Redbook Audio (this refers to the CD you use for distribution)
  • No lead-ins or countdowns (you don’t have to say anything leading up to the actual recording)
  • Each PSA should be a separate cut on CD master (make them separate files on the CD)
  • Audio to stay within specified lengths
  • Preferred order –  :60, :30, :20, :15, :10 (This distributor added in :20 and :10, which you may do if you like. You never know what length they need to fit in a space on their programs.)
  • No compression
  • 44.1 khz
  • 16 bit

If you plan on working at a local level to produce and distribute audio PSAs, it’s best to visit the local radio station(s) and ask for direction on how they like to receive their PSAs. Many times they’ll have a sheet printed up with all the information you’ll need. In addition to getting the specs, the visit will give you an opportunity to make your cause known to the station staff. Establishing a good relationship with them will get your PSAs played (or read) more often.


We suggest you start out by writing a couple of paragraphs and see how much information you can include. Have someone read it while timing them. That will let you know if you need to edit out words or if you have room to add in information.

It’s easier, when writing the scripts, to start with the :60 and work your way down. That way, you start with the “fat” in the piece and can edit it out for each of the shorter versions.

SAMPLE: Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign

(Radio PSA Cover Letter—copy onto your letterhead)


Dear (Public Service Director Name):

Influenza is an ancient disease that still circles the globe each year. We ask you to please have your announcers read frequently the enclosed PSAs. Here’s why:  Every year in the United States, on average:

5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;

More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; and

About 36,000 people die from flu.

Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.

Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each year.

(Your organization’s name) urges you to use your broadcasting power to alert your listeners to the need for influenza vaccination. You will save lives, prevent tragedy, and truly provide a public service!  Thank you.


(Your name and org name)

(Include radio scripts on a separate sheet)

(Copy the PSA scripts onto your org’s letterhead)

Sample Radio Psa Script

Radio Public Service Announcement
(:60-:30-:15- seconds)


Live copy (announcer):

It’s flu season and everyone from newborns and schoolkids to parents and seniors is at risk.

Every year, up to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people in the United States end up in the hospital. About 36,000 people die each year from influenza.

There’s a lot you can do to stop the flu before it starts.

Just follow these simple steps to help you stay healthy this season:

Wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home if you’re sick, and check with your doctor about getting vaccinated.

For more information, visit w-w-w-dot-p-k-i-d-s-dot-o-r-g or call 1-877-557-5437. That’s w-w-w-dot-p-k-i-d-s-dot-o-r-g, or call 1-877-557-5437.

A public service message brought to you by (insert org name) and PKIDs’ Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign.


Live copy (announcer):

It’s flu season and everyone from newborns and schoolkids to parents and seniors is at risk.

Every year, up to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 end up in the hospital, or die from influenza.

Prevent the spread of flu by washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, staying home if you’re sick, and checking with your doctor about getting vaccinated.

For more information, visit w-w-w-dot-p-k-i-d-s-dot-o-r-g.

A public service message brought to you by (insert org name) and PKIDs’ Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign.


Live copy (announcer):

It’s flu season and we’re all at risk of infection.

Wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, stay home if you’re sick and check with your doctor about getting vaccinated.

For more information, visit w-w-w-dot-p-k-i-d-s-dot-o-r-g.

A public service message brought to you by (insert org name) and PKIDs’ Flu’s Gonna Lose campaign.


And that’s it! If you have some PSA scripts you’d be willing to share, please paste them into the comments.

Adapted from PKIDs’ Communications Made Easy program.

Is Social Media Worth It?

28 02 2011

Nonprofits are noodling around with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter . While trying it out, we’re thinking about next steps and determining if incorporating social communications tools into our everyday work is a productive route to take.

 Given the limited resources faced by most nonprofits (especially these days!), many of us are hesitant to make the leap. How can we determine whether the return on investment (ROI) for social media will ultimately pay off?

The funders and the board members and the directors all want proof of ROI before committing. If you’re working in a nonprofit and believe in the need to get into social media, here are a few calculations you can make to determine the ROI for your social media efforts. Some of the biggies are:

  • Staff time – most organizations don’t have the budget for a full-time social media manager, so determining how much time is required for Facebook and Twitter curating  is a good beginning.
  • Tools – even though social media is mostly free, the tools supporting it aren’t always. Make sure your computers and systems allow access to social media tools like Facebook.
  • Installation, set-up and monitoring – someone has to have the technical expertise to set up the various accounts and monitor them for glitches.

According to Beth Kanter, a key player in nonprofit and social media education, social media ROI is worth calculating and there are many viable considerations to make when putting together your program. 

Is social media for nonprofits ultimately worth it? We think it is for PKIDs, but the answer for your organization may be “it depends.”

To learn more about social media for your nonprofit or health department, don’t forget to register for PKIDs’ Communications Made Easy program  and also visit the archive, which is replete with many recorded webinars.

Nonprofit Social Media Superstars!

7 10 2010

Here at PKIDs we’ve been talking and thinking about social media and nonprofits, particularly health-related nonprofits, for the past year.  Our Communications Made Easy Program focuses on helping immunization educators use social media to reach a broader audience.

 As part of the program, we host how-to webinars for immunization educators.  To listen to any of our social media or social marketing webinars, go here to register and you’ll have access to our library of webinars. To date, we’ve covered a number of topics including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

There are plenty of nonprofit groups who could teach us a thing or two about effectively using social media, so this week marks the beginning of a new blog series we’re calling Nonprofit Social Media Superstars! Once a month we’ll highlight great examples from around the Web of groups using their social media chutzpah to make a difference.

This week’s Nonprofit Social Media Superstar: GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation)  for their Facebook page (pictured below):

Even though GAVI has resources not available to many nonprofits, the methods they employ to maximize their organizational presence on Facebook are simple but effective. GAVI’s Facebook page does these four things particularly well:

  1. Customized Page – By adding a banner, a person coming to this page immediately learns something about GAVI (they support children) without reading anything further.
  2. Quality Interaction – GAVI posts regularly (several times daily) about global happenings, including those not directly related to their mission and projects. They also engage their fans (page audience) with conversation starters and discussions.
  3. Organizational Information – Every page allows organizations to post mission statements or brief accountings of work. GAVI adds a simple sentence that engages and challenges the reader to take action. “The world needs changing. Join us.”   
  4. Shameless Self-Promotion (in a good way)  – Many nonprofits are either too swamped or too reticent to promote their good work. GAVI places information about their projects and related pages right on their main fan page (see below).

If you’re doing the work, why not share as much information about it as possible? Facebook makes it very easy, by allowing you to promote your projects and programs in the sidebar.

If your organization has decided to invest time in social media such as Facebook, following GAVI’s example would behoove you.

See a nonprofit doing wonderful things with social media, or think your group deserves nominating? Send an email to and tune in for our next Nonprofit Social Media Superstar!

GoodSearch: Giving the 2.0 Way

30 06 2009

Want to do something for your fav nonprofits, but the wallet’s a bit thin?  Try GoodSearch.

It’s a Yahoo! powered search engine that donates to the charity of your choice for every search you make.


If shopping online is more your thing, GoodSearch also operates GoodShop, an online store that gives back up to 30% of every purchase to the charity of your choice.

Using GoodSearch

Go to GoodSearch and enter the charity you wish to support in the second search box under WHO DO YOU GOODSEARCH FOR?  Click the verify button.


If the charity is listed on GoodSearch, you’ll see this under the search box: “Search now and money will go to your designated cause.”  That means the charity is verified.

Once it’s verified, go to the search box above the charity search box and enter your search term(s), as you would in any browser.  Use this each time you search and money will be donated to the charity you choose for that search.  If you have more than one charity that you support, you may alternate between the various charities.

Charity not verified?

If the charity you entered can’t be verified (you’ll see text below the search box indicating that you need to re-try your search), then go to the Add A New Charity page. The link to that page is at the bottom of the GoodSearch home page.

Registration of a charity is free and easy, but you’ll need to be familiar with the charity to fill out the form.  Also, make sure you have the nonprofit’s EIN, or Employer ID Number, for the form.

If everything is entered correctly, you’ll get an email stating the acceptance of your charity and instructions on how to promote your charity’s new revenue tool.

Once your charity’s accepted, you can start searching and shopping for good!

Using GoodShop

Once you’re at GoodShop, fill in the WHO DO YOU SUPPORT box, if it’s not automatically filled in with the charity of your choice, then click the verify button.

There are several ways to find stores:
•    Near the top of the page, search for a specific store, or
•    search the alphabetized dropdown list, or
•    scroll down the page to see the most popular stores, or
•    search by category from the left side of the page.


At the bottom of the GoodShop page, there are popular coupons and deals, or there may be deals and coupons to be found on a store’s page.

Top retailers like Best Buy, Amazon,, and eBay are participants in this cool deal that benefits buyers, sellers and, most of all, nonprofits!

Just click on the store where you want to shop, use any coupons that are listed on the store’s GoodShop page, and click the “GoodShop This Store” icon to begin shopping for good!

Browse the Internet with GoodSearch and shop with GoodShop.  It’s the feel-good way to help out PKIDs and other nonprofits without squeezing your budget.