In the book, Public Relation Writing and Media Techniques, chapter seven discusses features, op-ed’s and letters to the editor. Features are used to add background info, make human interest, or create understanding in a more imaginative way. For a person to be able to write a good feature they need to be creative and have intuition. Features are used for soft news, which means they are not as time sensitive. All features have the potential to provide more information to consumers, give background and context about organizations, provide behind the scenes perspectives, give a human dimension to situations and events and generate publicity.
There are four ways to proceed when writing features. The most common is to write a general feature and distribute it to media outlets.
Another way is to write and exclusive feature for a particular publication. The first thing you need to do in this situation is to do research on the publication to see if they used articles like yours before. If they have then you should proceed by sending your query to the publication. In your proposal you should include outlines that explain why your story should be used.
The third way to proceed when writing a feature to get publish is to make a pitch to the journalist for your feature. This way you don’t write the story the journalist does but you do provide them with all the info they’d need to write it. This gives you an advantage because it takes less time but the downfall is that they might go about it by writing it differently than how you wanted it to be.
The last way is to post the feature on the organization’s website.
There are many different types of features discussed in the chapter. One is the Application Story which focuses primarily on how consumers can use a product or service in new and innovative ways. This will increase consumer’s awareness on the product or service and help to increase it’s usage.
Another type of feature is used through research studies. Surveys and polls can be used. These are usually done for contemporary lifestyles or common situations in the workplace. It can also be used for seasonal themes.
Backgrounder’s are another type of feature stories. This shows a problem and how it is solved by the organization or product. Or backgrounders can be used to show how technology or product has evolved over the years.
Features are also often Personality profiles. The book states that people like to read about people, often celebrities really. But personality profiles make celebrities seem more like regular people by humanizing them and showing the reader a glimpse at their everyday lives. This is also true about CEO’s and high end executives featured in business magazines. These are usually written by journalists but public relations professionals have the job of assisting the journalist by selling the idea of a profile, making the person available, providing background information, and arranging photo shoots sometimes. Personality profiles can be used for more than just celebrities or high up people in successful businesses. These can be written about people that have odd jobs or an interesting hobby that sets them apart from others.
Historical pieces are another type of feature story. Anniversaries, major changes, centennials these are all worthy of a feature story. When the organization or service has a long history the public thinks of that as a factor that makes it more stable and reliable. But to get a historical feature the organization or product does not always need to be 100 years old.
Formatting features is important and different than formatting a news release. Features still include headlines, datelines, contact information and letterheads. But something that is different is they are not length sensitive. The author of the book explains they need to be long enough to tell the story and then end. There are two kinds of headlines that are usually used when writing features. The informational/summary headline and the headline that raises curiosity in readers. The lead in the feature has the purpose of attracting the reader and getting them to read the whole thing. It is usually good to use a problem solving angle. The lead needs to be brief and concise and show the unusual part of the story. Features include direct quotes, examples and illustrations, descriptive words that paint pictures, and information that is presented in unusual ways. If it does run longer than 200-400 words it is important to provide subheads.
Writing Op-Ed’s, which are opposite than the editorial page, is important to do too. These present a variety of views on current news events, government policies, pending legislation, and social issues. Op-Ed’s reach audiences that are often opinion leaders that are seen as influentials. These are short and to the point, 400-750 words usually. 3-4 word processed and double spaced.
Letters to the Editor are the next best thing to Op-Ed’s to get published. These are 200 words max and are required to be temperate and factual. The subject should be identifiable in the opening paragraph and state the theme as well as the viewpoint.
All the information in chapter seven is important to PR professionals. Features are what I though was most important. The whole point of having a PR professional is to get the person, organization, or product to be seen in the media in a positive way to their audiences. Features that get published into the media are a useful tool for them to utilize in getting their client out there in a positive light. Features do require a certain level of creativity. PR professionals could become more creative and better feature writers by reading a lot of featured publications. This goes along with what we have discussed in class on why it is so important for PR professionals to be well rounded individuals that are knowledgeable in a variety of topics of interest for consumers. Features are a way for PR professionals to make the news for their clients rather than just sitting around waiting for it to happen. I also think the Op-Ed section should be utilized because it is important to get strong opinion leaders to have an opinion on your client, especially if the opinion is positive and can influence others to utilize your clients product or service. Public relations professionals should take full advantage of the tools that are discussed in chapter seven of the book and I am glad that I am well aware of all of these now.