Category Archives: public relations

My favorite PSAs from the past

Public Service Announcements used to be a staple on commercial airwaves. The quality of messages put out by service organizations like the Ad Council have helped people become aware of important issues affecting their lives. The Ad Council’s mission is to, “Identify a select number of significant public issues and stimulate action on those issues through communications programs that make a measurable difference in our society.” However, the first PSAs I noticed when I was a kid came from a New York City commercial advertising agency named McCaffery and McCall. McCall sensed the need for more entertaining education and hired Bob Dorough to write one of the first in a series of songs in 1973, that would become known as Schoolhouse Rock. It was 42 years ago this week on January 20, 1973 when ABC’s Michael Eisner aired “Zero my Hero” on his Saturday morning children’s line-up. The series spawned several classics and some of my favorite PSAs of all time.

There was a special combination of the time period of the Hippie generation and creative advertising people recognizing the impact of edutainment before the Hip Hop generation would coin the term some 20 years later in the 1990’s, that made Schoolhouse Rock possible. Even now the songs are still pleasant to listen to, show musicianship and a certain edginess and philosophical insight indicative of the Hippie age.

Marketing vs Public Relations

Marketing concentrates on customers, wholesalers and retailers while public relations concentrates on internal and external stakeholders including employees, stockholders, public interest groups, the government and society as a whole.

A company cannot always control public relations. Sometimes there are unplanned contact points with stakeholders and non-stakeholders that influence the perception of the brand in the news or during interactions between employees. A public relations department should use these situations to create a positive image and perception for the organization.

Companies can engage in cause-related marketing and socially-responsible production of its goods and services to positively reflect its public relations activities. Damage control consists of responding effectively to “negative events caused by a company error, consumer grievances, or unjustified or exaggerated negative press (Clow, 2014).” Proactive approaches include entitling where a company attaches itself to the positive outcome of an event like a fundraiser for cancer awareness. Enhancements are proactive measures which use small benefits to siggest much more beneficial outcomes overall such as low-fat ice cream.


Kenneth E. Clow; Donald Baack, Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications, 6th ed., Pearson, 2014