FAQ for Writing Features & Op-Eds!
[The information in this blog post was obtained from my PRCA 3330 text, in Chapter 7 – Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques, 6th ed. by Dennis L. Wilcox.]
Beginner public relations writers may have some questions about what a feature and an op-ed is. So I have compiled a list of questions and answers one may have about exactly what these are. I’ve also described their structures briefly as well as listing some writing tips.
What is a feature story?
A feature is a story that basically focuses on human interests and/or provides background information about a service, product, or organization in an entertaining way.
Then how does a feature differ from a news release?
While news releases tend to be more time-sensitive about basic facts about events or situations, feature stories give readers additional information that produce human interest and in a more imaginative way create understanding for the audience.
You see, when writing news releases, we use our left-brain skills — “logical, analytical, and sequential development of ideas.” On the other hand, we use our right-brain skill when writing features — “intuition, image-making, and creativity” (p. 163).
So what is the purpose of feature stories?
There are several: to provide information to consumer; to give context about products, services, or organizations; to provide a behind-the-scenes perspective; to give human dimension to events or situations; and to generate publicitiy.
Where do I begin?
1. Conceptualize how a product or event offers itself to feature treatment
2. Determine whether this information will be interesting or beneficial to the audience
3. Make sure the story will help achieve objectives of the client which you are writing for
Am I ready to be a feature writer?
“Good feature writers ask a lot of questions. They need a natural curiosity about how things work and how things are related to each other” (p. 165). News events and issues are great sources for triggering new ideas for feature stories! The possibilities are endless! Just use your imagination.
What different types are there?
Case studies, application stories, research studies, backgrounders, personality profiles, and historical pieces.
Is the structuce of a feature story similar to that of a news release?
1. Headline, 2. Lead, 3. Body, 4. Summary, 5. Photos/Graphics
What is an “op-ed?”
It is a page that is “opposite the editorial page” that contains the opinions of people who are do not work for that publication. It’s purpose is to present various views on current news issues, governmental policies, pending legislation, etc. These pieces provide great opportunities for individuals or organizations to reach out to readers who are influentials.
TIPS FOR WRITING AN OP-ED
- Keep it between about 400 and 750 words (or 3 pages of double-spaced text)
- Have ONE single theme, state it in the beginning paragraph, and proceed to support this opinion
- Add credibility by using statistics and quotes
- Choose short sentences over long sentences
- Avoid using “I” and avoid using passive tense