Social issues infotainment
Using emotions and entertainment to attract readers’ attention in social issues leaflets
Printed leaflets are widely used in social issues campaigns, but there is little evidence to suggest that they are consistently successful and little research to help campaigners decide what techniques will attract audience attention. Existing research suggests that leaflets may be successful for audiences who are actively looking for information, but less successful for audiences who either don’t know or don’t care about the topic being promoted. In this paper, I focus on the strategies that campaigners use to attract readers’ attention to social issues leaflets. I identify two broad message strategies – information/argument strategies and emotion/entertainment strategies – and, through a review of the social issues literature, examine how these strategies are typically used by campaigners. I review a collection of existing social issues leaflets to explore the strategies most frequently used, and analyse one leaflet to describe how attention-getting strategies are used in practice. Through my review of existing leaflets, I conclude that most leaflets adopt an information/argument strategy to present their information. I argue that this may explain why leaflets are most useful for audiences who are already interested in the topic. The information/argument strategy provides straightforward information: it assumes an interested audience and does little to attract audience attention. I question whether leaflets may be more successful with uninterested audiences if they adopted some of the attention-getting devices included in the emotion/entertainment message strategy.
Keywords: leaflet, social issue, campaign
Published online: 26 September 2003