Write a Better Feature Article

July 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Written By: Julie Caan

Writing a feature story is one thing, but writing a feature story that people will actually want to read is another.

Creating a great feature story isn’t easy; in fact, it’s really tough.

Every day, we’re entrusted with telling our clients’ stories through articles, blogs, newsletters and other communication. It can be easy to slip into bad writing habits when writing for a company’s internal audience: enter clichés, corporate-speak, abstract concepts and the like.

My fellow VA team member, Casey, and I recently attended a presentation about how to write stronger feature articles. The talk left Casey and I feeling inspired, refreshed and ready to write. Throughout the talk, we were reminded that it’s all about the little things when it comes to writing interesting feature copy.

Avoid Boring Writing:

This probably won’t come as a surprise to most, but corporate writing can be really boring. Next time you sit down to write think about WHY you’re writing, WHO you’re writing for and WHY they should care. I know this all sounds basic, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to forget about your audience and most importantly, the PEOPLE behind the story.

Think of it this way: you’re the messenger and what you’re writing (whether you think so or not) is important to someone, somewhere. Don’t abuse this privilege; make sure you’re writing something people can relate to and draw meaning from—and try to have a little fun along the way.

Next time you write a feature, keep these building blocks in mind:

Elements of a Great Feature Story:

1. Attention grabbing, non-newsy lead (take a step back and reflect on the news)
2. Color (pay attention to detail—inject life into your writing!)
3. Narrative writing style (set the scene)
4. Include point of view
5. People (human beings doing things to influence a story)

Now, I realize that not every feature story you write is going to be “dramatic” or even all that interesting, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write a quality piece that will resonate with your audience.

The talk we attended also emphasized being specific, focusing on people and writing with clarity. How many times have you buried a complicated acronym in the lead, or used jargon your audience might not understand? Instead of describing a new initiative using obscure, abstract language, use specific words that will paint a picture in the readers’ minds. Rather than writing about a new policy or procedure, try SHOWING your audience the change using people and actions they can relate to.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway I learned from this presentation was the importance of using people to tell stories (after all, this is feature writing we’re talking about). It’s simple really. When you’re writing about people, make sure to inject all the qualities (when appropriate) that make them who they are into your story. For example, if you’re interviewing someone for a corporate profile, pay attention to what’s on his or her desk, photos or even that obscure collection of piggy banks hiding in the corner. This is the stuff your readers care about. Rather than resume-dumping right off the bat, why not try leading with some ‘color?’ Pay attention to detail. Humanize the piece.

To close, I’d like to share some general tips that apply to all types of writing:

• Set a timer for one hour and write without looking back (good old school tip that really works!)
• All great writing lies in great editing: it will take time to carve the perfect masterpiece
• Have fun with your writing!

Nobody’s a perfect writer and while some assignments may seem destined to be boring, it’s your job to turn them around. Cut to the heart of the story, create images and include PEOPLE. Set the scene for something your audience will want to read and something you will want to write!

What do you think goes into writing a great feature story? Any tips?

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