PSA Writing Guide (Public Announcement)|Examine the data!

A public service announcement (PSA) is a free public service message broadcast by the media to raise public awareness and influence behavior. They are known in the UK as a Public Information Film (PIF) and in Hong Kong as a Public Interest Announcement (API).

PSA Writing Guide.

A public service announcement (PSA) is a short, community-oriented message that radio stations broadcast free of charge to meet their responsibility to the public interest.

Nonprofit organizations can use PSAs to create awareness of the services they offer at a low cost. PSAs are sent to radio stations as audio files, typically 30 or 60 seconds long. Scripts may be included in these files for announcers to read live on air. They can be targeted to specific demographics and markets through appropriate distribution.

Radio stations care about their communities and want to help you spread the word about your nonprofit. However, depending on the time of year and target regions, hundreds of different groups may be vying for airtime.

Here’s a list of the top five things you can do to ensure your message reaches and connects with the right audience as you plan, create, and produce your public service announcement.

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What makes a PSA successful?

When creating a PSA, you can use a variety of aesthetic methods. Choose the one that is most relevant and effective to the message you want to convey.

What makes a PSA successful

  • It arouses the interest of the audience.
  • The message is simple and direct.
  • The message is stored with subject data.
  • The audience can empathize with people affected by the problem.

Be honest to yourself.

PSAs must be affiliated with a local or national 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. Include a request signed by your communications director or your president on your organization’s letterhead to ensure your public service message gets the attention of the radio station’s directors of public affairs.

You should also submit them to your organization’s website and social media sites, where they can learn more about them. As you engage and make a difference in your community, it is important to be visible online as this will help build your credibility and increase your chances of getting your message out there. Each station has its own screening process, but here is an example of a station’s criteria for submitting a PSA through their website:

Please email our Public Affairs Director with the following information:

  • The official name of a 501(c)(3) charity or non-profit organization
  • Description of the event, initiative, or cause
  • Event name, date, time and location, and a link to the event’s website, if applicable.
  • It details who your organization helps and how donations work (what percentage of the proceeds go to the beneficiaries)
  • Name, position and contact information

Keep it simple, light and fast.

In order to get a quick response, it is critical that stations can easily access the PSA and respond. Give them an easy way to download the PSA and script from a website, as well as an automated way to notify you when they use it.

Keep it simple, easy and quick

We used to record the PSAs on CDs and mail them to the stations for reply, along with a letter of introduction, a copy of the script, and a self-addressed postage-paid postcard. It worked well then, but now that we’re submitting our PSAs digitally, we have a much higher participation rate and a much more relatable response.

Choose your format and delivery method carefully.

It is ideal to create two versions of your public service announcement: a:30 seconds (65-90 words) and a:60 seconds (150-180 words) and provide the scripts for each or alternative script versions.

Some broadcasters choose not to run the article produced, instead having one of their presenters read it live on air – this is known as a ‘live reader’. After numerous broadcasters wanted something shorter than the 30 second option, we created recorded versions of a 60 second and 30 second PSA, as well as a 15 second live reader script for an American Cancer Society PSA.

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tracking and tracking

“Due to the volume received, we cannot confirm receipt of your contribution,” some radio stations may say. Because of this, it’s important that your campaign tracks as many stations as possible via phone calls and emails.

This follow-up call is another opportunity to sell your cause and encourage the station representative to run your PSA.

Make it as easy as possible for senders to respond to your PSA request, even if the answer is “no thanks.” We’ve had great success putting a short response form on the same online site where broadcasters can receive audio and scripts.

We used an online form and followed up emails and phone calls for a recent opioid abuse PSA targeting the state of Illinois, and nearly half of the responding stations ran it as recorded or conducted live measurements.

Determining Success – What Makes a Satisfactory Answer?

The frequency and length of public announcements varies greatly from station to station. Depending on how many other PSAs are showing them at the same time, some of the bigger networks may only commit to daily airing for a few weeks. If the material is “evergreen,” meaning if it’s not time-bound to a single event and doesn’t contain information that expires, it can be placed in on-air rotation for many months. Expect a wide variety of airtime dates and times.

Since it is difficult to say how many other groups are vying for airtime on specific channels, a load of 35-50 percent is considered a success. Anything over 50% is a home run!

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The next steps of your public announcement

Radio PSAs are a low-cost, community-focused form of communication for nonprofit groups. While there are costs associated with writing, production, targeting, distribution, tracking, and reporting, the radio airtime you get is ultimately free.


Radio reaches around 243 million people every week. At MediaTracks Communications, we’re committed to spreading your message and advancing your cause through AM/FM radio. A well-written and produced public service announcement can bring a lot of visibility and value to your organization and the communities it serves.

We offer a full range of PSA services including writing, production, channel targeting, distribution, tracking and reporting to ensure your message reaches the widest possible audience. You can find out more here or give us a call to get started.

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