The power of PSAs

TEXTING while driving is a reckless thing to do. Should we crack down on this by heavier fines? Or can words and images make a difference?

Is it enough for a headline to shout out PLS DNT TXT+DRIVE? Communication experts have been wrestling with questions like these for decades.

How can a message make people aware of certain risks but also opportunities? What information is relevant? In our example, should the message mention that texting takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds? How do we change people’s attitude so they will think or feel differently about the problem? Can we persuade them to change their actions so they will concentrate on driving, recycling plastic bottles or donating blood?

Research has found that communication in the form of general-interest messages, or public service announcements can help achieve these goals. Public service announcements, or PSAs for short, are announcements made in the service of the general public and are aired or printed without charge. They aim to create awareness, influence attitudes and change actions.

Now that you know what PSA means, and what it tries to accomplish, how can your four-strong team go about making one? Effective communication requires research and planning, so that’s where our five-step process begins.

Find out more about the theme and your audience

It’s one thing to say ‘We are Malaysia’ but another to ‘do it’. What challenges and opportunities do we face as a young multi-ethnic and multicultural nation? When researching the theme, be specific about the people you want to reach. Is your PSA meant for schoolchildren, working parents, or business owners?

Harness the strengths of your team

In crafting your PSA, it is important to balance individual and group creativity. Everyone contributes but not necessarily by doing the same thing at the same time. And don’t forget that someone will have to coordinate the team effort. Creativity involves generating ideas, combining ideas in novel ways, selecting the one idea that will make your entry stand out, and finally, executing that one idea by producing the actual poster or photo ad.


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