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Getting a community service announcement

Paid advertisements and news reports on your group or organisation's activities are the best ways to get them into the media, but there is another way which is also effective - Community Service Announcements (or CSAs).

CSAs are short messages that promote a charitable cause, activity or event that is considered of service to the community.

Many television and radio stations set aside time in which they broadcast CSAs free of charge and a lot of newspapers, particularly suburbans and regionals publish their version of CSAs in free community round-ups, "what's on" columns or even as "filler" ads.  

Preparing a community service announcement

While media outlets allow time for CSAs, making it easier for them to air, broadcast or publish your announcement is a must.

Competition for CSA space can be fierce and your group may be battling for time with other organisations much larger than yourself. Because of this, your group wants to ensure that its CSA fits any criteria that the media outlet has, and is short, sharp and clear to maximise its effectiveness.

Following are some guidelines to help prepare a CSA on radio, television or in a newspaper.

Some of these guidelines will not be relevant for all three mediums. If your group is in doubt about how it should present its CSA or community notice, contact the media outlet you are targeting and get this information before you prepare your information.
  • Firstly, check with the media outlet about whether they run CSAs and if so what the guidelines are.
    • This ensures you don't waste time and provides you with further information about how the media outlet prefers a CSA to be presented.
  • Get more information.
    • Find out how the radio station prefers its CSAs to be submitted.  Some may need you to pre-record the announcement yourself before it can be aired, for others a typed script for a live read on-air will suffice.
    • For television, check with the network for its preferred format – and what sort of broadcast-quality format is required.
  • Get in early.
    • Generally speaking, you should send in your announcement about three weeks before the event. Some community radio stations may be able to run your announcement at shorter notice, so contact them to check their requirements.
  • When writing or preparing copy for a CSA, double space it on letterhead and leave ample margins on either side of the page.
    • If you don't have letterhead, in the upper left corner, list the name and contact details of your group.
  • Label the item "Community Service Announcement" or attention it to the "Community Calendar Editor" or "What's On Editor".
  • Provide a release date for the announcement.
  • Include the name of the event, name of sponsors, and a contact name along with phone number and email address.
  • Include the details.
    • Who is holding the event.
    • What sort of event is planned.
    • Where is it to be held.
    • When will it be held (date and times)
    • Why the event is happening.
    • Also include other relevant information – ticket prices, for example.
  • Keep it short, sweet and clear.
    • That means 50 words or less (sometimes 30 words or less) for a newspaper item, or, for radio stick to 5, 10 or 20 second lengths.
    • If writing for radio, write your CSAs with this word count in mind:
      • 5 seconds = about 12-15 words.
      • 10 seconds = 25 words.
      • 20 seconds = 40 words.
      • 30 seconds = 60 words.
    • For newspapers, keep it simple:
      • Get your notice in early – it could then run in more than one edition of the paper.
      • Keep it short and sweet, and cover the basics – who, what, when, where, why.
  • If the item is to be "Live Copy" (read on-air), then type the entire CSA in all upper case, to alert media personnel that the announcement is for on-air use.
  • Do not hyphenate words at the end of a line. Instead, put the entire word on the next line. Copy for a CSA usually is more informal than copy for a news release.
  • At the bottom of each CSA, include a word count at the bottom left-hand side of the page. For radio CSAs, include a word count and time in seconds – for example: 15 words, 6 seconds.
  • Keep any costs in mind.
    • The airtime for your CSA may be free, but its production, especially for a television CSA – may not be.
    • You need to be realistic about the budget you have to produce the announcement. Film and television production is very expensive, so be sure you can afford it and can justify the cost.
    • If you do choose to film your CSA, make sure it is:
      • Of high enough quality to be broadcast, and
      • Recorded in the right format for use by the television station.

See our list of media contacts which also include community service announcement details here.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.