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Campus & Community - Society & Culture

Funny or Moving, WKDU PSAs Are Impactful

March 30, 2015

Keith Breakfast, former WKDU DJ.

College radio stations provide a listening experience that can’t be found anywhere else on the dial.

Tuning in to Drexel’s free format, student-run WKDU 91.7 FM, it’s not unusual to hear a tune from American folk singer du jour Father John Misty’s latest album transition into a deep, synth-laden house track.

And just as much a part of that listening experience for many is the hourly broadcast of a public service announcement.

“Some of our PSAs have been in rotation for quite some time and our listeners know them quite well, almost by heart,” said Chris Burrell, electronic music director at WKDU. “We had a listener who called up once and recited back the entire ‘Ride a Bike’ PSA, nearly verbatim.”

Although college radio stations don’t play traditional commercials, they must play a public service announcement each hour in their place. As such, a roster of the announcements has to be ready to go.

With that in mind, Burrell and the staff at WKDU want to expand the catalog to better serve the local community. Hoping to help non-profits achieve their goals and get their message out, the radio station is hosting a workshop to create public service announcements April 25.

Post for the WKDU PSA workshop.
Post for the WKDU PSA workshop.

Interested organizations can check out details at the WKDU Facebook page.

“The process for making a PSA basically consists of two parts,” Burrell said. “One part is writing engaging copy and the second is recording it to MP3 for airplay.”

Between staff who work at the Drexel Writing Center and engineers at the station with audio know-how, the process will be made easy for organizations hoping to reach those they can serve best.

One example of a public service announcement Burrell offered comes from Minding Your Mind, a non-profit that strives to reduce the stigma of mental health disorders.

“Their ‘Be the One’ campaign talks about how people who are in recovery or treatment for mental illness usually cite one person as the person they turned to in their darkest hour and helped them see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Burrell said. “That really touched me because you never really know what someone is going through. Sometimes all it takes is just listening to someone to let them know that their feelings matter and that you care about them … Be the one. It’s a powerful message.”

Not all memorable public service announcements have to be serious, according to Burrell, who also serves as adjunct professor of non-profit marketing at the LeBow College of Business.

“One of the beautiful things about non-profit marketing is being able to take some of these serious themes and turn them on their head into something light-hearted and comedic,” he said. “I teach my students the importance of being able to communicate your message to fit your audience.”

A prime example of that is a PSA featuring Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready on Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory disease that affects the bowels and causes severe issues with bowel movements, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

“In the PSA, McCready details one time that he had to do a guitar solo from a port-o-potty because of his battles with Crohn’s,” Burrell said. “People love that one.”

Whether they’re deeply impactful or memorably funny, PSAs at the station have value.

“Our listener demographic definitely cares about a lot of different causes outside of just music and are certainly the type to donate and support to non-profits,” Burrell said. “Being able to really engage our listeners and the community is something that we take pride in and helps us to fulfill our station and the University’s mission statement.”

Contact psa@wkdu.org to set up a timeslot for your non-profit organization’s timeslot between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. April 25.

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