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Feature Tips - Small business advice

Content provided by PR Newswire Association LLC and the PR Toolkit , an educational resource provided by PR Newswire

A lot of what's on the front pages of a newspaper is information that needs to be told right away, or it will be dated and lose its relevance. Not so with a feature story.

A feature is meant to be evergreen. It can have an indefinite shelf life to enable it to be used when needed by the media, and is not reliant on when it is sent out. Features are often about how we live, love, and learn. Items on food, travel, pets, home improvement and health, for example, are among the many topics that lend themselves well to features. However, features can also be used by small businesses and entrepreneurs for business-to-business messages or when a consumer focus is not applicable. Many trade and technical magazines look for features that tell a compelling story and do not read like an advertisement. Indeed, a feature needs to emphasize information over outright promotion. You achieve your promotion by being a source of good information. Below you will find general guidelines and paragraph specific tips for writing an effective feature story. For more detailed information download the PR Newswire Guide to Writing a Feature

General guidelines

  • Look for a feature angle that will interest readers.
  • Talk to the source, uncover the story.
  • Identify up to three types of editors you want to target.
  • Keep most paragraphs to under 30 words.
  • Make the feature useable verbatim if cut after the second paragraph.
  • Write in laymen's language. Avoid superlatives, jargon and excessive mentions of a brand name. 

Headlines

Write a two-line headline that tells the story. This will be all editors will have to go on to decide whether they will open up the story and consider it for publication or broadcast. The aim is to have copy used verbatim. If it reads like an ad, it won't get used.

First paragraph

Expand upon the same story told in the headline in 30 words or less. Keep all your paragraphs short, using simple, declarative sentences. Don't digress. If you use adjectives, make them count.

Second paragraph 

  • Back up your story with supporting information.
  • Identify who is telling the story.
  • Add toll free number and price in parentheses.
  • Add full Web site address enabling a hyperlink.

Third paragraph

Use a humanizing or compelling quote from a spokesperson you want interviewed and who can lend authority to the story.

Fourth paragraph

Transition into details and explain how the product works or provide tips and advice.

Fifth paragraph

Support the story with a third-party endorsement or a quote. Alternatively, you can provide additional details or biographical information, if necessary.

Sixth paragraph

Provide context to your story by including the fact or statistic that demonstrates the importance of the story.

Last paragraph

Tell them how to get what you're selling. Repeat purchase information such as toll-free number or Web address.

Editors note

Interviews, photos, video, b-roll product demo materials available.

Helpful tool:

Thinking about creating your own news release? Click here to download the "Anatomy of a news release" diagram (pdf)

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Jackie Handunge  |  June 04, 2009
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