Making a Public Service Announcement

What is a PSA?

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.

Why Have Your Students Create a PSA?

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 different types of media. The 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!

How to Write a Public Service Announcement

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.

1. Choose an Issue

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.

2. Hook Your Audience

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 text boxes 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.

3. Get Your Facts Straight

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.

4. Be Straightforward

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.

How Can I Use PSAs in the Classroom?

  • Use PSA storyboards as an introduction to a unit on persuasive writing. Public service announcements usually do not have legitimate opposing stances, but many public service announcements want to persuade the audience in some way. Creating a PSA storyboard can help students think about their passions, important issues in our society, and convincing reasons to back up claims.

  • Make storyboards to understand and address contemporary issues in your school, town, country, or world. PSAs can cover numerous serious topics like racism, sex trafficking, drunk driving, drugs, but also smaller concerns in modern life. Here at Storyboard That, we love seeing what the next generation is thinking and how they are going to tackle the problems they are actively inheriting.

  • Use storyboards as a means of planning for video assignments. PSAs are great templates for advertisements, and often occur alongside commercials on TV, on radio, or in print. Storyboarding is very useful when planning for the needs of filming: set, actors, props, etc. The Fridge and The Arrest storyboards above are two examples of storyboards that could be easily turned into a video.

  • For recurring issues in your classroom or a reminder about rules and expectations, a comic strip can make a delightful public service announcement. Sometimes making light of a simple (and potentially important) issue, can make a discussion on it easier to start or even have a bigger impact on students.

  • You or your students can create posters and PSA infographics to hang in the classroom or in the halls of the school to start a movement, like encouraging recycling or reminding their peers about bullying or peer pressure. Often these types of PSAs have a clear statement and call to action, and are made with vibrant, eye-catching colors.

Example PSA Activities

Example Rubric

Public Service Announcement Storyboard
Create a multiple-cell storyboard public service announcement. Public service announcement must address an issue important to students. Make a storyboard that is easy to understand, uses words and pictures effectively to convey a message, and indicates evidence to support the message.
4 Points
3 Points
2 Points
1 Points
Message Clarity
The intended message is clear, poignant, and thought-provoking.
The intended message is easily understood.
The message comes through, but it is not understood right away.
It is difficult to find the meaning or message in the storyboard.
(slogan, dialogue, explanation)
Text is carefully chosen to provide the most impact.
Text is used effectively alone or in conjunction with images.
The included text does not enhance the meaning of the message or the images.
Text is confusing or does not make sense with the message.
Images help to create a strong connection between message and viewer.
Scenes, characters, or items are appropriate for the message. The images are used effectively alone or in conjunction with the text.
Scenes, characters, and items are appropriate for the message.
Images are confusing or do not make sense with the message.
Reasons or evidence are very convincing. This storyboard has changed my thinking or inspired me to action.
Reasons or evidence are convincing. It is easy to see why one should think or do what is indicated in the storyboard.
There are some reasons or evidence provided, but they are not all convincing.
Little to no evidence to support the message is provided.

Follow-Up Discussion Questions

Showcase or present a public service announcement storyboard. Discuss the effectiveness of the various elements. Use some of these questions to guide the discussion.

  1. What message should you take away? Is the message presented explicitly or implicitly?

  2. Who is the intended audience? Where would you post or present this public service announcement?

  3. Do you believe it? Do you understand why you should [follow the message]?

  4. Do you have an emotional reaction or a personal connection? What in the PSA makes you feel that way?

  5. Are you convinced by this PSA? What are the reasons or evidence, if any, provided on the storyboard?

  6. What would make this a stronger PSA?

  7. 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?

How to Integrate Public Service Announcements into the Curriculum for Cross-Disciplinary Learning

1 Identify Relevant Topics and Learning Objectives

Determine the relevant topics or social issues that align with your curriculum and learning objectives. Consider issues that can be addressed through PSAs, such as environmental sustainability, social justice, or health and wellness.

2 Engage Students in Research and Analysis

Guide students in researching and analyzing the chosen topic, encouraging them to gather information from reliable sources, evaluate different perspectives, and identify key messages to be conveyed through PSAs.

3 Collaborative Planning and Storyboarding

Facilitate collaborative planning sessions where students from different disciplines can work together to develop PSA concepts and storyboards. Encourage students to leverage their knowledge and skills from various subjects to create well-rounded PSAs.

4 Media Production and Implementation

Provide students with access to media production tools and resources, such as video editing software or graphic design platforms, to create their PSAs. Support students in the implementation of their PSAs, whether through broadcasting in the school, sharing on social media, or presenting to relevant stakeholders.

5 Reflection and Evaluation

Allocate time for students to reflect on their PSA creation process, discussing the challenges, successes, and lessons learned. Establish evaluation criteria that assess both the content and the effectiveness of the PSAs, allowing students to receive feedback and refine their work.

6 Integration and Application

Encourage students to apply their knowledge and skills from various subjects to contextualize the PSA topic within their respective disciplines. Provide opportunities for students to present or showcase their PSAs in subject-specific settings, such as science fairs, art exhibits, or language arts presentations.

Frequently Asked Questions about creating PSAs

How many visual elements are enough or too much to use on a PSA template?

The number of visual elements to use on a PSA template depends on the message and target audience. Students should be advised that it is recommended to use a balance of images, text, and other design elements to convey the message effectively when creating their own PSA. It is important to avoid overloading the PSA with too many visual elements, which can make it difficult to read and understand.

What are some often overlooked issues that may arise when creating a PSA?

Some often overlooked issues when creating a PSA include ensuring that the message is clear and concise, selecting appropriate images and design elements that complement the message, and considering the cultural and social context of the target audience. It is also important to avoid using language or images that may be offensive or inappropriate and to test the PSA with a small group of students before sharing it widely. It is also important to only use images that are in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license to avoid copyright infringement issues.

Are there any guidelines I should follow when creating a PSA template?

Yes, you should consider the target audience, message, and format of the PSA when designing the template. For instance, when creating PSA templates, it is important to consider the age range of the target audience. PSAs that are age-appropriate should use language and images that are appropriate for the target age group. It is important to avoid using images or language that may be too mature or difficult for younger students to understand. Additionally, it is important to avoid using PSAs that may be too simplistic or unengaging for older students. It is also important to ensure that the PSA follows ethical and legal guidelines.

What are some factors to consider in terms of instruction and design when developing PSA templates for students with special needs in the classroom?

When creating PSA templates in the classroom with students with special needs, it is important to consider their individual needs and ensure that the materials are accessible and understandable to them. This may involve simplifying the language used in the PSA, providing additional visual aids or audio instructions, and allowing for extra time or breaks during the design process. It is also important to consider the specific disability or special need of each student and tailor the instruction and design accordingly. For example, students with visual impairments may require braille or large print materials, while students with autism may benefit from visual schedules and clear expectations. Overall, it is crucial to prioritize accessibility and inclusivity when creating PSA templates for students with special needs.

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