A public service announcement, commonly known by the PSA acronym, is a message spread in the interest of the public. The objectives of PSAs are to raise awareness and change public attitudes, opinions, or even behavior towards an issue. These messages can be instructional, inspirational, or even shocking to elicit emotion and action.
A PSA can be a very powerful way to heighten awareness on a certain issue. Many PSA campaigns have educated the public or contributed to social change. The number of people who smoke cigarettes has decreased dramatically since the 1960s, not only because of legal restrictions, but also because the general public as a whole has become more aware of the severe health risks. Consider the effects of famous PSA characters on your own life such as Smokey the Bear or McGruff the Crime Dog and slogans like, “Don’t drink and drive” or “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.”
A public service announcement does not need to be a nation-wide endeavor, and can be made in several media. Most commonly used media for PSAs are video on television and the internet, and audio during radio shows or podcasts, but there are many instances of PSAs in print media. On Storyboard That, you can make a digital public service announcement that can be disseminated via email, printed out, or projected during a presentation. You can even add audio!
Public service announcements are for the benefit of the public, and usually contain a message that you should take away. What do you want to say? Should you tell a story or make a bold statement? Here are a few steps on how to write a PSA storyboard.
Select a topic or issue that would benefit the public. This topic may address social or environmental issues such as bullying, littering, or industrial pollution, but also might be on a smaller scale like “push in your chair” or “cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.” Think about what message you want to get across and to whom you are directing this message.
A good PSA will be noteworthy for at least one reason. Maybe a PSA will grab attention because of its comedy, shock value, emotionality, or importance to the audience. Make use of the various character positions and expressions to demonstrate an array of emotions. Use eye-catching images in your storyboard cells from the Storyboard That library and Photos For Class, and try not to leave much empty white space. Use dialogue bubbles or other Textables to explain your message. A very different, but effective, strategy is to limit the text to a single word or slogan, or to leave text out entirely.
Research the topic as necessary. If you have incorrect information, your message will quickly lose its credibility. Make sure the factual information that you present, such as statistics examples, is correct and relevant. Use a blend of figurative language, images, and jokes to prove a point, but be sure that you are not insinuating untrue things. Choose appropriate scenes, characters, and items that enhance your message.
Your public service announcement should be clear and concise. Get your point across without dawdling. If you choose to make a more thought-provoking message, you still want your audience to understand after a moment of consideration, rather than spend time puzzling over the higher meaning.
Showcase or present a public service announcement storyboard. Discuss the effectiveness of the various elements. Use some of these questions to guide the discussion.
What message should you take away? Is the message presented explicitly or implicitly?
Who is the intended audience? Where would you post or present this public service announcement?
Do you believe it? Do you understand why you should [follow the message]?
Do you have an emotional reaction or a personal connection? What in the PSA makes you feel that way?
Are you convinced by this PSA? What are the reasons or evidence, if any, provided on the storyboard?
What would make this a stronger PSA?
How else could you present the same message in a different way? (i.e. use comedy as opposed to emotional connection) Which approach is more effective?