Writing Feature Stories
The best way to learn how to write a persuasive press release for a feature story is to read a lot of feature stories. Find feature stories written by the reporter to whom you plan on sending the press release. Try to tailor your information and writing style to the individual reporter. This will not work for every press release you write, especially if you are sending them to different places, but the strategy can work as a guide for your first feature press release.
In a feature story, just as in a news story, place the most important points in the first few paragraphs. Don't keep your audience guessing about your reason for writing. After you make your point, you may want to provide more background information. Or, you may prefer to outline the background in order to better illustrate your point. Feature stories often conclude in a circular way that refers back to the lead sentence, so use your conclusion to tie up any loose ends.
Each story will differ, so try writing several press releases emphasizing different points. Then, choose the press release that best conveys your message.
You have much more freedom in pitching feature stories than you do in news press releases. Be creative and don t be afraid to try new styles of writing. Have a colleague read and evaluate your press release, and give you feedback.
Finally, edit, edit, edit. Then, spell check.
Notes on Quotations: In feature stories, use quotations to humanize your subjects. By presenting the story in their own words, you can better reflect your subjects. Try to find memorable quotes that will move or surprise the reader. By showing the reporter the depth of feeling inherent to the subject, you increase the likelihood that they will cover your suggestion.
Examples of Feature Stories
The flames grew higher and threw orange and black shadows on the walls. Outside, the frigid wind brushed against the old house and entered through tiny passageways under the doors and around the windows. The battle between fire and ice raged on in the dwelling, with only an eighty-year old woman for witness and referee.
Bernadette Coddel is a retired postal worker who now stays up nights trying to control the temperature in her old home. Most nights, she says, she can t sleep because she has to tend to the wood stove in the middle of her living room. The stove is her only source of heat.
"There are some nights when I wake up and I think my feet about to freeze off," Coddell said. "And so I sit in my chair, up real close to the flame, but then I get too hot. I just can't get comfortable in this house."
Coddell and several others senior citizens in the Chicagoland area are about to get their homes weatherized under a federal program that has been doing so since 1976.
[Continue story with details about Weatherization...use an individual story to illustrate national trends and the overall effects of the Program]
At a Parent-Teacher conference last spring, Carolyn Dunhearst learned that her daughter's performance in school was on the decline. Twelve year-old Katie just wasn t the same energetic seventh grader who had started the year at Lincoln Elementary. After the conference, Dunhearst thought about the teacher's comments and Katie's recent new and mysterious fatigue. She realized that ever since they had purchased their first home and moved out of the old apartment, the whole family had been feeling sluggish. Concerned, she decided to investigate.
Acting on advice from a neighbor, Dunhearst contacted Peggy Miles, director of the Lincoln Area Housing Association, which administers the federal Weatherization Assistance Program. When Weatherization auditors visited the Dunhearst s home, they discovered dangerous levels of carbon monoxide leaking from the ancient furnace. The carbon monoxide could have eventually killed the Dunhearst family in their sleep if it had not been detected.
Through their participation in the program, the Dunhearsts received a new, energy-efficient furnace and a number of other cost-effective, energy conserving measures. Today, the Dunhearts sleep comfortably, no longer worrying about the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, their house is warmer and their monthly utility bill has decreased by 30%.
[Continue story with details about Weatherization...use individual story to illustrate national trends and the overall effects of the Program; include local and national data on carbon monoxide poisoning]