Many companies and organizations are, frankly, just not newsworthy. Even the most newsworthy entities typically can’t depend on “hard news” to consistently get the word out about their product or service.
This is where feature stories come in. They can offer even greater opportunities than news releases, because they typically are longer, go into more detail and have longer “shelf lives” (i.e., get used over a longer period of time). They can help you get publicity when you have no news, increase your credibility and generally get the word out about your product or service.
One important thing to remember is that any feature story cannot directly promote your product, service or organization. You’re trying to put your service or product into a larger context, one that will interest the media and their readers or viewers.
Here are five time-tested ways to develop stories.
How to’s are always good and can be used by virtually any organization, including:
- Professional services (e.g., an accountant explaining how to save money on taxes)
- Healthcare organizations (e.g., a doctor or nutritionist describing how to reduce weight)
- Technology companies (e.g., an engineer explaining how to use some software)
- Consumer products companies (e.g., a home economist showing how to hang wallcoverings)
- And even not-for-profit organizations (e.g., a camp director giving advice on how to select a summer camp).
What expertise do you have that could become a how-to feature?
A case study or application story shows how a product worked in a given situation. Such stories are particularly popular in technology where they can help people relate to material that could otherwise be somewhat esoteric.
Check with the company’s PR or communications people before even beginning a case study. Some companies have policies against participating in application stories. Others may have procedures you need to follow, and the person who is using your product may be oblivious to these restraints. You could write an entire article, only to find out that you can’t use it.
So make sure the customer approves the idea at the beginning, and signs off on the final document at the end.
Sometimes the story is buried inside a bigger picture. A participant in one of my publicity classes invented several hair-cutting and beauty-aid products, but was having problems getting distribution. After the class, she pitched a story on how inventing the product was easy; the hard work was getting someone to distribute it. She ended up with a half-page spread in a large daily newspaper, complete with large color photo showing her demonstrating one of the products.
Is there a story hidden inside your product or service?
Several business journals regularly do personality profiles, typically one-page descriptions of an interesting person. The varied themes include everything from unusual hobbies to different types of experiences. I successfully pitched a “mainframe and motorcycles” theme for a client who had worked in the mainframe software industry and had four Harleys.
Someone in your organization has an interesting story or two. Dig a little and you will find it.
Editors love trends, so put your product or service into a larger context. A participant in one of my PR workshops had just started a dating service for obese people. She had no track record, not a single client. I suggested she connect with other businesses offering similar, but not competitive services, so that she could present a picture of a growing trend. Within a short time, she had a major feature in the San Jose Mercury-News on the rising importance of the obese market.
What is happening in your industry that you can capitalize on?