Five Effective Steps to Making a PSA for Youth

What is a PSA?

A PSA is a Public Service Announcement that can be a short video, radio announcement or even a poster. PSA’s are usually free messages that act like commercials- and they can run from 10 to 60 seconds in length. PSA’s generally focus on:

  • Raising awareness about an issue.
  • Shifting public attitudes about a behavior.
  • Grab people’s attention that leads to them making a change or act on something important.
  • Sends a specific and clear message about an issue or topic.
  • Check out this cool Girl Scouts video on How to Make a PSA!

Step 1: Research PSA’s- take a look at these PSA’s focused on different issues:

How did you feel watching some of these PSA’s? Did any of the PSA’s messages persuade you to do something or feel a certain way? What is the main message of some of these PSA’s? How did the actors portray the message? How was music, color, lighting, art, etc…used? What impressed you? Pick one of the PSA’s you watched and make a list of the changes you would want to make in it. Why the changes?  Now you’re getting an idea of what to do for your PSA. Start thinking about what kind of topic and ideas you want to use in your PSA.

Step 2: Picking a Topic

Choose an issue that is important to you, like the ones listed above in the PSA’s. If you choose to do an Anti-Racism PSA, you could also take a look at that topic from different angles:

  • Stereotyping
  • Discrimination
  • LGBT/Racism
  • Profiling
  • Hate Crimes
  • Racism & Bullying

Where to start researching your idea:

  • Internet sources such as youtube, dosomething.org, youthcan.org, google search PSA’s for ideas too!
  • Newspapers, magazines, books,
  • Find powerful statistics and data about your issue
  • Sources like Wikipedia aren’t always reliable, so double check your stats at a couple of reliable websites before using them.

Also think about how controversial you want to be in your PSA, while researching:

  • Did you find a shocking statistic, study, or data? What was surprising about it?
  • Did you know some of the ‘shocking’ or ‘powerful’ findings before? How did it differ from what you knew or believed?
  • What did you learn about what causes the topic or issue you’re addressing in your PSA?
  • What could be a solution to the problem and how can you communicate this in the PSA? How can people change their behaviors?

Step 3: Creating an outline

  • Write an outline for your PSA before filming!
  • Keep in mind what audience your PSA is going to be filmed for- Youth? Children? Older people? Multi-Generational?
  • Less is more” is often a good rule of thumb to make the most effective point.
  • Use more specific statistics like: example “1.1 billion people are affected by water scarcity” is not as powerful as “1 in 7 people are affected by water scarcity.”
  • Keep it positive, too much negativity might turn the audience off
  • Feel free to use clever humor, wit, sarcasm
  • Remember to use appropriate music, that you can find online for free- without stepping on copyright issues
  • Check out the Mashable article: 4 Ways to Download Legal Music for Your Youtube Video http://mashable.com/2010/12/08/ind-music-for-youtube-videos/. Also youtube.com offers free music to add to your video if you’re uploading your video there and edit in part online. They won’t allow you to charge for the viewing of your PSA though if you use their music.
  • Are you going to use words flashing across your screen, like statistics?
  • What kind of dramatics are you going to use in your PSA?

Outline Example: The outline organizes your most important notes you want to include and can be outlined in a way that also organizes your scenes. You can organize the outline anyway you like!

Cast: Person 1, Person 2, Voice Over 1, Voice Over 2,

I.  Intro/Scene 1: Stop Bullying

  1. Statistic
  2. Voice over
  3. Picture
    II.                  Body/Scene 2: Why is it a problem?
  1. Statistic
  2. Voice over
  3. Picture
    III.                Closing/Scene 3: What can we do?

    1. Statistic
    2. Voice over
    3. Picture
      IV.               Credits/Scene 4:

      1. List any sources you’ve used
      2. Credits to music
      3. Credits to advisors, people in video or the name the group if there was a specific group filming the PSA.

Step 4: Filming

Things you need to start filming:

  • Video Camera (Flipcam or a camcorder)
  • Tripod
  • Mic
  • Rights to film where you’re filming? (not needed for your private residence or if you’re working with an organization)
  • Software editing system for the PSA (try the basic window media maker, documentary maker or the iMovie Maker).
  • Have all your props ready? Make sure you have everything nearby.
  • Calculate how much time you’ll need to film and edit the PSA.

You’re ready to film! Pick a well lit area or a well lit room, without too much noise in the background for the PSA. Remember to follow your outline or scenes to keep track of what you’re doing!

Step 5: Where to Share Your PSA?

  • Put it up on your UU church or community website!
  • Share it via youtube.com
  • Share it on social media like Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon
  • E-mail it to organizations who connect with your issue
  • Share it with local media outlets in your community
  • Share it with your school staff and teachers, maybe they’ll put it up on their website?

What other tips do you have for filming a PSA? Share any PSA’s you’ve made below in the comments! :)

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