Author: Duke & Duck
“Only you can prevent _____,”
“Friends don’t let friends _____,”
“Stop, drop, and _____.”
We bet you can fill in at least one of these blanks, if not all three, thanks to classic public service announcements. But why do some PSAs barely register on your radar while others are unforgettable? Is it a catchy jingle or a memorable character that makes the difference? Keep reading to find out from our Duke & Duck PSA creators what makes a standout PSA and the five things you must include.
What Makes an Exceptional PSA?
Hook Your Audience
When your PSA comes on, viewers should stop what they are doing, and if there’s music or a slogan involved, it should get stuck in their heads. Then, you can hook your audience through comedy, emotion, or even shock value.
Additionally, make sure your PSA is captivating and visually appealing throughout so you not only hook audiences but keep them. Be sure to add images, avoid too much white space, and use dialogue bubbles or other features to explain your message in an engaging way.
A critical role of PSAs is educating the public about a topic and building authority for a cause or organization. To do this, presenting accurate, well-researched information is critical. The last thing you want to do is lose your credibility over a mistake or inaccurate figure.
Have a Straightforward Message
When creating a PSA, you want to draw readers in with a clear message. You want viewers walking away having learned something from your work and empowering them to want to apply what they learned.
Unless you are sure your topic is only applicable to a particular demographic, make sure your PSA is as inclusive as possible. For example, make sure your language embraces the diverse perspectives of people, and ensure that people of any age, gender, or race feel as if they relate to the issue. For example, creating a PSA in another language, such as Spanish, will increase its inclusivity and overall reach.
Just because the problem you’re discussing is serious doesn’t mean your PSA has to be dull. Wedge the door open with fun (or fear) and follow it with information. If your PSA is just stating the facts and not engaging with the audience, it will not succeed. Instead, use a memorable approach that makes your audience want to know more and do more, like a catchy song or an unforgettable visual.
5 Essential Things to Include in a PSA
All PSAs should address a specific problem. One PSA can’t fix every issue in the world, and if your message isn’t focused enough, it will wash over the audience rather than spurring them to action. Be sure to include information that is current, relevant, and accurate. You’ll also want to provide some context around the issue for audience members who are not as familiar.
2. Reason to Care
Okay, so now your audience knows there’s a problem, but why should they care? Even if people are good, they are busy, so they need a reason to focus on this message. Your PSA has to give your audience a specific reason to sit up and take notice—an emotional trigger.
A PSA says, “the time to act is now.” Your PSA has to foster the feeling that the problem cannot wait. Putting the problem into context by explaining when this issue started, how it has grown, how many of us are affected, and more, builds to the point that right now is the moment to take action.
The ask is the most critical aspect of a PSA. Now that viewers understand there is an urgent problem and they care about it, they need to know what they can do to fix it. Your ask should be specific, clear, and reasonable. It should be an action that your audience feels motivated to take. Remember that if you have made audience members feel connected to the issue, they will want to help.
You’ve educated your audience, made them care, and motivated them to take specific, immediate action. Now the question is, “How?”
Make it easy for your audience to obtain more information or answer any additional questions. Again, a strong call to action (or CTA) is the key.
Keep in mind that a good CTA provokes an emotional response to drive action, but you should take care not to make the CTA overly dramatic. A reasonable call to action is more likely to create real change and to be taken seriously. By helping people see that they can make a difference and understand how to do so, an effective PSA can make change happen.
Want to Know More?
One more quiz:
“This is your brain on ___________”
“A ________ is a terrible thing to waste.”
“Take a _______ out of crime.”
You scored a 100% on these two exams not because you’re brilliant (though our readers definitely are) but because PSAs work.
Now that you understand what makes a PSA stand out and succeed, check out some of the ones we’ve created on our Work Page. Quack at us to talk more about creating a killer PSA or other videos to tell your story.