This guideline will help you write a PSA that is effective and then get it on the air.
The MAB Guide To Successful PSA Creation And Placement
One of the many ways Maine broadcasters serve the public interest is through the airing of public service announcements, or PSAs. PSAs are free, i.e. no-cost, messages aired on behalf of government agencies or non-profit organizations. PSAs can promote an event, such as a bean supper or church fair; they can appeal for help, as with blood drives or fund-raising efforts; they can inform or advise about helpline services and the like.
Radio PSAs: Some radio stations will not accept pre-recorded PSAs, preferring instead to have their announcers read the PSA script “live.” A script also gives the station the flexibility to include the PSA in a “calendar of events,” if appropriate. Check with stations to see whether they would prefer a script or a pre-produced spot. If there is a compelling reason to distribute a pre-recorded PSA, check with your local radio station for advice on production.
TV PSAs: Some TV stations air “calendar” announcements, which are text listings of events. Most will air pre-recorded PSAs and can give advice on how to get a PSA produced. If you are sending out pre-produced TV PSAs, it’s a good idea to make sure they’re closed-captioned for the hearing impaired.
Often a radio or TV station will “adopt” a particular cause and work extensively with an organization to promote it, produce and air announcements, etc.
Writing a PSA: Stick to the basics — who, what, when, where, how, why. Read your PSA out loud, and note the time it takes. A PSA should be concise enough to be read aloud in thirty seconds or less.
Distribution: The Maine Association of Broadcasters (MAB) publishes an annual directory of radio and television stations, showing their addresses and key contact names. To request a directory, email info (at) mab (dot) org and put Directory Request in the subject line of your email. Be sure to include your mailing address in the body of the email. Unfortunately, due to staff limitations, MAB cannot write, produce or distribute PSAs for you.
Scheduling: If you are promoting an event, make sure you mail your PSA to arrive at the stations at least two weeks in advance of the date of the event. If you are sending a PSA that has no fixed time limit, you may want to “freshen” your message by sending a new PSA every few months; if so, indicate on the script, “Air until [date],” and be sure to send a new PSA shortly before the expiration date of the old one.
Be sure to include contact information. Send the PSA script on your organization’s letterhead, if possible. Include the name and daytime phone number of a contact person in case the station has questions or needs more information. If you do not want the contact person’s phone number broadcast on the air, you should indicate that. If you are including a phone number in your PSA message (“For tickets, call xxx-xxxx”), double-check to make sure the number is correct!
Caveat: If you are buying advertising in print media or on cable TV to publicize your event, please do not ask broadcasters to run a “free” PSA for you. Broadcasting is a business, and, in equity, if you are paying for publicity in other media, you should be paying for broadcast time too.
SAMPLE PSA SCRIPT:
Contact Mary Smith, 555-1212 (please do not broadcast this phone number)
The Women’s Guild of St. John’s Church will hold a Craft Fair on Saturday, September 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the church hall at 123 Main Street, Augusta. The fair will feature handcrafted items and baked goods. Proceeds benefit the St. John’s Belfry Fund for Needy Families.