What Is the Importance of Public Service Advertising?

by Lisa McQuerrey ; Updated September 26, 2017
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Public service announcements, also known as PSAs, are a form of free advertising or public relations that inform the community while garnering attention for your business or organization.

Educating the Public

Public service announcements are typically short written pieces that describe a program, event or a cause the public may have an interest in knowing about. For example, a non-profit group might release a PSA about a fundraising drive, while a health department might use a PSA to notify people about a free immunization clinic taking place. Public service announcements are usually submitted to radio and television stations, where they are read live on the air, or to newspapers and community calendars, where they are printed or posted online.

Raising Awareness

Public service announcements can be used to build awareness of an issue or a cause. For example, a stop smoking campaign or a buckle-up seatbelt initiative often release PSAs that have catchy, memorable one-line slogans that are easy for people to remember. Unlike paid advertising, which allows a company to promote specific features of its product or service, PSAs are intended to generate awareness or issue calls to action rather than sell something specific.

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Publicizing Your Business

Media outlets don’t charge for running PSAs, though they sometimes incur a production fee. While PSAs aren’t advertising per se, they can be used as a vehicle to market your business. For example, if your company donates its lobby space for a non-profit organization to hold a canned food drive, you can release a PSA promoting the event and, by association, your company. There’s a fine line between self-promotion and promoting the cause you’re supporting, however. If a PSA sounds too much like a business ad, media outlets may turn it down.

Generating Good PR

Public service announcements can be an effective public relations tool, particularly if you are a non-profit organization or if you regularly support community events and charitable causes. When writing PSAs, reference your organization in a positive light to show your good corporate citizenship. For example, you might say, “Because of its ongoing commitment to educating the leaders of tomorrow, ABC Company will collect back-to-school supplies in its corporate office during the month of August.”

About the Author

Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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