In my previous post, I discussed how to develop and pitch feature story ideas. Here are some tips on how to write those features.
Write the lead.
Unlike a news release, the feature lead can be longer than one paragraph. The lead usually does not include the five “W’s and the “H” (who, what, when, where, why and how) that start the news release. Instead the first two or three paragraphs generally introduce the subject, set the tone and encourage the reader to continue reading.
A feature must begin strongly. Pay attention to the feature stories you read. What got your attention? Chances are that the articles started with one of these approaches:
- Narrative lead – “At 2 a.m. on a wet Thursday night, he struck again. Graffiti. Bold, bright and definitely illegal.”
- Summary – “What separates good entrepreneurs from the rest of us is their ability to create a need and fill it.”
- Information – “Attracting people to your website is the first step to an online sale, but it is only the first step.”
- Advice – “To get the garden of your dreams, follow these simple steps.”
- Statistics – “One of out every 50 kids will break a bone this year.”
- History – “From barren sand dunes arose one of the most beloved recreational areas in the nation: Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.”
Write the “nut” paragraph.
Give the news peg or significance of the story in the second or third paragraph. This is called the “nut” (or “so what”) paragraph. It gives the reader a reason to continue. Here’s an example.
(Lead) “Obesity is a major problem. It’s estimated that more than 60 percent of adult Americans are overweight, and that 30 percent of us are obese. This is a frightening statistic, with tremendous ramifications for our future.”
(“Nut”) “Fortunately, with a few small changes in diet and nutrition, most people can maintain a healthy weight. Here’s how.”
Write the body of the feature story.
Treat your information in an appropriate sequence for the topic. Three common approaches are:
- Chronological – Tell the story as it happened. This works well for history pieces and personality profiles.
- Functional – Explain how something works or give directions on how to do something. This is good for advice, how-to and informational features.
- Topical – Look at three to five factors that influence your topic. This approach often works well for analysis or explanatory pieces. It is also appropriate for case studies, where you describe the situation, the product and the results.
Whatever your sequence, it’s important to write well. A feature can be written in first person (“I”), although most are written in third person (“they”). The writing can be freer, more casual than a news release. Quotations can add interest and give a personal touch.
Write a good ending.
The ending of the feature story should wrap things up. Some good ways to end are:
Summary – Repeat what you’ve said.
- The quotation – Sometimes a quote can wrap up the story. For example, “In spite of her trauma, ‘I feel better than I have in years,’ she said. ‘That’s what life is all about. The renewal. The rebirth. Figuring out what I want to do next and realizing I can do it.'”
- Call to action – If you are trying to get people to do something, make that obvious. “Voting is a privilege and a duty. Don’t shirk. Register to vote today!”
- “End at the beginning” – Repeat some of the words you used in the introductory paragraphs. This is a simple way to give a feeling of completeness.
I have some sample feature stories on this website.
Feature stories are some of the best, most over-looked tools in the PR toolkit. I encourage you to add them to your publicity plans, today.