Using a PSA to Drive Action

A public service announcement (PSA) is traditionally a video or audio clip that is disseminated by local broadcast news stations free of charge with the ultimate goal of raising awareness toward a concern or changing public attitude, behavior or perceptions of an issue. But how does a PSA actually drive action?

This year, NST worked with a media production partner with the goal of doing just that – to drive awareness and action with a brand new 30-second PSA on behalf of our client, the Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program.

The issue: A devastating citrus tree disease is quickly spreading in California, which is the home to a $3.3 billion citrus industry and countless backyard citrus trees. The disease – Huanglongbing, also known as HLB or citrus greening disease – is fatal for citrus trees and there is no cure.

It’s a complicated issue and is contingent on homeowners taking action. They must proactively inspect and report symptoms of the pest and disease to the California Department of Food and Agriculture in order to keep this disease, which has reached highest-ever recorded detections in California backyards, in control. In addition, they must visit the website to learn how to protect their trees as part of their routine care.

Using Research to Determine Messaging

Through research orchestrated by NST, the key motivators of homeowners were identified. NST found that those who grasped the threat’s severity were more willing to inspect their citrus trees once educated. NST also found that some of the key emotional drivers that encouraged homeowners to take action included: the disease kills citrus trees; it’s more like a plague than a simple disease; and it could ruin the citrus industry.

Utilizing the key emotional drivers from research, NST worked with its partner, Definition 6, to focus the content for a residential audience. The PSA highlighted the emotional drivers – that the disease threatens to erase the tradition of citrus in California, the ability to grow our own fruit in our backyards, and the ability to find citrus in grocery stores. Lastly, communal effort is critical – all Californians must work together so that the disease does not spread to neighboring areas.

Knowing California has a high amount of Spanish-language speaking audiences, NST also developed a Spanish version of the PSA.

Creating a Persuasive and Creative Storyline

In order to create a compelling visual storyline, the storyboard focused on citrus and its role in our everyday life and a world completely without it – from fresh-squeezed juice at breakfast, to fresh fruit at a grocery store, to picking and washing the fruit from backyard trees.

The script weaved in special effects including a dying backyard tree, and amped up the drama of citrus devastation. It also incorporated empty grocery store shelves, a potential worst-case scenario should the disease wipe out commercial groves.

Lastly, and most importantly, the PSA had a clear call-to-action: Inspect and report. Visuals on what the pest and disease looks like appeared as graphics on the screen. The website,, with clear action, “Inspect and Report Symptoms” were the final visuals. The voice talent provided emphasis on inspecting and reporting.

View the new PSA below, and let us know your thoughts!


Using a PSA as Persuasive Messaging Tool for Your Campaign

If you are considering using a PSA as a way to drive action toward a concern or to change public attitudes and perceptions, here are some things to consider:

  • Have you researched your audience to determine their key motivators? Once you know what will drive action, you will understand the messages that will resonate with your audiences.
  • Learn what visuals and storyline will be the most compelling and frame the PSA around the motivational drivers, combined with persuasive messaging and gripping visuals.
  • Determine your call to action. What is the fastest and quickest way to drive a result to your cause? Do you want to drive people to your website? Do you want them to sign a petition? Creating a clear and quick call-to-action is critical to your PSA campaign because it is the final chance you have to create a lasting impression and response to your cause.

Are you looking for a strategic partner to drive awareness and action toward a cause or issue? Contact us today.