Elements of Mass Appeal

Article 3 min
Review the eight elements of mass appeal to understand how a communicator's content should affect or interest the audience. 

As a military communicator or public affairs professional, you will be tasked with getting essential and relevant information out to the widest audience. To do this effectively, you must understand and communicate what is important, why it is important and why your audience should care.

News is evaluated based on authenticity, good taste and mass appeal.  Use the eight elements of mass appeal as a guide to help you evaluate your content and make sure it is newsworthy.

Eight Elements of Mass Appeal Photo by DINFOS PAVILION
Eight Elements of Mass Appeal Graphic
Eight Elements of Mass Appeal
Photo by: DINFOS PAVILION
VIRIN: 200612-D-ZW071-0001

The more recent or pressing an event is, the more your readers or audience will engage with the updates and any new information surrounding the event. In this example, posted on US Dept of Defense, Air Force Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella Jr., held a timely news conference announcing Iran shooting down a U.S. Global Hawk operating in International airspace on June 20, 2019.

Ask yourself:

  • How recent is the event?
  • Why is it relevant now?

The prominence of a person, organization or issue will also help you determine whether the event will have mass appeal. In this example, a story that celebrates a military spouse employment partnership program will have broad appeal to military members and their families.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the story involve a prominent person?
  • Does this story involve an organization or issue that is important to your community?

Knowing who is affected will help you determine the overall significance of your news piece. Present information that's important to the majority of your readers or audience. In this example, guidance is provided for voting from anywhere in the world - an issue that affects a wide audience.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the news affect a lot of people or just a few?
  • Who is going to care?

The location of the story will help you identify a likely audience. In this example, the former Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper's visit to Pensacola would normally be noteworthy. That he came after a mass shooting incident to deliver comfort to a grieving community made his visit all the more newsworthy.

Ask yourself:

  • Where does an event occur?
  • Based on location, is the event in the story relevant to your audience?

Unusual or uncommon angles can elevate your story and expand your overall appeal, especially when the story has jaw-dropping details. In this example, former Navy Seal David Goggins tells the story of how he shed fear and 100 pounds to conquer Hell Week.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the story have an angle that’s out of the ordinary?

The overall impact of a story helps to determine its newsworthiness. The size of the audience, the significance of the story, and the long-term effect are all factors to consider. In this example, you get the newsworthiness trifecta of impact, excitement and longevity of the creation of a new armed service.

Ask yourself:

  • How many people are impacted?
  • What is the area of the impact?
  • How long will this impact last?

Little else tugs at heartstrings and emotions like a human interest story. These give inspirational and aspirational perspectives that connect to local and global audiences. In this example, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper gives a moving account of the tenacity of soldiers at the Battle of the Bulge, many of whom were in attendance.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the story employ emotion from the audience or make the them want to get involved?
  • Can the story get an emotional reaction?

Conflict is a human condition, so stories that address conflict (whether or not a resolution is clear) will have mass appeal. Conflict does not always need to be about war. In this example, we learn more about anti-terrorism technology being repurposed to track the spread of COVID-19.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the story involve conflict?

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