What are public service announcements (PSA)? In a nutshell, they’re the dissemination of a message for the public good. And sending those messages out well can be tricky, both for the PSA creators and voice over artists. I’ve personally worked on hundreds of PSA’s and been nominated for a coveted SOVAS award for a PSA for the RedCross I did for the LA market, so I get the struggle.
The challenge is to ride the line between entertaining/storytelling and informing. Breaking through the noise of saturated airwaves, often with smaller budgets and a lot of regulatory red tape, is stressful. While PSA’s can originate from federal, state, or local governments or non-profit organizations, they all work towards similar overarching goals.
Professional voice over can help make sure your message meets your targets, whether it’s to:
- Raise awareness
- Create change
- Educate and inform
- Inspire and shock
- Change attitudes and opinion
Professional PSA’s Have a Higher Return On Investment
While there is some confusion around the topic, according to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the FCC has never required stations to air PSAs. That being said, most reputable media outlets donate a significant amount of airtime to PCA’s. Demand consistently exceeds supply, and one of the essential issues is competition for air time. Stations will not air poor quality PSA’s with lousy voice over. It’s off-putting for viewers, puts a broadcaster reputation for quality content and public image at risk.
It’s a balancing act, but in the long run, a higher quality PSA with professional voice over will reach a larger audience and get more air time. The best ones pay for themselves in distribution. If you can make something that catches the public and the media’s attention, they will reach audiences through shares and likes. When it comes down to it, quality is critical, and voice over is a massive factor in producing quality PSA’s.
How to Get the Best Talent for Your Public Service Announcements
If you are representing a bonafide charitable endeavor, many voice over artists (including myself) offer discounted rates or even pro-bono services. It never hurts to ask. Find artists online and shoot them a mail, be clear and upfront. They are much more likely to help if it’s for a cause that they already support. Offer a charitable tax receipt for services in kind, or ask them if they would consider donating to the charity after they’ve been hired for the job.
What to Listen For When Casting a Voice Artist
Finding that perfect voice that gets your message across clearly, while entertaining, engaging, and connecting doesn’t have to be a daunting task if you keep your goals in mind. What is it you want the world to know? Keep it simple:
- Empathy and sincerity play a considerable role in any PSA campaign. Even more light-hearted campaigns need to solve problems and offer solutions, and an empathetic voice over artist is better positioned to get that message across
- A clear voice over artist who can articulate your script without losing the message
- An engaging voice that grabs your attention and understands your message
- High-quality audio- not up for negotiation
- An artist whose voice over sound relates to your target demographic
- Experience in the industry in general and with PSA in specific
- A professional grasp on delivery and emphasis on attention-grabbing stats and facts with the right level of weighty importance
Beyond the voice over artist sound and style, you will want to find an artist who can get behind your cause. When it comes to political voice over, many artists will decline work against their beliefs, while others are a-political. Voice over is, at its core, acting, and a professional voice over artist is entirely capable of delivering a credible and believable performance.
Thankfully most PSA subject matter isn’t very controversial, trending more towards messages we can all get behind. However, it’s always going to be better to work with someone who believes in your message. If a voice over artists doesn’t choose to share their beliefs, that’s an entirely different matter and shouldn’t be held against them. What you don’t want is an artist who doesn’t fully support your campaign.
Talent for Public Service Announcements
Google is your friend, and many sites can help you access a pool of voice over talent. A good tip is to use the words ‘voice artist’ rather than just ‘voice over’ as the second is likely to produce more targeted towards voice talent.
I don’t personally recommend cheap marketplaces for voice over talent. While they might do in a pinch, and I am sure there are some real gems hidden in there, it’s also packed to the rafters with hobbyists and voice over newbies. You get what you pay for. The cool thing, though? There are a lot of experienced professional voice actors (self-included) who will be ok with a lower PSA budget to help out a cause they support. So do seek out the best talent to help make the most of your message.