Putting a public service announcement (PSA) together doesn’t have to be a difficult or complex process. Focus on creating a message that has some community impact and value, then write your script keeping it concise and to the point. Think broadcast-style vs. print and you’re much of the way there.
Before you sit down to write your own PSA, take a moment to review this guide, look at the PSA examples included here, and use our handy PSA checklist as an aid.
What should be included in a PSA?
PSAs are often used to highlight a community issue and persuade individuals to take action. They can convey information, create awareness, offer assistance or encourage a change in behavior. Governmental agencies, civic groups, voluntary organizations, and non-profits use radio PSAs to reach a wide and diverse audience, making them an effective marketing tool for your organization.
One major advantage of radio PSAs is their relatively low cost to write, produce and distribute in return for the significant media value they deliver. Their ability to reach a targeted audience, and the free airtime radio stations provide for their broadcasts, make PSAs a perfect, low-cost choice for non-profit outreach. Plus, residents of the communities in which they air benefit from knowing about the many services that local non-profit organizations provide.
Can any organization put a PSA on the air?
Unfortunately, not all organizations are able to run PSAs. For-profit organizations do not meet the standards under federal law to qualify for PSAs. Even if the organization or company has a public service message, a PSA is not the answer for them. The only types of organizations that are eligible for PSAs are governmental agencies, civic groups, voluntary organizations, and non-profits.
For-profit organizations may opt for an Audio News Release (ANR) if they have information of a public service nature that they want to share. With enough news value or community benefit, local radio stations will consider providing coverage. Another option is to consider using paid media or guaranteed placement to insure your message will be heard.
What makes a good 30 second PSA?
A good 30 second PSA contains all the key messages and information laid out in a pleasing, yet succinct manner. The challenge is doing it in under 90 words. You’ll need a strong hook at the opening and a compelling call to action at the end.
For example, this is a 30 second PSA script on vaccinations from the Illinois State Medical Society:
In healthcare, misinformation can be as deadly as the most serious disease – and spread just as quickly. For years now, myths about childhood immunizations have been spreading on the Internet and social media. The physicians of the Illinois State Medical Society urge parents to know the facts and get your children immunized. Immunizations are scientifically proven to be safe and effective, and failure to immunize can harm your children and others. Talk to your child’s doctor to get the facts about immunizations.
Look at the first sentence – a very strong hook. It gets people’s attention. Next, there’s the key messages of the PSA that provides the information the organization wanted to convey about vaccinations. Finally, it ends with a compelling call to action, for parents to talk to their children’s doctor about immunizations.
This next 30 second PSA example from the Leukemia Research Foundation announces an upcoming conference, encouraging people to attend:
If you or a loved one is living with leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or MDS, don’t miss the 15th annual Treatment Options for Blood Cancer Patients conference on Saturday morning, May 11, at the Hyatt Regency in Lisle. You’ll learn about the latest breakthroughs and emerging treatments presented by leading experts in the field. The free Treatment Options Conference is presented by the Leukemia Research Foundation and includes breakfast and lunch. For more information, registration, and a full program agenda visit all-blood-cancers-dot-org.
In addition to including details of what will happen at the conference, this PSA also includes the day, date, time, and location of the event as well as a website that offers even more information.
How to write a 30 second PSA
The first step in writing a PSA is drilling down to your key messages. Chances are you already know the topic, be it an upcoming event or a planned awareness campaign. If the PSA is meant to create awareness for your organization and the community benefit it provides, then you may need to focus on a single topic.
Know your audience before you begin writing. You want to tailor your PSA to your targeted demographic. For instance, your approach to reaching young married couples will likely be different than retirees.
Always start with a strong hook, something to get your audience’s attention and keep them listening.
Avoid broad strokes. You want your focus to be narrow so the message stays clear and sharp.
Adding statistics and citing expert resources makes your PSA stronger. Make sure that any information you include is the most current available. Accuracy is vital. Outdated or wrong information can damage your organization’s credibility.
Create the script, keeping in mind the maximum word count of 90. It may help to first bullet point and order the information that you’d like to include. Put the most important information at the top of the list, and work from there. Around 5 to 7 key aspects tend to work best but keep them concise.
Once your script is complete, record it and distribute it to the key stations in your targeted area.
Crucial information to include in your PSA (a checklist)
Use this helpful checklist when you sit down to write your 30 second PSA.
- Write your script to a total of no more than 90 words (could be as few as 75 words). A professional voice talent can speak about 180 words a minute at a moderate pace. This means that in 30 seconds they can speak about 90 words.
- Develop a strong hook that grabs the listener’s attention and holds it while the key messages are conveyed.
- Prepare 5 to 7 main points that support a single message.
- Include facts or statistics with resources to back it up.
- If it’s an event, provide the day, date, time, location, and cost
- Close with a compelling call to action telling listeners to “call this number,” “talk to your doctor,” “visit this website,” or “attend the event.”
If you are considering a PSA for your organization, MediaTracks Communications can help. Our experts will help you write, produce and distribute a PSA that will grab your audience’s attention and get results. From bringing your message into sharp focus to targeting specific demographics to getting widespread placement, we are here to assist. Give us a call today or visit our website for more information and to see more PSA samples.
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