February 24, 2018

Boxes and arrows

Hybrid story forms go beyond news and features

“When you have news, report it,” advises Roy Peter Clark, Poynter Institute senior scholar. “When you have a story, tell it.”

But what if you have both?

Some stories don’t fit into the traditional boxes and triangles of the inverted pyramid news structure or the feature-style story structure. That’s where hybrid story structures come in.

Feature-news release hybrid

I’ve noticed one new structure in press releases recently. It has a feature head and an inverted pyramid tail. The beauty of this beast is that it brings the story to life at the top with a feature leadnut graph and background section. Then, once it’s attracted the reader’s attention and established the story, it delivers the details in a hierarchical, most-important-to-least-important body.

Use it when you have a story that would benefit from a feature lead but that needs a just-the-facts-ma’am resolution.

Boxes and arrows

DRIVE A HYBRID When the inverted pyramid's not enough, try this news-feature release structure.

  • Go Beyond the Pyramid

    Master a story structure that’s been proven in the lab to reach more readers

    Writers say, “We use the inverted pyramid because readers stop reading after the first paragraph.” But in new research, readers say, “We stop reading after the first paragraph because you use the inverted pyramid.”

    Go Beyond the Pyramid in Denver

    Indeed, our old friend the inverted pyramid hasn’t fared well in recent studies. Studies by the Poynter Institute, Reuters Institute and the American Society of News Editors show that the traditional news structure reduces readership, understanding, sharing, engagement and more.

    Grab readers’ attention, pull them through the piece and leave a lasting impression.

    The pyramid doesn’t work well, these researchers say, with a little subset of your audience we call “humans.”

    At Catch Your Readers — our two-day hands-on persuasive-writing master class on May 1-2 in Denver — you’ll master a structure that’s been proven in the lab to grab readers’ attention, pull them through the piece and leave a lasting impression. Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

    • Grab reader attention with a lead that’s concrete, creative and provocative — and avoid making readers’ eyes glaze over by using one of the seven deadly leads.
    • Stop bewildering your readers by leaving out an essential paragraph. (Many communicators forget this entirely.)
    • Avoid the “muddle in the middle” by choosing one of five structural techniques from a rubric created by the founder of TED Talks.
    • Draw to a satisfying conclusion in the penultimate paragraph.
    • End with a bang, not a whimper by using our three-step test.

    Learn more.

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