Photo by [martin]/

Right now, I’m in the final stages of producing a public service announcement for a class at UW (disclosure: the project is unrelated to any topics I’ve written about locally in Madison).

I chose to shoot a video for the Madison Dental Initiative, a non-profit in town that provides dental services to Madison’s homeless population.

I’ll link to the video once it’s finished, but I thought I’d share what I learned so far. It took me a while to think in more “PSA-friendly” mindset. I’ve also had the entire fall to sit on the idea and carefully craft a message — a luxury I wish I had for other projects.

Here are some tips I’ve gathered over the past few months:

  • Know the psychographic details of your audience
  • Give people a problem to act on (increasing awareness isn’t useful unless you suggest a course of action)
  • Your message should be simple enough to summarize in a short sentence
  • Suggest a tag line (I helped MDI come up with “Give back, one smile at a time”)
  • Think about whether the PSA will be featured on TV, radio or online media (typically online can be longer — more than one minute or so).

UW’s Patty Loew, who leads the class, showed us a PSA I thought was very effective (and it generally follows the tips above).