Creating a Public Service Announcement

Most radio stations feature a community bulletin board to air free announcements of local events (called public service announcements or PSA's).

You'll have to call each station (or find a volunteer in your group to take this responsibility) to learn details of its policy, including time limit (20-30 seconds). Sometimes they will require a typewritten notice up to a month in advance.

Local TV stations, or cable TV networks, are also worth checking for free announcements.

When you write for the oral voice, you want to use contractions, otherwise it will sound stilted and formal -- not a friendly invitation.

A sample 20-30 second announcement might read:

Did you know one in 99 adults in the US are imprisoned? Join other concerned citizens to discuss why the United States is the World's Leading Jailer. Join us on Jan 2nd at 6:30 PM, at the Civic Center located at 2nd and Broadway. It's free and event details are at or call 684-1550. One in 99 adults in prison, it's an issue that matters.

PSA's can announce an event, or be part of a strategic campaign. When a Washington state county tried to sell an expensive jail with extra 'rent a beds' venture to taxpayers by saying that it would only cost each family what amounts to a couple of gallons of milk a month; Milk not Jails was born. One of the counter tactics implemented was to record, and air this public service announcement on mainstream, commercial radio stations. Cartoon commentary, and published information, radio and a public protest encouraged community members to study the issue more carefully. Use the collective imagination of your group, pass the hat and air a PSA -- or Public Service Announcement of your own.

If you only skimmed the chapter on
Be the Media, now is a good time to read and follow some of the links. There have never been more ways to get the word out.