Top 10 Tips for Writing Better Case Studies

The value of case studies should never be underestimated. They are one of the best ways in which you can bring to life the work you’ve done for your customers. And, in business, there is no better endorsement than the one coming from a real-life person, your customer, in their own words.

Yet, case studies (especially in B2B) can often be dull, too product-focused and basically not fit for purpose. That’s why I’ve pulled together my top 10 tips for writing better case studies. You know, the kind of case studies that deliver real commercial value and resonate with your customers and prospects.

1: Purpose 

Before writing your case study, think about why? What is its purpose? How will it be used? Where will it be used? By simply being clear at the onset of the who, what, why, when and where, you’re already well on your way to ensuring that your case study focuses on what’s important.

2: Make it easy

People are busy and don’t generally have the time or inclination to fill out a wordy questionnaire so that you can then draft up a case study. Make it easy for them by doing all the donkey work and illustrate how quick and easy the process will be for them.

By interviewing the customer you’ll both also get more out of the experience. Talking directly to your customer also presents a fantastic opportunity to get to know them better and understand the issues and challenges that they are facing – perhaps you’ll uncover how you can help them more or get them interested in doing something else such as joint webinar with you.

3: Be prepared

Before speaking to the customer, speak to the person within your organisation closest to them so you are aware of any potential issues and understand the relationship and the details of the product/service they are using. That way you’ll be able to ask the right questions and be at your most professional.

There is nothing worse than calling a customer expecting positive feedback to be met with a barrage of complaints. If this ever is the case, make sure you handle it well and ensure any complaint is followed-up and resolved.

4: Questions to ask

Our handy PDF template will act as a guide to the kind of questions you should be asking. Although the questions are B2B-focused, and might not all be relevant, you can adapt for your own use.

Where possible, try and get actual facts and figures – real proof points that illustrate the impact of the work you have delivered. Remember, if your prospects recognise themselves, the issues they are facing, and are impressed by the results, they are more likely to pick up the phone to you for help rather than your competitors.

5: Structure

If you check out our case studies such as this one about the Meet the Manufacturer PR campaign, you’ll see they follow the same structure:

  • Headline – to get attention and make people want to read on
  • Quotes – really highlight a great customer quote
  • Headline results – bring out the most powerful results so that people even scanning the case study pick up key benefits of using you
  • The challenge – where you illustrate what the problem or business issue was. Make it recognisable to others
  • What we did – how you addressed and answered the customer’s business issue
  • Results – where you can go into more detail regarding the results of the work
  • Want to know more – don’t forget your call to action so that people know who they should contact
  • Credits – where you can add in extra detail regarding the client.

You should highlight the customer name prominently and use a logo to draw the attention of the reader to the ‘name’ and industry, for example. Imagery also helps to showcase results.

6: Readability

Skip the jargon and make the case study as readable and understandable as possible. Bulletpoints, headings, bold text, and imagery will all add to the case study’s readability, especially online where it is most likely to be scanned.

A photo of the person quoted will also add to the credibility of the case study.

7: Re-purpose

Think where else you can you use your case study, the different audiences, and formats they prefer.

Here’s some ideas to get you started:

  • Video case study
  • Standalone quote for LinkedIn
  • Website
  • Infographic
  • Shared on social media
  • PDF download and hand-out
  • Mailout to prospects and to current customers to aid loyalty
  • Blog post
  • Press release
  • Quote for an article or joint media comment/interview.

8: Permission

No case study should be used until it has full customer permission. Always get your case study checked internally by the customer contact, and signed off in writing by the customer – letting them know where and when it will be used. Send them a final copy for their records, and don’t forget to thank them.

 9: Feedback

Try and encourage the people using the case studies, for example, your salespeople, to let you know how they are using them and when they have worked. For example, have they helped them to secure a sale? When your case study is used in a marketing campaign, measure its success. The more you can understand the benefit of the case studies, the more likely you and your business will commit to doing more and build them into your long-term content and PR strategy.

10: Encourage

Lastly, don’t let your case study be a one-hit wonder. Encourage and incentive your sales people and the people closest to your customers to share with you details of any clients that would make great case studies.

Be selective, and focus on quality, not quantity.

Good luck.

If you’ve found this advice useful, and even acted upon it, please let me know.

If you need help with your case studies, here are some ways you can work with me.

UPDATE

In many industries, getting permission for case studies can be extremely difficult.  But before you throw in the towel, here are some ideas that you might want to give a go first.

  • Look at options to just get permission to (at least) have a logo on your site – great for credibility
  • Do group case studies based on client feedback/satisfaction surveys or interview a group of customers with anonymous results
  • Look to alternatives to case studies or ways to collaborate – inviting your clients to submit a guest blog, contribute to a press article or be a guest on one of your webinars focusing on a particular issue that will also benefit the client in terms of their own PR
  • Be less rigid in your case study structure i.e. if a customer voluntarily provides positive feedback by email, social media etc. ask if you can use their comments
  • Ask new customers questions so you can then go back to them to see the difference after so many months – asking permission to use the feedback in an anonymous case study
  • What about personal recommendations via LinkedIn?
  • Let me know if you have any more tips I can add.
Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter

How to create a great online press room – ten tips

Any business serious about its PR strategy will need a presence online, and as part of that a ‘press room’ or ‘media centre’ element to its website.

But where do you start? Here, I’ve outlined ten tips designed to make the process less daunting:

  1. Think about the overall aim of your press room. This is generally to support PR activity – the pitching and selling in of stories about your business. So the press room is an area where journalists can go for easy access to relevant information about your business and what makes it unique, in order to enable them to research and to write articles to deadline.  It also makes it easier for you to share and pitch news online via Twitter.
  2. Remember that this project is not a one-hit wonder; a press room needs to be regularly updated with content, so ensure that you have someone within your business who is responsible for keeping materials fresh and contact details up-to-date.
  3. Always consider SEO when writing the copy for your press room. This area of your site is a great way to boost traffic, but needs to be fully optimised.
  4. Don’t think about the press room in isolation: It needs to link easily to other elements of your website and to other information such as pages about events your company may be hosting, plus wider social media elements such as your Twitter feed, Facebook or LinkedIn presence. If you have a newsletter, include a sign-up facility within the press room area to increase the subscriber base and to keep the media engaged.
  5. Be aware that journalists are seeking validation of a company’s credibility through case studies with proven results and previous press coverage. Include as much of that as you can.  Video is also great to illustrate suitability of spokespeople for press interviews and a company as an outside broadcast location.
  6. As well as providing basic contact details, include short biographies and photos of relevant spokespeople. This will make a journalist’s life easier and may prompt him or her to contact your company ahead of its competition.
  7. Remember that your press room needs to reflect and reinforce your overall brand values. If you pride yourself on having a business which offers excellent customer service, then offer the same here. If you are using enquiry forms, ensure these are answered quickly and that someone has ultimate responsibility for this.
  8. Constantly refresh materials such as press clippings, case studies and news items in order to build up an archive. This is useful for SEO purposes but it must be easy for a journalist to search and to skim through.
  9. To encourage sharing, use impactful headlines and straplines as well as calls-to-action. And use templates for releases so that your brand is easily recognisable in its external communications and when information is pushed more widely.
  10. Note that journalists are making increasing use of video to digest large amounts of information, and they often need images to support their text. Ensure these types of multimedia elements are available on your site. As well as ensuring your business’ presence online remains modern and up-to-date, they can help the media get the information they need as quickly as they need it – and this means that your message is likely to be spread more widely.

One other thing: People often ask what they need to include. I’d say there are certain elements which you can’t afford to miss out and these include an overview of your company (which avoids jargon); a list of press contacts and spokespeople; links to the latest news about your company plus previous press clippings, as well as clear navigation as to where a journalist can find out more. Easy!

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter

John Lewis knows that PR is not just for Christmas

We all know the Christmas season is well and truly underway when the John Lewis ad breaks.

But the secret to its success does not lie in its planning for Christmas alone, but in its focus on its brand values, proposition and reliability throughout the year.

It was this type of focus on sustainable PR that I spoke about recently at the Direct Commerce Marketplace’s Christmas Crammer event – which was billed as a day to help delegates boost their seasonal and future sales – and for which I set about writing 12 tips which can help with long-term PR success.

  1. First up was why businesses must aim to be front-of-mind. This matters because you become your customer’s first choice. And this is what John Lewis sets out to do: it is not pushing particular products in its ad, but reiterating a proposition built around the notion of ‘thoughtful giving’.
  2. For that, you need a plan: get strategic, understand your target media and their deadlines, and ensure you remain organised –not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.
  3. My tip for the third day of Christmas was to build relationships. We all know these are key for a successful business. They are just as important for a successful PR strategy. Set up meetings, get on the phone, create a database, and ensure you know the influencers in your space.
  4. Christmas is not Christmas without remembering to create goodwill. So, say thank you, re-connect, and consider giving things away. Even if these offerings have no monetary value you can re-ignite interest in your business by offering free advice, tips or services at little or no cost to you.
  5. Remember, too, to use the ‘quiet’ time between Christmas and New Year to pitch stories. This is still a busy shopping period, and there is an opportunity to create cut-through with a well thought-out PR strategy.
  6. Don’t forget the importance of online and social channels. Ensure you can be found, create newsworthy content, and keep an eye all the time on the activity of your competition.
  7. Christmas is also a great time to create the right impression with the creative use of photography, video, ‘look-books’ and online listings. Don’t miss this opportunity.
  8. Focus on storytelling, and don’t use marketing channels in isolation in order to do so. Above all, ensure your story is credible and resonates with what you want your brand to be known for – both at Christmas and in the long-term.
  9. Remember the day of rest, too. Time out can be time to get inspired – to read, listen, learn and collaborate. Look outside of your company and forge partnerships.
  10. Above all, don’t panic. Christmas is busy. But you need to focus on quality, not quantity. Ensure you cover the basics whilst avoiding well-worn PR stunts or predictable Christmas press releases.
  11. The Christmas season is also a time to look back – to review and to set goals. Enjoy it.
  12. Finally, on the 12th day of Christmas – and all year round – be available, be helpful. Remember, PR is for life and not just for Christmas.

Very few of us need John Lewis’ multi-million pound budget for our Christmas campaigns. Success hinges on an all-year-round focus on customer service and sustainable PR. With a little bit of work and a focus on this throughout the year, we can all aim to emulate this well-oiled marketing machine.

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter

Growth Voucher Accredited for PR

Exeter-based PR agency Nellie PR has been approved as an advisor for the Government-backed Enterprise Nation Growth Vouchers scheme – to provide tailored public relations advice and training to ambitious small businesses seeking growth.

The scheme offers up to £2,000 in match funding to help small businesses gain access to expert advice across five key categories, including marketing and public relations, IT, management, finance and workforce expansion.

Nellie PR, who work with businesses and organisations nationally and across the South West, will offer bespoke guidance on building effective communications strategies to help businesses meet their objectives and growth targets.

Based at The Innovation Centre in Exeter, Nellie PR works across a variety of sectors, including B2B and business, manufacturing, entrepreneurship, education and more.

Ellen Carroll, director at Nellie PR, said: “For small businesses, achieving growth whilst still getting the day job done is a real challenge – and many businesses owners just don’t have the time or budget to put a robust PR strategy in place.

“Great PR can propel business forward, building a company’s profile, increase sales, or help you become a real influencer in your industry. We got involved in the Growth Vouchers scheme to help businesses achieve just that, and can provide tailored advice or training on all aspects of PR and content marketing.”

Launched in January 2014, the scheme £30 million Growth Voucher fund is open to young companies with fewer than 250 employees. Businesses looking for advice can apply online by visiting the Enterprise Nation website. Applicants will then be required to fill in a questionnaire, or attend a face-to-face business advice assessment.

For more information and to apply for an Enterprise Nation Growth Voucher please visit the Enterprise Nation Marketplace: https://marketplace.enterprisenation.com/

About Nellie PR:

Nellie PR is a public relations agency based in Exeter, Devon. The agency provides public relations, content and social media services and works with businesses and organisations right across the UK.

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter

Updates From the Lifestyle, Fashion and Consumer Media

We like to keep up-to-date with the changes across the media, and this week we take a look at some of the recent changes across the lifestyle, fashion, and consumer media.

Telegraph

Krissy Turner is the new digital style assistant for the Telegraph Magazine, in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph.  She is looking for fashion news, new collections in stores and online.

For the latest, follow her on Twitter via @KrissyDiaries

We’ve also spotted more changes to the team at telegraph.co.uk – with

Bibby Sowray taking up the role as assistant digital fashion editor, whilst Rosie Cherrington joins as digital intern, and is looking to receive press releases on fashion and beauty and, news on events.

At Telegraph Luxury, Bethan Ryder has been promoted to associate editor, contributing to the website and quarterly magazine.  Meanwhile, Stephen Doig is the new assistant editor and will focus on men’s style and technology.

Hearst Magazines

Kate Matharu has been appointed as digital editor for Hearst, looking after titles, including Country Living, House Beautiful and Prima.  Kate, who is the former editor at womanandhome.co.uk is keen to receive information and updates on fashion, beauty, wellbeing, food and more.

Glamour

Lisa Harvey is the new deputy features editor at Glamour, replacing Gemma Askham, focusing on features around fashion, beauty, shopping, travel, relationships and fitness. She was formerly the lifestyle editor at The White Company.

Follow her on Twitter via @LisaJourno

Metro

Metro has relaunched its ‘Trend Tracker’ page, focusing on new lines, launches, and much more.  Edited by Naomi Mdudu, the page will appear in the paper on Thursdays.

MailOnline

Caroline McGuire has joined the Mail Online’s ‘Femail’ section as reporter, She would like to receive press releases on topics of interest to women, such as food and diet, fashion, health and families, human interest stories, and much more.

Follow her @McGuireCaroline

Ellen Carroll

Ellen Carroll is a strategic PR and communication consultant. I provide PR training, mentoring and consultancy to help people and businesses to step out of the shadows with #PRthatPAYS

Find me on: Web | Twitter