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Public Service Announcements (PSAs) as a PR Tool

If you watch TV, listen to the radio or read a newspaper, you have seen and heard a public service announcement (PSA). (The phrase “the more you know” should ring a bell.)

People's mandala - 12 handsThe FCC defines public service announcements as “any announcement … for which no charge is made and which promotes programs, activities, or services of federal, state or local governments … or the programs, activities, or services of non-profit organizations … and other announcements regarded as serving community interests.”

While a for-profit company or client does not fit most of this definition, read on. Many companies have adhered to the phrase “other announcements regarded as serving community interest” in order to place thoughtful and well-received PSAs. And, of special interest to public relations professionals, PSAs are absolutely free to place!

So how do you get in on the action and get some of that free airtime or publication space using a PSA? The first step is not to think of a PSA as “free advertising,” instead, think of it as a way to educate the public about something your company cares about deeply.  Chances are your company specializes in something that the public could use more education about. For example, if you sell children’s toys, consider a PSA – timed for the holidays – about toy safety.

Start preparing for your PSA by making a list of all the little known or interesting educational aspects of your organization. For example, just because everyone in your custom speaker company understands the importance of listening to music at appropriate levels doesn’t mean that parents and teens realize loud music can cause hearing loss.  While a PSA can reference your company as a sponsor or underwriter, it should never blatantly promote your organization. If it does, producers and editors are going to send you and your PSA straight down the hall to the advertising department.

When it comes down to actually creating your PSA, be aware that broadcast PSAs are either 10, 15, 20, 30 or 60 seconds long, while newspaper PSAs are generally graphical and anywhere from 1/8th of a page to a full page. Unless you have the ability to produce these spots in-house, it’s a good idea to hire a production house for television and radio spots, and a graphic designer for print ads. If you do not have experience creating PSAs, an experienced consultant can show you the tips and tricks of the trade. For example, when dealing with broadcast PSAs, even going one second over or under the limit can cause a problem for broadcasters and get your PSA rejected out of hand.

If you are unsure about hiring a consultant or production house and creating a PSA all your own, there is another way to get your name out there – underwrite a PSA created by a nonprofit.  By paying for a non-profit to create a PSA, you will be credited as a sponsor, often with a “brought to you by” line, and you will also associate your organization with a non-profit in you industry or geographic area, adding instant credibility with the public.

For ideas on just how much message you can pack into a short PSA, see these three PSAs from the past several decades:

Smokey the Bear PSA – 10 seconds

Crash Test Dummies PSA – 30 seconds

Partnership for a Drug Free America PSA – 60 seconds

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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