PEACE CORPS CASE HISTORY
After nearly a ten year hiatus, Peace Corps began using public service
advertising again as a strategic marketing and recruiting tool in early
1994. Historically, PSAs have been an important device for generating
recruiting leads for Peace Corps and they have helped to communicate information
about new programs. Most importantly, PSAs have helped the Peace Corps
build public awareness among key constituents. Their positioning line
– “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love” became one
of the most memorable theme lines in social issues marketing history.
Since we have been involved with Peace Corps marketing, lead generation
grew significantly for the first four years from 102,172 in 1994 to 151,137
in 1997. During each of these years, Peace Corps distributed two PSA campaigns
per year. Then, in 1998 some interesting trends began to develop. Only
one campaign was distributed in 1998 and in 1999. As we can see from the
graph, leads also dropped from the high point in 1997 to 135,767 in 1999,
a decrease of 10 percent.
Our analysis of evaluation data indicates that on average, the Peace
Corps generated an average of 10,862 leads per month when PSAs
were being distributed on a regular basis, compared to only 8,211 per
month when there were no PSAs in circulation. This trend data
suggests there is a direct correlation between lead generation and PSA
Shift in Creative Strategy
creative focus of the TV PSAs in the earlier years was on the international
Peace Corps mission.
We developed several new ways for Peace Corps to generate increased public awareness, including the distribution of a half-hour Video News Release (VNR) sent to leading cable systems celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Peace Corps. The VNR was shown on 76 cable systems just under 2,200 times and generated $2,135,310 in value.
Another improvement we made to our distribution strategy for Peace Corps
was to focus on college students as a primary target audience. We added
a total of nearly 2,500 college media outlets to our database –
over 1,800 college TV and radio stations and nearly 1,000 college newspapers.
To date, over 630 of these outlets have used Peace Corps PSAs. recognize
the importance of the Peace Corps mission in light of its local impact.
In 1999 we worked closely with the Peace Corps to produce and distribute their first print PSA package, which was mailed to 7,000 newspapers and magazines. The campaign has generated nearly $725,000 in verified advertising support. via 1,058 print PSAs published in 371 magazines and newspapers, reaching nearly 73 million people.
Packaging as a Strategy
It has long been our view as distributors that we are really not just in the PSA distribution business – we are in the direct mail business as well. And just as in all other direct mail work, it is imperative to use good design and copywriting techniques in PSA packaging. This helps us cut through the competitive clutter that exists at so many media outlets these days – particularly among broadcast television stations. As shown here, our typical TV PSA packaging concept consists of a colorful box label that is applied to heavy duty corrugated boxes into which the video tape is inserted. To communicate our “pitch” quickly and succinctly, we also include a four-color storyboard, which has several elements – a letter to the public service director, visual vignettes from the PSA itself, and facts on the client’s issue – all in one piece.
One of the challenges we faced with the print PSA component was that there were a wide variety of print ad executions in different sizes and focusing on different programs. The ads were designed to be very unconventional in appearance in an attempt to resonate with young readers. Due to the large number of print executions, we recommended producing a CD for distributing print PSAs to newspapers and magazines along with a thumbnail tip sheet showing what each PSA looked like.
TV Shelf Life/Values
One of the very interesting and useful trends we learned as a result
of having Nielsen SIGMA data is that the shelf life for PSAs is much longer
than we could document using bounce-back cards.
TV Usage by Daypart
Perhaps the second most widely held misperception about PSAs is that they air in “junk time when no one is watching TV.” Again, from all the campaign data we process month in and month out, there is a consistent use of TV PSAs during the better dayparts – from 7AM to 11PM. Typically half to sixty percent of all usage occurs during these dayparts. For the “How Far” campaign, about 51% of all PSAs aired during the better dayparts. While these may not be the times of day when young people are watching, it is a time when many “influencers” are watching TV and we know they will have much to say about the career choices of their sons, daughters and family members.
Peace Corps has participated in most of the CABLEPAK releases we have
distributed since this shared-reel distribution service was launched in
1992. This technique has contributed a total of $8.5 million to overall
values and has done so at a fraction of the cost of distributing individual
dubs to stations. The benefit-to-cost ratio for CABLEPAK is 261-to-one
and the Peace Corps average value for all releases is 26 percent above
the average for all participants.
Top Market Penetration
Another qualitative measurement is to examine the number of markets where Peace Corps TV PSAs are airing. As shown here, just under two-thirds of the “How Far” TV PSAs aired in top 100 markets where is where 86 percent of U.S. TV households are located.
Importance of Local Marketing
One of the challenges that any organization faces when they implement a PSA campaign is how to connect with their internal audiences. This is critically important because local public affairs staff and outreach specialists are the key to successful PSA placement.
At the inception of our work for Peace Corps, we developed software for linking regional offices with the 30,000 media outlets in our master database. This linkage enables us to break out all PSA distribution lists and evaluation reports by each Peace Corps regional office. This, in turn, helps generate field support for the national campaign by involving regional public affairs specialists in campaign execution. At the national level, breaking evaluation data out by local office shows the areas where exposure is above or below the norm and can be used as the basis for follow-up action.
Regional Public Affairs Specialists not only know where their PSAs were distributed; they know the rationale behind media selection, and they can easily see which media outlets in their community have, and have not, used Peace Corps PSAs previously. Individual websites are created for each of our clients where distribution and evaluation reports are posted and broken out by regional offices such as shown above. Also, each site has useful information for outreach staff such as a reporting methodology statement describing what the data in our reports means and how we compile the data. We also wrote an article that is on each client site titled: “How to Place PSAs in Your Community.”
The Previous Usage Index (PUI)
Many years ago we began tracking each media outlet in our 30,000 media database in terms of the frequency of PSA usage as well as their use of each clients’ PSAs. This data is useful in a number of ways as shown in this graph. When preparing client reports, we examine the level of client PSA usage vs overall PSA usage. As shown here, there are 100 stations that have not used Peace Corps PSAs, yet they have used our other client PSAs over 50 times. Obviously these stations rise to the top of a contact list for further follow-up and development.
way the PUI comes into play is when we post distribution reports to each
client site on our PUBSANS GATEWAY website.
The Peace Corps case history demonstrates how important it is for a PSA
distributor to get involved in every aspect of campaign development –
from positioning of the issue to developing outreach tools for use by
community-based outreach staff and using evaluation data as the basis
for all decision-making.