How To Write an Effective Public Service Announcement (PSA)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated January 11, 2022 | Published November 5, 2020

Updated January 11, 2022

Published November 5, 2020

People conversing in the office.

There are many instances when you might need to connect with a massive number of people about a topic. You could choose to educate them in any number of ways, but one popular and effective way is by developing and publishing a 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 it's different from a commercial and guide you through the steps of creating a successful PSA.

What is a public service announcement (PSA)? 

A PSA is a message shared with the general public that serves to raise awareness about an issue. A PSA is usually informative and educational, but can also be inspiring and motivating

It's common for a public service announcement topic to be about health, wellness or safety, especially if it can affect the majority of people, multiple communities or a specific demographic. Many times, celebrities and other influencers are enlisted to help deliver the PSA so that the public pays more attention to the message that the underlying organization is trying to share.

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.

Related: How To Write an Effective Media Pitch

How to create 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 you're passionate about, but start with one that you can work with. 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. 

Your topic should be focused and clear so you avoid any confusion about what your message is. With a focused topic, you also allow the audience to hone in on what you're saying and understand what they should do about it.

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

Because a public service announcement is used to bring awareness to a cause, it's best if you're able to provide reasons why the audience should care. More importantly, you want to let them know what they can do and how their actions will make an impact either on themselves, the people around them, the environment or another group. 

It helps if you're able to share facts, statistics and references that the audience can relate to.

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

3. Understand your intended audience

To have the most effect on your audience, think about whom you're targeting—is it a specific age group, gender or other demographic? If possible, perform market research to understand the group more. 

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

Consider that your PSA may garner scant attention when it airs. You may hope for a large viewership, but many people bypass commercials on television,  tune out when one comes on the radio or skip ads on streaming services. Therefore, 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, but you may consider implementing a combination of visuals, humor, emotional language, suspense or surprise.

5. Write a PSA script

Most public service announcements are 30 seconds long. Within that time, you should plan on sharing around five to seven statements about your topic. Write out a script and know that 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. 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.

Read more: Learn How To Write A Script

6. Create a storyboard for your script

A storyboard is a visualization that shows your plan for a  narrative. Especially if your public service announcement is going to be on television, you'll need to assign each part of your script to a part of the visuals. 

For example, you may have a voiceover in the beginning as you enter a scene, a dialogue between two people as the main storyline and then visuals of statistics to round out the entire PSA. Build your storyboard sequentially so you know where certain parts of the script fit in the final PSA.

7. Film 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 and you don't have to redo the entire production. Review the scenes and refer to your script and storyboard often to ensure everything is covered.

Consider having someone uninvolved in the process view the public service announcement to see if it makes sense to them or if they are left with any questions. 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

8. Analyze the effectiveness of your PSA

Even if everything seems to go well up to this point, analyze your public service announcement after it airs to see how it performed. 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.

Next steps for your PSA

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. It’s a huge benefit that public service announcements offer cost-effective outreach for organizations. There are costs associated with writing, production and research, but the availability to present it on certain media formats is either free or of very negligible cost.

A well-written and thoughtfully produced PSA can bring about wide exposure and great benefit for both your organization and the communities it supports. 

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