PSAs, or Public Service Announcements can be offered, not just by the media ad council, neighborhood watch, police or fire department…they can be offered by any place of business or service provider, too.

Today, we saw one in the elevator lobby of a parking garage: “Don’t leave valuables in sight.” This might have been better to say, “Don’t leave valuables in your vehicle” except that then, you, the consumer, might think twice about parking in the garage. Maybe this isn’t safe, maybe I should move my car…or maybe we shouldn’t be visiting the city.

In Paris, all around the city, there were signs to watch out for pick pockets. Keep your valuables close. In all languages. In Le Louvre, the sign was located very near the free admission for the under 25, over 65, handicapped and voila, the unemployed. It made me pause. Are we encouraging free admission to pick pockets? (Well, no actually, in order to visit for free as an unemployed, you must be actively seeking employment and show proof. Whew.)

When I worked for Sunoco, as you can imagine, we had a lot of warnings. Fuel hazards. Chance of fire. Chance of static electricity igniting the 1 gallon lawn-mower tank you placed in your plastic lined pick up truck bed. In Marketing, it was our responsibility to soften the messaging, while creating and maintaining a certain amount of respect for safety in our customers when they purchased our flammable liquids. The engineering group kept trying to make the warning bigger, bolder and longer. The lawyers were right there with them. CAUTION!! (In other words, “Run away and don’t look back!” except then, your car is still there, on empty and you can’t get to work.)

There has to be a balance, between fear and communicating the caution in your PSAs. Keep the customer, don’t scare them away. It is a fine art and a true marketer can create this for you. How’s that for a public service announcement? If I am encouraging you, not scaring you, it worked.

~ Dawn aka Hat Girl

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