Get The Word Out
By Tammy Cullers
Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are one of the most effective ways to promote local church events and activities, and radio stations provide this service free of charge. Here are some guidelines for submitting written copy to read on the air, pre-recorded messages, and news releases.
When submitting a PSA to be read on the air, take a few moments to prepare the written material in a concise, readable style. This will insure that your information is transmitted to the listening audience in an accurate, timely, and clear manner.
Submit the announcement early. Radio stations have different methods of processing PSAs. Larger stations with a full-time public service director deal with mail as it comes in. Smaller stations may only process PSAs once or twice a week. Send in the announcement at least ten days before the event is to take place.
Include all facts. Simple newspaper-style reporting works well for PSAs. Be sure to include the “who, what, when, where, and why” of your event. Specify starting and ending dates for the announcement.
Don’t be too creative. Pack away the thesaurus and stick to specifics. Avoid superlatives and acronyms that are unfamiliar to the general public. Radio stations typically allow 10 to 60 seconds for the announcement, so there is no time for “extras.”
Include a pronunciation guide. Include a phonetic pronunciation guide if the PSA contains words or names that are difficult to pronounce.
Give directions. Make sure correct, easy-to-understand directions to the event are included in the PSA. Use familiar landmarks, road or street names, and road numbers.
Double space. Type double-spaced copy for ease in reading. Use a standard font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Courier, or Helvetica. Save fancy fonts and alternative lettering for headlines and logos.
Use church letterhead. If possible, type the announcement on church stationery. This gives the PSA director access to current church information in case additional information is needed.
Include contact information. Provide a telephone number that can be announced for listeners to call for more information. Add a website address, if you have one, where listeners can get up-to-date details. Make sure that the contact person is aware that his or her phone number is being used on the air.
Many radio stations are also willing to air pre-produced public service announcements, provided they are well written and well produced. Here are some guidelines to use when submitting pre-produced PSAs.
Use professional equipment. Do not attempt to produce PSAs on home equipment or in home studios. The results will not be “on-air” quality, and the PSA will not be used.
Use professional voices. Again, radio station program directors require certain professional standards to guarantee that your spot will run on the air. Local DJs will often record spots for churches and non-profit organizations if given enough lead time.
Use appropriate background music. If you plan to submit the pre-recorded PSA to several different radio stations, use a mellow, middle-of-the-road music background that will fit well with any music format.
Timing is important. Most radio stations use pre-recorded spots of 30 or 60 seconds only. Many program directors will cut spots that are even one second over the time limit.
Include a written script. Be sure to send along a written script of the recorded announcement. Include a contact name and phone number as well.
Contact individual PSA directors. Radio stations have varying policies about pre-recorded announcements. Contact individual PSA directors for specific guidelines.
News releases are different from public service announcements because they usually include time sensitive materials and often announce awards, honors, or promotions of church members or non-profit personnel. News releases not only give recognition to individual achievements, they also indirectly promote the church and its activities. It is important to label such submissions as “News Release” or “For Immediate Release,” so it will receive immediate attention. Here are some other helpful tips:
Make it easy to read. Double-space type the copy, using standard 812 x 11 paper. Use a traditional font such as Times New Roman, Arial, Courier or Helvetica. Use wide margins for easy editing, and leave a space between each paragraph.
Use letterhead. Using church or non-profit letterhead immediately identifies the source of the release.
Provide current contact information. Include the name, address, and phone number of the contact person. Specify whether the contact information is to be read on the air or if it is just for the radio station’s information.
Keep it short and simple. Stick to the basic facts of the story. The editor will automatically cut non-pertinent information and melodramatic wording.
Include a pronunciation guide. Include a phonetic pronunciation guide if the news release contains words or names that are difficult to pronounce.
Address it to the right person. Call the radio station in advance to find out the name, direct phone number, and e-mail address of the news director. Ask whether the news director prefers the release to be mailed, faxed, or e-mailed.
Radio is still one of the most immediate and accessible media available. Using its resources and services will help insure that information about your church event or activity reaches a large audience. Best of all, the service is provided without cost to churches and nonprofit organizations.
This article “Get the Word Out” by Tammy Cullers is excerpted from Christianity Today, Inc./Your Church Magazine. March/April 2004, Vol. 50, No. 2, Page 72