Building a Better Feature

Posted by Holly on April 6, 2009

hollyOne trait of a good public relations practitioner is being a great storyteller. We communicate on behalf of our clients every day and have the opportunity to tell their story by carefully crafting messages through media materials, speeches and feature stories.

While each of these methods may ultimately convey the same overall message, how the information is delivered to the reader varies. A news story, for instance, dives directly into the four W’s and gives the reader an immediate and clear picture of the news. Feature stories, on the other hand, draw the reader in with vivid images, emotion or by stimulating the senses, delivering the news as a secondary component to piquing the reader’s interest.

See if you can tell the difference.

ABC Company has built more than 100 ponds on private land this year to secure access to water for its operations. The company says the ponds are an innovative alternative to using the state’s natural water sources.


Call it what you will; a fishing hole, a swimming hole or just a place to skip rocks on a lazy afternoon. To Ben and Tracy Walker, it’s a dream come true. Most summer days you’ll find this young family of four splashing in the cool, clear water of their four-acre pond, picnicking on its tree-lined shore or teaching their children how to cast a fishing line.

Did you notice how they vary? The first example goes straight to the facts while the second is delivered as a human interest story, pulling the reader in with words that make the story come to life.

These tips will help you build a better feature story:

  • To be a great storyteller you must first be a great story knower.
  • When interviewing someone, take note of your surroundings, their personality and their features. Incorporating these elements into your story sets the stage and paints a clear image of the characters in your piece.
  • Use descriptive verbs and nouns rather than adverbs and adjectives. This is where the writing gets fun and really allows the reader to connect to the piece.
  • Incorporate similes and metaphors.
  • Write in third person with first person quotes.
  • Use direct quotes and use them often.
  • An informal tone is acceptable in feature stories unlike in news stories.
  • Side bars and photography are great additions to features.
  • End your story with a quote or with words that allow the reader to visualize where your subject may go from that point on.

A good feature story not only educates the reader but creates meaningful interest in the subject at hand. It’s an engaging and creative way to share your story.

In case I piqued your interest in the Walker family, I can tell you they plan to enjoy their pond for years to come telling me, “We’ve already begun dreaming of things we can do here, occasions we will celebrate and all of the memories that have yet to be made.”

One of my favorite storytellers is Arkansas’ own Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Paul is one of the most respected and honored commentators in the U.S. You can read some of his most recent stories here:

Topics: Mitchell Team