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I've yet to finish this show. I've seen over 50 shows pboarbly including things such as Monster and DBZ, but I have never made it through Cowboy Bebop. Another one I haven't made it through yet is Baccano. I wish I could. I'll get through them sometime soon.

Ron Shewchuk

True, true.

And if the only thing you can do that will make you look cool and modern is to scrap your print publication and put everything online, lots of communication problems get ignored.

David Murray

As the old saying goes, if the only tool you have is a 350-word story, every problem looks like a nail.


Ron Shewchuk

Thanks for sharing your impression, David. I agree -- too often we choke the life out of our stories by not leaving room for quotes, anecdotes, interesting details, sidebars and the rest of it. It's no wonder that so much stuff on Intranets is dull as dirt -- there's just no room for any of that when you have to keep everything to 300 words or less.

The key to interesting features is to make sure the subject material warrants the extra length. After reading your comments I feel kind of guilty; I'm editing an employee publication right now, and just recently advised the editorial team to keep their articles in the 300-600 word range. I did it because some of the stories that had come across my desk had been too long -- but that was because the material was not interesting enough to justify the "in depth" treatment.

So in tomorrow's team meeting I'll remind the group that the feature is not dead. In fact, I just talked to one of the contributing writers and pretty much gave her carte blanche to write to whatever length it takes -- the feature she's putting together is about the company's biggest project and it's rich with interesting angles and full of people with cool jobs. If it turns out the way I think it will, I might devote a four-page section to the feature so we have lots of room for text and big, meaninful photos.

I have aften said that the best way to communicate about what's going on in an organization is to tell the stories of change through the front-line people who are experiencing it. To make those stories real usually takes more than 500 words.

David Murray

Hey, Ron, great post.

Here was my impression--this is published in this week's Ragan Report--of the awards, based on the category I judged.


The state of the feature story in employee publications: Too short! Just having finished judging the “feature story” category in the Ragan Recognition Awards, we’re at once inspired and dismayed by the state of the art. The best features we saw set out do what feature stories are supposed to do:
• Illuminate the organization’s history in a way that informs its present.
• Vividly show the truly interesting work that’s taking place in the organization.
• Profile particularly wise and colorful employees in a way that encourages individuals to bring their best selves to work.
So what’s got us down? Sure, in this batch we saw some buried leads, windy windups, missing nut-graphs and dull quotes. But it was the BEST features we saw that made us want to scream.
They need to be much longer! They’re feature stories for crying out loud! Reading these stories, we wondered whether there was a little-known clause in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that dictates that no employee publication story can be any longer than 750 words.
The trouble is, for an article to call itself a feature, it must be at least 750 words. And some of these subjects demand 1,000 or even 2,000 words.
Employees won’t read such long pieces, you say? Well we’re not recommending you turn your magazine into the New Yorker. But some subjects warrant longer pieces. And as long as the subject is relevant, employees are more likely to read occasional long pieces that give the writer room to breathe and the subjects room to ruminate than they are short pieces that choke the life out of interesting people and cut the legs off interesting stories.
A challenge: Look for one story this year—an innovation, a hero, a weird and wonderful work site—that deserves 2,000 or 2,500 words, and write it with all the rich detail it deserves. Make room for big photos and informative info-graphics and sidebars. Label it, apologetically, “In Depth.” Then in a prominent box at the end of the piece, list your e-mail address, telling employees you’d like to do more of these “In Depth” pieces, and solicit their story ideas. If you don’t get five or 10 good ones, we’ll eat all the words in this short item, which, at 410 words, is longer than several of the so-called “feature stories” entered into the Ragan Recognition Awards.

Ron Shewchuk

Yes, Dave, I used virtual tools -- pieces of paper! The work samples were provided by entrants as printouts and sent to me, and one blog came on a CD. I would have much rather been in Chicago, though.

Dave Traynor

Great tips about getting your story out, Ron. One thing I'm curious about...did you judge the Ragan stuff using virtual tools? I'm assuming that you weren't down in Chicago over the weekend...

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