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    Life Jacket Video PSA Tips

    Life Jacket Video PSA Tips

    Photo By Pamela Doty | By R.J. Garren read more read more



    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    Through conducting focus groups with men who didn’t wear life jackets, the Life Jackets Worn…Nobody Mourns campaign promoters discovered some ways to create effective public service announcements (PSAs) that can motivate adults, especially men, to wear a life jacket. A contest is now being held asking people to create video PSAs that help increase adult life jacket wear with cash awards totaling $8,000. What follows are some tips for creating effective PSAs that could increase your chances of winning.

    Likes Dislikes
    Realistic Bad acting
    Testimonial-true Spokespersons
    Some Humor Corny, Cheesy
    Statistics-proof Law Enforcement
    Emotional/Heartwarming Sexy distracts
    Positive Negative

    The men in the focus groups were shown several different types of PSAs. To summarize their likes and dislikes illustrated in the chart above, they preferred PSAs that were realistic. Testimonials from their peers about actual experiences were more likely to influence their behavior. They did not like spokespersons, especially celebrities, because they believed these people were just being paid to say something whether they believed it or not. Law enforcement officials and even park rangers telling them what to do didn’t have any impact on them. Any type of “talking head” PSA they were shown did not have any impact on the thoughts or behaviors of these men and they tended to tune out anyone coming across like they were directing them to do something.

    Men in the focus groups appreciated a little humor in a PSA, but they said it didn’t have any impact on changing their behavior. They especially didn’t like PSAs that were corny or cheesy. They perceived themselves to be smarter than people demonstrating obviously risky behavior so they didn’t really connect with that type of message. Any PSA with bad acting was another thing that annoyed focus group participants. One of the PSAs shown to focus groups had strong sexual connotations with a woman wearing a bikini in an embrace with a man talking about using safe protection with some sexy music in the background. The “safe protection” they were referring to was life jackets, but several of the men watching said their minds went somewhere else and they didn’t even realize it was a PSA encouraging people to wear life jackets. Several thought it was a condom commercial which proved that sexy was a distraction to getting the intended message.

    Some men were interested in water-related fatality facts and statistics. They asked questions about statistics and were surprised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) water-related fatality statistics that show an average of 88% were men and 89% were not wearing a life jacket, since statistics started being tracked in 1998. They were also surprised to hear things like most people who drown were known swimmers. Another interesting fact is that most drownings happen on calm, sunny days. The focus group men didn’t perceive calm water as a hazard, but several did express some fear associated with deep water.

    There was considerable discussion about whether positive messages where someone survived a water-related incident or negative messages where someone died were more appealing to men. The consensus was that a positive message had more impact on them. They said they see so many gruesome images in video games, television, and movies that they’re immune to being affected by it. The negative images left them with thoughts like “this isn’t going to happen to me because I’m smarter than that.”

    Simply passing on knowledge and information to adults about why they should wear a life jacket rarely changes behavior. An effective PSA targeting adults needs to connect to them individually in some way so they can relate to it. By far the types of PSAs that had the most impact on men in the focus groups were the ones that generated some type of emotional or heartwarming appeal. Heartwarming videos can create emotional connections and can make men want wear a life jacket, even if they haven’t usually done that in the past. Spouses, children, and friends have been proven to be good influencers in getting adults to wear a life jacket.

    In addition to what was learned from men in focus groups, there’s a psychological model called Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) in risk communication that is based on the cognitive effects of fear appeals. Dr. R.W. Rogers first proposed PMT in 1975. Rogers saw fear as a thought process or assessment that leads to a behavior change. Forty years of research into PMT has proven that people have to perceive some degree of threat or vulnerability in order to be motivated to protect themselves. Therefore, adults may need to feel a little vulnerable to the threat of drowning to be motivated to wear a life jacket. However, there has to be a balance in motivating someone to protect themselves and not just scaring them away by evoking too much fear.

    Another psychological explanation for how people may change their behavior is social norms. Norms are unwritten, but understood, rules of society or cultural behavior. An example of a personal norm changing a behavior is a guy who doesn’t wear a life jacket for himself, but he does wear it because of being influenced by a loved one. An example of a social norm is where the more people see others wearing life jackets designed for whatever water-related recreational activity they enjoy then they will be more likely to wear life jackets too.

    This is just a summary of some methods, along with focus group feedback, that can help you create more effective PSAs. Using these tips can help you to create winning video PSAs that could potentially save lives on our nation’s waters by getting more adults to wear life jackets. Go to for all the details on how you can enter and possibly win up to $8,000.



    Date Taken: 08.26.2020
    Date Posted: 08.26.2020 22:57
    Story ID: 376877
    Location: US

    Web Views: 33
    Downloads: 0