What Is a Public Service Announcement? (And How To Write It)

Updated February 3, 2023

A person and young children plant a tree.

There are many instances when you might need to connect with a massive number of people about a topic. While you could choose to educate them in many ways, one popular and effective method is the public service announcement or PSA. A PSA allows you the opportunity to educate, inspire and make a difference in the lives of your audience members by highlighting a subject you find important.

In this article, we share what a public service announcement is, describe how to write one, explain what steps to take after writing one and list PSA benefits. 

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What is a public service announcement? 

A public service announcement, or PSA, is a message shared with the general public that raises awareness about an issue. Although most public service announcements have the overarching goal of informing their audience, a PSA may also serve to inspire the public to take action or make a change. Here are a few common topics for public service announcements:

  • Health

  • Wellness

  • Safety

A PSA is usually informative and educational, but can also be inspiring and motivating. Many times, celebrities and influencers help deliver the PSA so that the public pays more attention to the message.

Related: How To Write an Effective Media Pitch in 6 Steps

How to write a public service announcement (PSA)

Follow these steps to create a public service announcement:

1. Decide on your topic

There may be a lot of issues about which you're passionate. Think hard about what is currently the most pressing and pertinent issue and decide which topic you can develop a PSA about that will have a large impact on the public. Choosing a specific topic can help you develop a PSA that is clear and focused, which can help your audience understand what you're saying and what actions they can take. 

To choose your topic, you may partner with a charity or other organization that you've formed a relationship with and already support.

Related: What Is an Organizational Announcement? (Plus Types and Examples)

2. Do thorough research

Thorough research can help you explain your cause and call to action accurately. Here are some areas about which you may research before you write your PSA:

  • Topic background information

  • Specific facts and statistics

  • The impact of the issue on relevant communities or environments

  • References to which the audience can relate

  • Why the audience should care

  • What action the audience can take

Related: What Is Cause Marketing? Definition and How To Build a Campaign

3. Understand your intended audience

If possible, perform market research to understand which individuals to target with your PSA and how to present the information in a way that is most likely to affect those individuals. You can consider the following possible target demographic information when selecting your target audience:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Religion

  • Ethnicity

  • Lifestyle

  • Location

Keep in mind that you might also need to rely on your audience to spread the message to others. The more an audience feels they can relate to your message, the more likely they are to share it with others who may hold the same sentiments.

Read more: Defining Your Target Audience: What It Is and Why It's Important

4. Explore ways to capture your audience's attention

It's important to capture your audience's attention quickly and hold on to it for the duration of your PSA. The tactics used to gain attention may vary depending on your intended audience. Here are a few elements to consider including in your script to gain attention:

  • Visual elements

  • Humor

  • Emotional language

  • Suspense

  • Surprise

5. Write a PSA script

After completing your research and deciding on your PSA strategy, you can write the script. Here are a few guidelines to consider:

  • Aim for a length of approximately 30 seconds 

  • Sharing five to seven statements about your topic

  • Use your research on the topic and your target audience to guide your content

Developing a PSA can take a lot of time so, before you finalize it, make sure the content in your script is current and accurate. It's okay if you have to revise many times over to make sure your message is clear and that you're covering everything you want to share.

Read more: Learn How To Write A Script in 8 Simple Steps

Next steps for your PSA

After writing your PSA, you can produce it by partnering with other talented creatives or individuals who care about the same cause. Here are the next steps you can take to transform your idea from a script into a final product:

1. Create a storyboard for your script

storyboard is a visualization that shows your plan for a narrative. If your public service announcement is going to be filmed, as opposed to aired on the radio, you'll need to assign each part of your script a visual representation.

For example, you may use the following visual path:

  • Begin with voiceover, accompanied by written text on a black background 

  • Transition to a film scene, featuring dialogue between two people

  • End with visuals of statistics and a phone number for more information

It can be helpful to build your storyboard sequentially so you know where certain parts of the script fit in the final PSA.

2. Film and edit your public service announcement

Once you have your script and storyboard ready, start filming your public service announcement. Allow yourself enough time to complete multiple takes so your editing process goes smoothly. Review the scenes and refer to your script and storyboard often to ensure you capture everything.

Next, you may either edit the PSA yourself or hire a professional editor with whom you can collaborate. During the editing process, you can establish the order of the footage, add graphics, incorporate voiceovers and create a polished final product. 

3. Review your PSA

Consider having someone uninvolved in the process view the public service announcement to see if it makes sense. You can also determine if they have any questions, then decide whether to address those questions with further editing or re-shoots. The opinion of someone in the role of an objective viewer is invaluable in making sure your message is clear, inspiring and convincing.

Related: 20 Marketing Tactics for a Successful Marketing Campaign

4. Air and analyze the effectiveness of your PSA

You can release your PSA to the public, then analyze it to understand how well it performs. If you have a website you're encouraging someone to visit, see if there is an increase in website visitors during certain periods. If you are asking for donations for an environmental cause, see if you notice an uptick in contributions after your PSA airs. 

After you analyze it, you can tweak your PSA to make sure you're reaching the right people at the right time and with the right message. You also use this information to decide how to increase awareness further or what to focus on next time you create a PSA.

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Benefits of a PSA

Here are a few reasons you might consider creating a PSA:

  • They can create change. A well-written and thoughtfully produced PSA can bring about wide exposure, benefiting both your organization and the communities it supports.

  • They can be cost-effective. Many organizations that create PSAs work with limited budgets. While there may be costs associated with writing, production and research, PSAs also offer the availability to create content for relatively low costs and to and present information online for free.

  • They provide an opportunity for creativity. PSAs may be most effective when they use creativity to capture viewer attention. This can make creating a PSA a fun and creative project on which to work.

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