What do you want the world to know? That's the central question asked when you are creating a public service announcement (PSA), which is any message promoting programs, activities or services of federal, state or local governments or the programs, activities or services of non-profit organizations.
Often in the form of commercials and print ads, PSAs are created to persuade an audience to take a favorable action. PSAs can create awareness, show the importance of a problem or issue, convey information, or promote a behavioral change. Whether you have a cause of your own or you are an educator, PSAs create a forum for learners to actively participate in a project that allows them to become stewards of — and advocates for — social change.
PSAs came into being with the entry of the United States into World War II. Radio broadcasters and advertising agencies created a council that offered their skills and facilities to the war effort, creating messages such as, "Loose lips sink ships," "Keep 'em Rolling" and a variety of exhortations to buy War Bonds.
Today that same council, the Advertising Council, now serves as a facilitating agency and clearing house for nationwide campaigns that have become a familiar part of daily life. "Smokey the Bear" was invented by the Ad Council to personify its "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" campaign; "A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste" raised millions for the United Negro College Fund; the American Cancer Society's "Fight Cancer with a Checkup and a Check" raised public awareness as well as funds for research and patient services.
Yet the most recognized PSA consisted of only an egg, a frying pan and these 15 words: "This is your brain. This is drugs. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?"
This only goes to show the massive impact PSAs have on our culture and our society. You can make an impact too!
Through a Public Service Announcement you can bring your community together around a subject that is important to you. Will your PSA be on education, poverty, drunk driving, or maybe even Haiti disaster relief? For ideas and examples, check out the Ad Council and the Ad Council Gallery. Keep your message clear and simple, and target your intended audience. Take advantage of your interests, and practice important critical thinking and literacy skills because you will be spreading important social, economic, and political topics.
About the Author: Jaclyn Bell is a digital media instructor and the director of community content for OneSeventeen Media Inc. as well as the competition director of the Young Minds Digital Times Student Film Competition.
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