Monday, October 8, 2012

What's Your Favorite Government PSA?

By Dannielle Blumenthal, Chair, FCN

Video sites like YouTube are a promising method of government communication in that they reach and engage with citizens where they are, speaking in a human voice, rather than the citizen having to visit a government website.

And they are popular. A quick look at statistics from YouTube alone:

  • 800 million unique viewers each month
  • 4 billion hours watched each month
  • Last year (2011) about 140 views for every person in the world
Pew has also reported on the importance of YouTube to citizens in terms of receiving news information. Reuters is now offering news video directly there. And this will likely only increase with the growth of mobile as 65% of tablet owners reportedly use YouTube to watch "short clips."

Further, research from IDC indicates that the Internet is a preferred medium of interaction with the government, and 36% of survey respondents would rather contact the government through the Internet than any other way.

So public service announcements (PSAs) are important. How do you do them well? Are there any in particular that you like?

As an exercise I chose two at random and made some brief notes:

EPA - "Pollution Prevention"

I liked that the tips were relatable and that there were real people in the video as opposed to officials. Maybe the title could have been different, as it didn't limit itself to pollution prevention, but overall I thought it was pretty appealing and useful. It also seemed professional without being extravagant, keeping in mind the issue of taxpayers' money being used.

HHS - "When Is The Right Time To Get A Flu Shot?"

This one I don't know about. It was clear and comprehensible, and relevant (I guess), but I wasn't sure what kind of official this person was. Should I take her more seriously than a regular person? Maybe there should've been a sign that said "Doctor X" nearby? 

Also, generally officials sitting in a chair are a little boring. Remember, you're in the context of pretty crazy stuff. Maybe a different format could have worked, like asking people randomly in the park whether they knew the answer to this question, and then giving them the correct one ("surprise, surprise.") Definitely a good question, but a jazzier approach and some subtitles would have helped.

If you know of a good PSA (or a bad one), please let us know in the comments section.

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