All About the PSA

Public service announcement: everyone has heard one. The famous title “PSA” is known throughout the world and has been a tool used to share important information for years. Public service announcements can be used for any type of topic. They range from important issues concerning the climate to silly cartoons telling children not to do something. Overall, public service announcements are one of the most important and useful public relations tools in the field. 

By definition, a public service announcement is a short message, broadcast or video commissioned by a government agency or nonprofit organization to raise awareness about an issue of public interest. These messages can also inhibit a need for change in their audience. In the last few years, with the rise of social media, public service announcements have gained new platforms. Apps like TikTok have a wide range of audiences, especially young adults. Companies and nonprofits can use this to their advantage when deciding where to broadcast their PSA. 

Public service announcements have been used across our country for years and they come in many different fonts and styles. Despite their different creative directions, they were still able to reach a large audience. Creators of these public service campaigns focused on who their audience would be for the topic they were working with to achieve the most success. 

To look at some examples, here are some of the most successful public service campaigns in the United States.  

  1. Smokey the Bear
    • This is the longest-running public service campaign in the country featuring the cartoon bear who advises Americans on what they can do to prevent wildfire. This campaign can be useful for adults, but the cute animal appeals to young children who can be educated on the topic for years to come. 
  2. The Real Cost Campaign
    • This is the FDA’s educational campaign to prevent young people from starting and continuing to use tobacco products. When I was younger, these commercials mainly focused on cigarettes. As time went on and e-cigarettes became more popular, the commercials started to target vapes instead. The campaign used a mix of advertising tactics to persuade its audience. Some of them included graphic commercials that showed the negative effects tobacco products have on your body. 
  3. People Start Pollution. People Can Stop It.
    • This is a public service ad from the early 1970s that premiered on Earth Day. The ad features a video of Iron Eyes Cody, also known as “The Crying Indian.” Cody has a tear coming out of his eye at the pollution the country has created, which has damaged many rivers and highways. The anti-littering campaign was successful because of the humanizing delivery of the message. 

Public service announcements are an incredibly important and effective tool for raising awareness about a wide variety of issues. From preventing wildfires to stopping pollution, these campaigns can reach large audiences and create a positive impact on society. With the rise of social media, public service announcements now have even more platforms to reach younger audiences and make a lasting impression. Government agencies and nonprofit organizations must continue to use public service announcements as a way to educate and inspire change in the world. Overall, PSAs have proven to be one of the most valuable public relations tools in our society, and their impact will continue to be felt for many years to come.

Rowan Fossella, a member of the PRSSA 2022-2023 Publications Committee, is a sophomore at Villanova University majoring in communications with a public relations concentration. In high school, Rowan interned at the Staten Island District Attorney’s office, where she began to explore the field of public relations. Here, she realized the importance of PR and its ability to help others. Rowan has also gained public relations experience through her time at the Villanova Student-run Firm. If you are interested in contacting Rowan, you may reach her via LinkedIn.

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