A PSA or public service announcement is a short video or radio spot developed by a nonprofit organization to influence an audience, and motivate them to take a desired action.
To create a knock-‘em-dead, hold ‘em ‘til they scream PSA requires the particular talents of a short-form scriptwriter. A writer who understands the subject and the importance of the message. A writer who shows an excellent command of the language and of alternative thinking. Thinking that trades a dull and mundane vocabulary for unexpected phrases and words. Words arranged for a new meaning. Carefully chosen words that evoke emotions and demand a response. Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.”
A good scriptwriter reveals a message in a way never expressed. Original and perceptive. And in effective language that encourages the viewer to look and listen, and to hold that message close. A good scriptwriter understands the sounds of words together and weaves the story with creativity, imagination and often wit.
The PSA must be not only heartfelt but lucid, with an understanding of the position of the nonprofit. The scriptwriter must show a clear understanding of the subject matter, and also of the action, reaction and motivation of the characters. But also exhibit creativity and technical skill.
By giving new meaning to words, the scriptwriter shows a reader what they may never have seen. Revealing appropriate action, reaction, and character motivation, the writer says what we are unable to say using creative language and technical skill.
Award-winning PSAs deliver content in a short, punchy, get in-get out treatment with a usual length of 30- to 60-seconds, which can also be used for a blog or hyperactive Twitter feed, podcasts and social media. PSAs categories include: how-tos, educational, product introduction, policy change, social.
Why should a nonprofit create short form PSAs? Viewers on the Internet have attention spans as short as 60- 90-seconds. To attract and hold a viewer, the script must be pithy and urbane. Straight-talk, ordinary language gives way to a new, shorter, punchier presentation, “Breastfeeding can endanger the health of your baby.” You’ve got ‘em, now tell ‘em.