Air War College is part of The Air University- click to close

Visit The Air University

Environment
The Information Environment

Understanding the Media

In whatever form it takes — print, video, audio, Internet content — media is the conduit through which we communicate to an audience. It isn't the reporter, blogger, or radio host you're trying to reach ... it's his or her audience. That said, you have to understand the role of the media itself in order to be most effective.

It's a common complaint: "Where are they when everything's fine?" The reality is that disasters and scandals are more attention-grabbing to an audience than reports that all is well.

Since the press must attract an audience in order to garner the advertising revenue it needs to survive, this naturally skews topic selection. It is possible, however, to interest the public — and thus the press — by knowing the elements that make an event newsworthy. Some of the critical ones are:

  • Immediacy - something just happened or is about to
  • Proximity - the closer to home the better
  • Impact - the likely effect on readers/viewers
  • Prominence - the fame, fortune or power of the persons involved
  • Oddity - something bizarre, unusual or unexpected
  • Conflict - arguments, debates or situations with a winner and loser
  • Suspense - when the outcome cannot be foreseen
  • Emotions - situations that stir up sympathy, anger or other emotions to which a reader/viewer can relate
  • Sex or scandal - inappropriate behavior sells


Understanding these elements and recognizing them in issues with which you are involved can help you anticipate the need to communicate, and give you the opportunity to be proactive in reaching out to the public via the media.


The reality is that disasters and scandals are more attention-grabbing to an audience than reports that all is well.
U.S. Air Force photo by
Senior Airman Andrew Lee

Public Affairs: Advice & Counsel

Your Public Affairs Office is a valuable resource, you can expect them to:

  • Work with other staff agencies to determine policy impacts and the appropriate scope of communication.
  • Advise regarding desired audience demographics.
  • Outline knowledge of likely participating media outlets, including the possibility of conflicting/hidden agendas.
  • Research potential interview issues.
  • Assist in helping you prepare for the interview, including review of possible questions, draft responses and conducting one-on-one rehearsals.
  • Recommend what uniform to wear, or whether you bring visual aids that help clarify a complicated subject.
  • Set the time and place for the interview, arrange any needed logistics, and establish the ground rules.
  • Monitor the interview to provide an in-house record as well as tracking requests for information that has to be researched and delivered later.
  • Act as a liaison with the news organization as the interview material is prepared for publication.
  • Collect news clippings, video copies, etc., of the resulting coverage. Monitor analytics — demographics, audience size, etc.
  • Provide you an after-action review and feedback


You could be tapped at any time with very little notice to be the spokesperson. Your Public Affairs Office, working with the rest of your units, will give you the edge to make the most of this opportunity.

You could be tapped at any time with very little notice to be the spokesperson.
U.S. Air Force photo by
Airman Taylor Queen
Guide Quicklinks:   Top  |  Table of Contents  |  Next Chapter: Chapter 3