Using feature writing to attract new clients, improve business communications

People commonly associate feature writing with lifestyle articles and glossy magazines. For the savvy business communicator, however, feature writing can be a great way to tell a company or brand’s story (and we all love stories!), grab mindshare, change behaviors, and attract new business.

People commonly associate feature writing with lifestyle articles and glossy magazines. For the savvy business communicator, however, feature writing can be a great way to tell a company or brand’s story (and we all love stories!), grab mindshare, change behaviors, and attract new business.

Take the case of a multinational cement company who wanted to soften its image and appear more approachable to its clients. It needed a communication solution to a perception problem about the product being “stiff”, “boring”, and “too technical.”

The solution: develop an in-house lifestyle publication that would show cement not just as a technical product, but as the stuff of which beautiful things are made. The feature articles housed in this magazine tackled architecture, interior design, even a bit of arts and culture, and, of course, profiles of people from all around the company that made it a great building partner.

There is also the case of a financial institution that wanted to promote one of its newly launched services. Using feature writing, it was able to showcase success stories of clients that had availed themselves of this service, as well as explain–in lay terms–mechanics that would otherwise have been crammed into a small flyer. Feature writing humanized the product and made it easier to understand.

Photo by Alaivani on Flickr | Some rights reserved
An example of a business lifestyle feature by Four Seasons, in Business Traveler Magazine | Photo by Alaivani on Flickr | Some rights reserved

Here are a few more ways to make the most of feature writing in your company or organization:

  1. Show human interest stories of your company’s leaders to show the open and warm culture in your company.
  2. Profile beneficiaries that show the positive, life-changing results of your work, and why it will be worth your donors’ money to choose YOUR non-profit or charity.
  3. Show tips for making the most of your product or service.
  4. Showcase a featured destination and show how, for example, your travel agency helps make memorable holidays like this come true.
  5. Share testimonials of happy clients and what makes your company THEIR partner of choice.

When done well, feature writing can be a powerful tool for business and can help you save on advertising costs. After all, there are few things more powerful than a compelling story shared online or through word of mouth.

To know more about how feature writing can work for your business or organization, join Feature Writing 101 by Writer’s Block Philippines. The one-day workshop runs on September 17, 2011 at Powerbooks Greenbelt 4. For complete details, visit, email writersblock.ph@gmail.com, or call/text (0927) 850 5280.

Ana Santos writes about Jinkee Pacquiao (LOOK Magazine, Dec 2009)

Look Magazine Dec 2009: Jinkee Pacquiao

It was all typical of the photo shoots that you see in magazines and on TV. The requisite bright lights, the hues of eye shadow palettes and blushes along with other hair styling tools were strewn on the countertop. The make-up artist and hairstylist were fiddling with brushes and curlers. The stylist was bustling around, arranging outfits and accessories. The managing editor and the photographer were discussing the shots to be taken.

And in the middle of this, Jinkee Pacquiao sat in her make – up chair, patiently getting made up for the camera.

I tentatively approach her and ask if she would like to be interviewed while she’s being made-up, in anticipation of a possibly long photo shoot. She declines, and says just as tentatively, “Uh, mamaya na lang”.

When the hum of the hairdryer dies down, we start the interview with what I think is an innocuous question to break the ice. Mimicing a television show host, “Sino si Jinkee Pacquaio?”

“Simpleng tao lang”, she replies, with her eyes cast downward.

The others in the room, who are no strangers to showbiz and may have heard similar statements before, jovially cheer, and Jinkee shifts a bit uncomfortably in her seat. The reply does sound like a typical response cooked up by a publicist, and but when said by Jinkee in that quiet and truthful way, rather than a press release, it becomes an authentic and sincere admission.

“Gusto ko sana, tayong dalawa lang mag-usap.”., she says politely. And I begin to understand why she initially declined to start the interview right away.

Beneath the fascination and adulation that now surrounds her, and the media circus that she and her family have been thrust into, Jinkee Pacquiao remains…shy. “Mahiyaan talaga ako.”, she explains, a tinge apologetic.

Wives of powerful men — the likes of Michelle Obama, Jada Pinkett, Katie Holmes – may initially take on supporting roles to their famous husbands. But sooner or later, they start to pique the interest of the public and are coaxed to come out of the background to share in the limelight.

With her own product endorsements piling up, magazines covers and recently being named a Woman of Style and Substance by People Asia, the signs of Jinkee Pacquaio becoming the next media darling are all there.

And while Jinkee is appreciative of the attention, she doesn’t seem to indulge in it. Rather, she remains unaffected by all the hype.

She still wants to be the same old Jinkee, the simple girl from General Santos.

“Sabi nila supladita daw ako dahil siguro sa features ko, pero tingin ko, hindi naman.” Yun kaibigan ko dati, sila pa rin ang friends ko and binabalikan pa din naming yun dati namin tinitirahan sa Gen San.”

Jinkee narrates a story of bringing their children Jimuel, Michael, Princess and Queen Elizabeth to GenSan during their summer vacation last July.“Si Manny kasi, dun [their old neighborhood in Gen San] pa din sya nagba-basketball. Sinama naming yun mga bata. Nagulat sila. Nakita nila yun mga bata na uh, madumi…yun walang wala. Tapos nag tanong sila kung bakit wala silang air-con, bakit kami nan dun.”, she hesitates a bit before continuing.“Sinabi namin sa kanila na dun kami nakatira dati noong maliliit pa sila. Kailangan alam nila na walang-wala din kami dati.”.

The explanation was enough for the children. “Tapos ok naman sa kanila, nakipag laro na sila dun sa mga bata.”

So near and yet so far from Gen San

Jinkee admits that there have been a lot of changes since Manny’s unparalled success in the boxing ring, the least of which was getting used to putting on make-up all the time. “Kahit nasa bahay ako, naka make-up ako. As in full, kasi hindi mo alam kung kalian o sino yun darating sa bahay.”

“Dati pa mahilig na ko sa make-up.”, she says, partly attributing this to having worked as a beauty consultant for Pond’s in a Gen San mall, when she first met Manny.

“Yun uncle ko trainer nya and sya yun nag pakilala sa amin. Boxer na sya nun and nagcha-champion na din pero hindi pa international. Tapos yun, lagi syang nan dun, sinusundo ako after work. Nagbibigay ng card, ng letters.”, say recalls, portraying a softer side of her husband whose media nicknames include “The Pacman” and “The Destroyer”.

Though they were married 7 months after they first met, Jinkee says that it wasn’t love at first sight. “Hindi din [love at first sight], parang wala lang. Pero hindi sya talaga tumigil sa pagsuyo sa akin. Nagustohan ko na hindi sya mayabang, mahinahon sya, tahimik lang. Mabait si Manny.”, she says softly. “Mula ng kinasal kami, laging nanalo si Manny. Tapos, dire-diretso na ang blessings, Madaming biyaya.”

And, what is it like to be catapulted to such fame and wealth? (Manny Pacquaio was recently identified by a US sports network as the 6th highst paid athlete in the world.)

She pauses for a minute before replying. “Masaya na malungkot din. Masaya na ngayon, nabibili mo gusto; nakikilala ako ng tao, massaya sa opportunity sa commercial and endorsements. Minsan mahirap din na hindi mo kilala nakabuntot sa ‘yo at hindi mo alam kung totoong tao. Malungkot kasi nababawasan ang time para sa bata.”, she says in the same quiet voice, without using flamboyant gestures or bouts of exclamation.

And that’s something obvious about Jinkee throughout this conversation. While she seems reluctant to be sucked up into the media frenzy that surrounds her husband, she is still grateful for and appreciative of the many blessings that his success brings to their family and to the country.

“Sinasabi ko na iba yun impact ni Manny sa mga tao. Ang mga fights nya, para talaga sa mga tao, sa bayan natin. Parang nakilala nga ang Gen San dahil kay Manny, e. Nakakatuwa nga nagiging role model sya ng mga ibang boxers. Nags-sign of the cross din sila bago ng laban”.

“Pero hindi ko talaga na-imagine na ganito. Parang pangaginip. Hindi ko maisip na ganito yung magiging buhay nya, na makikilala sya sa buong mundo.”

Being Mr. and Mrs. Pacquaio

Jinkee and Manny have been married now for 10 years and like any couple have their share of trials. But as the wife of a champion athlete, Jinkee also has to deal with extraneous situations such as Manny being away from her and the kids for months at a time when he has to undergo rigorous train.

“Pag may fight, training sya for 2 months and wala sya sa family, tawag lang.” (at the time of this interview, Manny was in Baguio training for his fight against welterweight champion Miguel Cotto slated for November.) “Pag wala naman fight, busy sa labas, nagmo-movie pa sya.”

Manny’s recent dabbling into movies has opened up Jinkee to another territory that she was previously unfamiliar with – intrigue.

“Mahirap yung mga intrigua na naririnig mo pag wala sya. Minsan nag-aaway, pero naisip ko, ‘wag nalang pansinin. Price of being famous, kasama na yun”, she says with a slight shrug of her shoulders.

She’s learned to roll with the punches, so to speak, saying that when Manny is training, single-minded focus on his upcoming fight is crucial.

“Kailangan nya ang aking supporta pag nagtra-train sya. So, hindi ko sya aawayan at bigyan ng problema. I-isang tabi ko muna [yung feelings ko]. Tapos after the fight, masaya na ang lahat kasi nanalo sya, paano mo pa sasabihin? So sacripisyo muna.”

Pragmatically, she adds. “Kailangan maging patient. Habaan mo talaga ang patience mo. Mag-tiyaga, at mag- pray.”,

Life after boxing

Looking forward, Jinkee wishes, “Gusto ko after boxing, tahimik na buhay para madagdagan yun time sa family.”.

I ask her about Manny’s political aspirations and if a quiet life is possible.

“Ayoko talaga sana. E kasi, sa pulitika, sabi nila, madumi. Dadami kang kaaway and magastos syempre. Perang na-save nyo, magasgastos pa.”, Jinkee candidly admits. But she knowing how important this is to Manny, who she says even before dreamed of serving in government, she has given in. “Gusto nya talaga, so supportahan ko na lang sya. Mahirap kasi yun walang blessing ng family and dati pa gusto na nya maging konsehal.”

As for her own aspirations, Jinkee says, “Masaya ako na sinasabi nila na pwede ako maging role model sa mga nanay. Kung champion si Manny, champion din dapat ako sa pag aasikaso ng pamilya. Hindi ako perfect wife or mother pero ginagampanan ko ng mabuti yun mga tungkolin ko.”

Thinking of their young children, she shares, “Ngayon sinasabi ng mga anak ko na I’m the best mom in the world. Sana yun pa din ang sabihin nila pag laki nila.”

Simple, yet meaningful aspirations coming from the simple girl from Gen San. Jinkee Pacquiao.

Girl Talk with Jinkee

Favorite feature:

Eyes. Kasi madaming nagsasabi na maganda daw ang eyes ko.

Favorite make-up brands:

Dati pa mahilig na ako sa make-up. Pag may bagong brand, tina-try ko talaga. Madami akong ginagamit; kung ano lang yun nagustohan ko. Pero kung mayroon [favored] brand talaga , RMK and MAC siguro.

Skincare regimen:

Mayroon pang face and mayroon [separate] pang body. Bagong matulog, may facial cream and wash. Pero Belo lahat yun ginagamit ko.

Work-out:

Badminton, hindi ako nag gym. Pag nasa Gen San [badminton] everyday. Pero pag dito saa Manila diet lang — rice, puro ulam, tapos fruits and salads.

Wardrobe:

Gusto ko talaga dresses. Pag nasa States ako bumibili ako ng dresses, yun mga long. Sa pag pili, damit muna and then shoes. Mahilig ako sa high heels kulang kasi ako sa height, kaya kahit tsinelas ako, [pointing to her flipflops] may wedge.

On Style:

Wala akong stylist. Sa magazine lang ako tumitingin, tapos puro gaya lang. Di ako masyadong sumusunod sa uso.

Favorite fashion designers:

Wala ako masyadong kilala pa, pero siguro si Kate Torralba and Paul Cabral.

On her rumored amassing of Louis Vuitton bags:

Hindi naman madami. Madami akong paborito, yun favorite ko pag may nagustohan lang ako.

On being in the limelight:

“Naco-conscious ako. Baka next time laitin nila ako. Bahala sila. May iba ibang opinion. Kung ganito ako, ganito ako.”

How she wishes people to remember her:

“Sana sabihin nila na si ‘Jinkee kahit ganyan lang yan, mabait sya na tao’. Jina-judge kasi ako minsan”.

“Rajo Laurel, Rags 2 Riches collaborate to produce designer rag products” by Nina Terol (published in Entrepreneur Philippines, Mar 2008)

Originally published in Entrepreneur Philippines (March 2008) and reposted on Entrepreneur.com.ph (October 2009)

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Profiles

Oct 20, 2009

By Nina Terol. Photos by Walter Villa

from Entrepreneur Philippines Magazine, March 2008


At the nation’s rag capital, a group of priests, young professionals, and a top fashion designer collaborate on a social enterprise with a fashion statement

R2R story

If someone were to tell you that they had just come from Payatas with an upscale fashion find, you would likely think you had heard it all wrong. The word “Payatas,” after all, connotes images of destitute surroundings– a squalid area where impoverished families live atop mountains of garbage. It is hardly the environment you would expect for creativity and innovation, yet this is what Rags 2 Riches (R2R), a social development enterprise, found when it dug deeper into the Payatas situation.

Bro. Javy Alpasa, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic who ministers to the community around the Payatas dumpsite, relates that although he had seen clear evidence of pastoral growth among the Payatas folk, their economic circumstances had not been improving alongside with it. He then pondered the situation with a group of young professionals who wanted to do something to help.

Their assessment: Although Payatas had become well-known as the “rag capital of the Philippines,” the nanays [literally “mothers,” but here it means “women”] producing the rags were making only a measly P1 for each rag sold. In contrast, the retailers were making in huge profits of as much as P15 to P20 per rag.

They then suggested this solution: eliminate the middlemen and add value to the merchandise so the nanays can make more money from their efforts.

But most everybody agreed that the solution being offered was much easier said than done. Until one day when, during Bro. Javy’s theology class at the Ateneo de Manila University, a “heckler” whom he did not think much of as a student started the ball rolling by giving a surprise donation of P10,000. The student simply said that he had received the money as a graduation gift and he wanted to put it to really good use.

That donation was followed by another one of the same amount from another of Bro. Javy’s theology students. With
P20,000 now in his hands, he mustered enough confidence to meet again with the same group of concerned young professionals, this time to suggest a formal structure for putting their ideas into action. Thus was Rags 2 Riches born.

The original idea of the young professionals was to create “designer rags” that could be sold to the market at a premium. They came up with so many ideas and took so many steps to make this happen, but to no avail. Eventually, however, through a series of serendipitous events, they ended up at the doorsteps of Rajo Laurel, one of Asia’s top fashion designers.

As the group tells it, when they presented Laurel with a sample of the well made rags done by the Payatas women, he casually held it up with a twinkle in his eye, joined two ends, added three buttons, and said: “Now it’s a wine-holder.”

Angeline Benavidez, R2R’s vice president for sales and a long-time friend of the acclaimed designer, recalls that moment: “Rajo was so excited when he saw the product. After that, he asked us to leave the rags with him so he could make a prototype. The very next morning, he himself called us to say that the prototypes were ready.”

The end result of that meeting was an initial line of 11 well-designed accessory products made from rags–bags, totes, purses, and other personal items–under the “RIIR by Rajo” brand. They were to become an instant hit among the upscale, socially aware fashionista crowd.

Benavidez says that Laurel got himself “very involved” in the entire production process–from developing the prototypes to teaching the nanays how to carefully weave the products and assure quality control, and from determining the pricing and branding of bags to their retail distribution.

Laurel himself pushed the product “because he strongly believed in it,” Benavidez recalls. “In fact, during a fitting at the House of Laurel [his fashion shop], he personally brought in his clients so he could explain the project and show
the products to them. His clients started making orders on the spot.”

According to Mary Ann Lim, the president of R2R and concurrently its vice president for product development, one of their first big challenges was to get the nanays to accept the new standards and methods that had to be put into place to assure first-rate product quality. It was not easy at the start, but when the newly designed products were released to the market and the women saw for themselves how much the buyers appreciated their handiwork, they began to be truly quality-conscious and extra careful in making the products.

Laurel himself recounts how they were able to change the attitude of the nanays towards their enterprise: “My idea was really to change their views–to create a paradigm shift. I patiently explained to them that if they can give value to the work and give even more added value by designing it well and giving it an aesthetic touch, they can make the product command a good price.”

All these attitude-changing efforts paid off handsomely. The fashion designer rags the women made sold very well, drawing such high-profile customers and fans as Kris Aquino, Celine Lopez, Lucy Torres- Gomez, and many more celebrities. The R2R management has become so confident of the quality of the designer rags that they are hoping they would one day get to Hollywood and be sported by the likes of Angelina Jolie.

The R2R management believes that what makes their designer rag products click is not only the brand or the name behind it but, even more important, also the heartwarming success story behind the enterprise.

We didn’t want to approach the merchandise as a ‘pity buy‘,” says Mark Ruiz, an Ateneo de Manila University management professor and R2R’s vice president for marketing. “Instead, we approached it as a product that people would really want to buy and use because it was worth their money. On top of that, of course, there’s the really powerful human story of the caring and passion that went into the product’s making.”

Aside from Rajo Laurel, several other first-rate professionals volunteered their services to make the R2R product launch possible. Among them were Jake Versoza for photography, Krista Ranillo for endorsements, Maylin Vergara of the beauty salon Propaganda for makeup and styling, popular events director Robbie Carmona, and the models from the Philippines’ Next Top Model search who graced the R2R launching event.

With such star-studded support, R2R was able to parley its initial capital P20,000 in the designer rag products into sales revenues reaching P200,000 during the first three months alone. The market demand for the products has been growing since then, so R2R has been steadily expanding production.

Bam Aquino, a media personality and well-known social entrepreneur who is one of R2R’s board members, is convinced that they did something right by establishing a social enterprise instead of a nonprofit organization.

Part of R2R’s long-range plans is to also venture into men’s accessories and home accessories for both the domestic and export markets.

Bro. Javy makes this observation about R2R’s social enterprise model: “It’s a win-win formula. The Payatas women earn more, and the investors hopefully would earn more over time, certainly more than what they could make from time deposits or from putting up other enterprises. The adage ‘A high tide raises all boats’ rings true here.”

Indeed, the experience of R2R has shown that in social development, encouraging productive social partnerships between and across sectors is much better than espousing one-way philanthropy and charitable dole outs to the poor. This is because such productive social partnerships teach people to experiment, to innovate, and to compete well with other businesses to survive and thrive.


R2R merchandise is currently available at:
HOUSE OF LAUREL
6013 J. Villena cor. Manalac Street, Poblacion, Makati City
Telephone: (02) 426-6101 locals 3440 and 3441
Mobile: 0905-32739999
E-mail: r2rcorp@gmail.com
Website: http://slb.ph/r2r/riir/riirhome.html