UT students create public service announcements for disaster relief in competition

Nancy Huang

UT students are competing in the annual Public Service Announcements for International Disasters competition this month in an effort to raise awareness about the need for disaster relief donations.

The national PSAid contest gives college students an opportunity to create and submit a printed or 30-second video public service announcement about smart compassion to a panel of judges. Students have until April 6 to submit their PSAs. The winning print PSAs are published, and winning video PSAs are broadcast on TV and cable channels nationally. The competition is open to anyone.

Assistant advertising professor Kate Pounders said in terms of disaster-relief advertising, emotional content is compelling.

“I think that nonprofit organizations that advertise can be really effective, particularly when they feature emotionally laden content,” Pounders said. “It can result in an increase of donations and awareness.” 

Juanita Rilling, director of the Center for International Disaster Information, which holds the competition, said most donors have good intentions, but not all donations have good impacts. The PSAid competition aims to remedy this problem.

“Items that are not specifically requested by relief organizations — things like used clothing, canned food and even bottled water — can actually impede the delivery of emergency supplies to survivors,” Rilling said in an email.

Rilling said that most winning PSAs are broadcast on channels with high ratings and large audiences.

“According to our … data, PSAs from our contest have appeared on college and NFL football games, Family Guy, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live and Modern Family,” Rilling said. 

Journalism freshman Alyssa Quiles said organizations for relief efforts have very effective methods of getting their message across. 

“Advertising impacts emotionally because it shows pictures of natural disasters and things that are going on in the world, and it hits your heart,” Quiles said. “So, of course you’re going to want to send money to help rebuild their houses, to give medications and vaccines and stuff.”

Rilling said college students are usually excited about doing good for others, interested in disaster relief, skilled with words, graphics or both and energetic enough to pull all those resources into a powerful PSA. 

“Every year we are amazed, charmed and awed by the creativity of students who care about disaster relief and want to help survivors,” Rilling said. “We see it every year, and we love it.”