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Get the Word Out: Developing a PSA

Public service announcements (PSA's) are short messages intended to inform and persuade the general public.  These announcements are distributed via public media, mail, and posters, or broadcast via video or audio channels to reach the largest possible audience.  More recently, social media, because of it's viral nature, has become a platform for people to share PSAs in a variety of formats.

Broadcast media (radio and television) are required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to serve "in the public interest," so many will donate up to a third of their commercial air time each day to airing PSAs for no charge.  The people who appear in PSAs, celebrity or not, get NO paycheck.


Because these announcements are "ready-to-air" and sent to television and radio stations to fill defined time slots, they are generally exact in length.

  • 20 seconds
  • 30 seconds (most common)
  • 60 seconds

Script can be provided to be read by DJ. 

Pre-recorded spots are generallu 30 second spots. 

Created, often in multiple dimensions to be used a variety of formats for mass distribution.

  • posters
  • magazine/newspaper ads
  • social media

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) should be simple, calling the viewer to action.  They are generally structured like this:


  • narration (voiceover) of images 
  • dramatization of events
  • interview with expert, witness, or victim

  • calls viewer to action
  • is simple to remember and hard to forget

  • contact information
  • credits
  • disclaimers.

Many stations will avoid broadcasting PSAs that are promoting controversial ideas.

PSAs are more effective at changing individual behaviors than at changing public policy.

Library Information and Media Center - Monona Grove High School - Monona, Wisconsin

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