Jane Lee of Dexterity explains the steps required to produce a case study as part of your PR activities.
A case study is an excellent way to present your company in a positive light, both in the media and as marketing collateral. It describes how a customer’s business has benefitted from using your product (or service). And don’t just think of them as written documents, you can create an audio file (a podcast) or video interview. Here we’ll focus on the written approach.
Creating a good story
First contact a customer to see if they are happy to be profiled; explain the benefits, like free PR and back link opportunities. Check if the spokesperson is prepared to give press interviews by phone if required.
Remember that you want to entertain as well as educate the reader with the case study. Find a topical angle, or maybe combine a business issue with a human back story.
Writing the case study
A case study needs three basic elements:
the business challenge
and, most important, the benefits, preferably with statistical evidence of the return on investment.
Also, editors like the story to be focused on the customer and their issues, not strewn with constant mentions of the supplier. Keep it to one or two direct references.
If you feel confident to write it yourself, it’s a great way to get to know your customers. However, get someone else to proof-read and correct it, because you become blind to your own mistakes. But don’t take edits as criticism.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to write, then hire a freelance copywriter, a PR specialist or a journalist who knows your field. Ask colleagues for recommendations, but always request examples of previous work, to check you like their style.
Having chosen a writer, it’s important to give them a clear brief. Include the word count (typically 500 – 750 words), your deadline, marketing messages and benefits you want highlighted. And ensure that one revision is included in the fee, to cover any edits required. Then introduce the writer to your customer and let them arrange the interview.
Tips on case study writing
Use a descriptive title that sum up the story, e.g. “John Doe Ltd grows sales by 80% with SoftCell Tools”.
Case studies can be in the first person (“I”) or the third (“he/she”). If you use “he/she” pep it up with quotes from the customer, to make the story easier to read.
An alternative style to prose is using a question and answer interview format.
If possible, include ballpark statistics to show the difference the product/service has made and the benefits the customer has gained.
Avoid jargon and adjectives like ‘market leading’ and ‘unique’ as no-one believes them. Write out acronyms in full the first time, followed by the abbreviation in brackets, e.g. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Include your website and contact details for more information, and the customer’s.
Include optional key facts in a boxout, e.g. industry sector, size, location, date of founding, and a summary of the issues and benefits covered in the story.
Show the case study to your customer before you send it off, both as a courtesy and to check that the facts are correct.
Get good photography and give your editor a choice of pictures. Hire a professional photographer or ask your customer if the marketing department has any high resolution photos. Look for interesting angles and not just a boring, front-on head shot. Check online photo libraries for ideas.
Where to publish
Having produced your case study, you need to place it. Your target will be the publication most relevant to your customers and prospects, but check if the title actually takes case studies.
It’s slow, but best to approach one publication at a time as editors want “exclusive” stories. You can pitch the story to multiple media, but ensure you target different sectors using different angles.
Having identified the prime target, write a summary and email it to the editor. Check that there will be a link back to your website if the story is used. And note that if accepted, you may be asked to shorten the piece to suit the space available.
Finally, put the case study on your own website, and once published add the link to the page as well. You can also use the case in your customer newsletter and e-shots. And promote it on social networking sites too.
A case study is an invaluable part of the marketing armoury and every company needs at least one, and ideally several; each based in a different industry sector. I hope this article has given you the confidence to create your own, or at least to ensure you get a winning result if you commission a writer.
About the author:
Jane Lee of Dexterity is an independent press/public relations consultant. She specialises in no-nonsense PR for IT companies and small businesses.
Tags:PRtipswrite case study
Every chapter includes at least one extended case study embedded in the main text illustrating how real companies, organizations, and people have addressed public relations challenges.
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“I absolutely love this concept. I like how it is set up, the author walks you through it and then gives the reader the actual solution. Great real world example!”
–Megan Toland, Arkansas Tech University
“This is excellent. Students often remember these events and they can now see the situation in terms of public relations. It helps for students to know that what they are studying is actually happening in the real world, and especially in their world: on social media.”
–Amy Zufelt, Cardinal Stritch University
“Grade: A. Case studies bring the concepts to life. Students today relate to real life situations and of course, we all learn from what not to do as well as what to do from them.”
–Rise Samra, Barry University
“These are essential. I use such activities every week. It helps the students really consider each case and encourages them to examine their values, morals and ethical codes.”
–Sallyanne Holtz, University of Texas at San Antonio
“The case study does an excellent job of bringing the ethical decision-making process to life with a relevant example. It illustrates the process of ethical decision-making and gives concise yet adequately comprehensive details to demonstrate the process.”
–Kevin Trowbridge, Belmont University