With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the season of giving is officially upon us. Many people unfamiliar with the public relations industry might be convinced that companies set up charitable publicity stunts only to make themselves look better. In reality, PR professionals and companies know that disingenuous publicity stunts don’t do them any favors and take the attention off those they’re trying to help.
While many companies are charitable in tangible ways through volunteering, employee matching, sponsorships and more, there are other, non-traditional ways to give back. When using the less traditional route, the spotlight is shifted to the communities, non-profits, or charities that are in need rather than the company itself. There is so much hate, division, and confusion in the world today, it’s easy to spread a little joy by helping others in need. A specific, non-traditional example that I feel is one of the more meaningful ways a company can give back is by creating a Public Service Announcement, or PSA.
PSAs are a powerful way to get people talking about real-life issues. Starting a conversation is a form of giving back because it inspires people both inside and outside of a company’s normal target audience to act. A fire starts with a spark, and PSAs are the match needed to ignite discourse about issues facing our local communities and the nation. Our strength comes from our shared ideals and anything that increases the focus on them is a gift. Check out three examples below:
1. See Something, Say Something: Burger King recently released a PSA that focuses on Americans’ reluctance to speak out against injustices they see. There is a phenomenon in psychology known as the diffusion of responsibility. Its premise is that if a crime is committed in front of a large group, people are less likely to report it because they believe someone else will do it. This concept is highlighted in Burger King’s PSA, which has more than 3 million views, and shines a light on the issue of bullying. People are quick to express outrage at their “bullied” sandwich, but the teenager in the store being verbally harassed is by and large left to fend for himself. Nearly one in three U.S. students report they have been bullied. Hatred is taught and can grow and spiral from a young age. With this PSA, Burger King sends a clear message: We all need to stand up for those who are bullied and speak out against the wrongs we see.
2. “Love Over Bias”: Proctor and Gamble’s latest installment in their “Thank You, Mom” PSA series takes on a new theme. Previous “Thank You, Mom” PSAs were wildly popular and meaningful; they were centered around celebrating hard-working mothers and the sacrifices they make to allow their children to rise to the top. The most recent installment highlights the shared struggle between parent and child, and adds elements of racial, sexual, and social bias. It’s a poignant piece with nearly 300,000 views, highlighting the subliminal biases in our everyday lives. Working toward eliminating these biases – and teaching our children to grow up in a world where they don’t even see them – is a huge way to give back to our nation, our communities and the people we love.
3. It Can Wait: AT&T released a series of popular PSAs in 2016 centered around distracted driving, primarily as the result of cell phone use. As technology continues to alter our lives, it also creates new issues. One of the more successful PSAs in the past centered on drunk driving with the notable slogan, “Friends don’t let friends drink and drive.” AT&T’s PSA takes that idea and runs with it. The PSA, viewed more than 2 million times, features a young girl who suffers a traumatic brain injury and the loss of both her parents when they were all hit by a driver who is texting. The girl shares her emotional story with teens who have just revealed on camera how much they use their phones while driving. The piece forces Americans to look into the face of heartbreak and understand exactly what consequences their actions could have. Most people would probably admit to being guilty of using the phone while driving. In 2015 more than 3,000 people were killed in cell phone-related accidents. This is why the PSA hit home with kids and parents alike, and started a real dialogue about driving safety. Many states now have laws that ticket drivers who are caught on the phone while driving.
All of these examples represent successful campaigns that have created a national dialogue among citizens, lawmakers, and companies. However, it’s important to note that PSAs don’t have to change the world. Even those that start a conversation about a need in a local community, whether it be poverty or domestic violence, allow us to face issues head-on and take steps toward change. PSAs are meaningful, incite action, and inspire conversation. Give back, speak up, and mean it.