In January of 2013, The Legal Services State Support (State Support) created a public service announcement (or PSA) to play on KRWC, a local radio station, in order to raise awareness of their LawHelp website. Mary Rea , Legal Services State Support’s Publications Coordinator , spearheaded the PSA project, and shared some helpful information about the process of creating a LawHelp PSA. PSAs can be very useful tools for reaching large numbers of people and informing them about the availability of LawHelp services, and can be done relatively inexpensively and easily. The Minnesota LawHelp PSA was created in just a few weeks, and used only existing equipment and free software.

Developing the Script

The first step to creating the public service announcement was to write a script. Mary utilized an existing script from a LawHelpCalifornia video PSA as template, which is available here on SWEB. The LawHelpCalifornia script was written for a television PSA rather than a radio PSA but it was retooled to suit the purposes of the Legal Services State Support. The script was for a 30 second long PSA, which is the most common length of time for radio advertisements and public service announcements. With the time constraints in mind keeping the script succinct proved to be the most difficult part of the process.  The URL of the website was the most vital piece of information for the public to know, and was stated twice during the PSA to help ensure that it stuck in the listeners memory, and brief descriptions of the most widely utilized services on LawHelpMN were also mentioned. Another consideration in the script writing process was keeping it in plain language and making sure that the stated information was easy for listeners to understand. Once the final draft of the script was written it moved on to the production phase.

Recording the PSA

When the time came to actually record the PSA, Mary used an Acer laptop and a Logitech microphone that attached directly to it via a USB port. Many laptops come with built in microphones that might be suitable for use, but auxiliary microphones offer a valuable advantage by providing a crisper signal and less background noise. The software used to edit the PSA was Audacity, a free audio editing software for both PC and Mac, which is available here. Though Mary had never used Audacity before, it is an easy program to learn and tutorials are available here for those who have no audio editing experience, or would like a refresher. The background music used in the PSA was intended to help hold the listeners attention without being intrusive and distracting from the main message. The music in the Minnesota PSA came from Mobygratis.com, which provides free downloads of royalty free music for use in approved non profit projects. A list of other helpful royalty free music websites can be found at CreativeCommons.org , so a wide variety of music is easily available without having to deal licensing fees. After about a dozen takes and a small amount of time spent editing, the PSA was ready.

Getting the PSA on the Air

After the PSA was completed in early February of 2013, it was emailed as an MP3 to the radio station, along with a copy of the script. Their point of contact at the radio station was John McCooley, the law librarian for Sherburne County, who hosts a show called “Legal Happenings” on KRWC radio and was instrumental with his support for the PSA. One problem that arose is the fact that at this stage, there is still little information available about the reach and impact that the PSA will have. It currently airs only on KRWC, but efforts are now being made to reach a much wider audience through a number of other radio stations across the state. The PSA script has also recently been translated into Spanish, and a Spanish Language version of the PSA should soon be recorded. Both versions of the script have been posted here on SWEB for anyone interested, and an mp3 of the completed PSA is available here on the LawHelpMN website.  Anyone with further questions about the LawHelp MN PSA can contact Mary Rea at mrea@mnlegalservices.org. Those with questions about creating radio PSAs in general can send an email to preynolds@probono.net, or post a comment. Further information and tutorials about creating radio PSAs and getting them to reach a wider audience should be available soon.