Public Relations Writing: Lesson #3 - p. 10

Writing the Feature Story

Feature stories are similar to all other PR writing in many respects:

  1. Generally speaking, the inverted pyramid works for feature stories as well as straight announcement releases. The most important information goes first, followed by the points you want to make to support your message.

  2. However, you will probably vary your lead, with a "delayed lead" – This is the subject for next week's lesson. For now, keep in mind that with a feature release, your lead will probably not contain your Message. Instead, it will dangle something of interest in front of the reader, something so curious or compelling that the reader won't want to put the article down, even if he doesn't know what it's about until the second or third paragraph.

  3. Another variation: the "hourglass" format – which is like an inverted pyramid on top, and then a short transitional graf, and then the background or human interest or other non-essential details following. For example, at first the story of "From the Heart" might start like a regular release, and dwindle down to the less important details around the end of page two – the normal inverted pyramid. But then, at the center of the "hourglass," you might write a short transitional graf that goes something like, "Turtle Bay students were not always so civic-minded." And then the "soft news" of a background story will open out into the bottom of the hourglass. It could start with an anecdote of student pranks way back when, open further into an account of student apathy statewide, and even broaden into a paragraph or two talking about the general lack of civic- mindedness nationwide... in this way, a straight release can be developed into a "think piece" or contextualized feature article.

  4. Still another variation: the "1-3-2" format – this is a modification of the inverted pyramid. If the inverted pyramid is 1-2-3, meaning most important stuff in the first graf, second most in the second graf, and so on, then the "1-3-2" format saves some of the best stuff for the very last paragraph, almost like a punchline."

  5. A hard news angle is less important in a feature release – the "So What?" question is less demanding, and you can usually satisfy it by coming up with a good human interest angle.

  6. A feature story is often of interest because of a previous "hard news" story – that is, the story of Linda Jennson and Howard Stein is of interest only because people are interested in the production of "Evita."

  7. You write a feature story after you've succeeded with your straight announcement release. Almost always, your PR campaign will go something like this:

    1. Announcement release: rehearsals have begun, tickets are now on sale
    2. Announcement release: show opens this/next week
    3. Feature release: Stein/Jennsen = fire/ice
    4. Announcement release: final week, tickets selling out

Your third assignment is to write a feature press release, with message planner, about a festival in the Lowden Park neighborhood of Turtle Bay.

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