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

The Changing Face of the Western Morning News

If you believe the headlines, the traditional newspaper is on its way out. The rise of digital news platforms and social media has changed the way find and read the news.  As a result, newspaper circulations have dwindled, newsrooms have shrunk and many of our daily papers have switched to weeklies.

But the Western Morning News (WMN), our region’s flagship daily covering the news from Penzance to Taunton, seems to be bucking this trend, having launched a brand new Sunday print edition in June this year – making them one of the only daily papers to publish an additional, paid for print title in recent years.

Last week, we were invited to meet with Bill Martin editor of the WMN at a PR event hosted by Astley Media.  This was a great opportunity to find out exactly how the paper is adapting to the new age of publishing, get an insight into its new Sunday edition, and how the paper is looking to working with PR’s and businesses in the region moving forward.

Bill, who moved from The Herald in Plymouth to become WMN editor in 2012, started off explaining the big changes that have taken place at the paper, and the wider South West Media Group.  Previously owned by Northcliffe Media, the paper was acquired by Local World in 2012 and has undergone a major restructure, from the inside out.

Long gone are the traditional newspaper structures, with separate editors for business, farming, property etc.  Responsibilities at the WMN are now spread across a team of ‘content editors’, working on a range of stories at any one time.  These content editors are now not only looking after written content, but also, video, photography and more.

So what do these changes mean for PRs, clients and businesses in the South West?   Bill explained, that like most papers, the WMN is hungry for content and always on the lookout for interesting news and topical features.  They want great stories, delivered in a high quality content package to include interviews, images, infographics, and even short video.  But crucially, this shift means that quality of content from PR people has never been more important.

Content needs to be carefully thought-out, with a clear purpose and of value to the reader. And if it’s not, then don’t be surprised when it doesn’t appear in the paper or online!

The WMN is also making big investments to improve its website.  As 70% of all its web traffic now comes from mobile devices and with nearly 40,000 Twitter followers, the paper is also carefully planning the future of its mobile offering.  Something else to keep in mind when pitching ideas or send through stories.

Bill then went on to talk about the launch of the new WMN Sunday edition, which has clearly been a big, but hugely exciting project for the whole team. The WMN on Sunday aims to offer something totally different – a newspaper that people both want to, and have time to read on the weekend.  Looking at the new edition, it certainly has a very different look and feel to the weekday paper, and will focus on Westcountry living, health, education and travel.  There’s also a chunky business section, with features, opinion and discussion pieces.

But perhaps the most exciting development is the launch of West magazine, edited by Becky Sheaves – and very much like a Sunday lifestyle supplement.  Female-focused, West offers fashion and family features, real life stories, health and lifestyle all with a Westcountry backdrop. In fact, Bill suggested that the supplement has gone down so well with readers, they are now planning to add more pages, by moving the all important TV listings into the main paper.

All in all, the new WMN on Sunday means lots of new opportunities, to get our clients seen and heard in the region.  Here’s some top tips we want to share with you on securing coverage for you and your business in the WMN:

–       Stories are almost always published on the web first now, taking more precedence over print, so think about timing carefully

–       Get to know the sections (and who is writing them) before pitching your idea forward.  We’ve put together a helpful media profile below

–       Bespoke content is the way forward – so its always worth planning a great quality content package

–       Don’t forget to think about where content will be read, make sure it works for mobile too

–       There is still a place for the press release, but make sure it’s covering a proper announcement, event or achievement.

Many thanks Bill Martin to taking the time to come and talk to us, and to Astley Media for organising the event. 

Western Morning News media profile:

Founded: 1860
Geographical coverage: Devon, Cornwall, and parts of Somerset and Dorset
Political alignment: Liberal
Supplement sections:
Monday – Sport
Tues – Living Cornwall
Weds – Westcountry farming, WoMaN
Thurs – Business
Fri – Introduction to the weekend, what’s on, sport,
Saturday – Property, arts and antiques, Westcountry life
Sunday – Living, health, education, travel, business, West magazine supplement

Additional supplements:
WMN Annual Business Guide in July, Fast Growth 75 supplement, and the WMN Business Awards.

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

Are B2B and B2C communications different animals?

If you are looking at undertaking a PR campaign, the very first thing you need to consider is who your target audience is.

This might sound like stating the obvious, but if you want to communicate with a business audience, you will need to take a different approach than if you are aiming at consumers.

People who make buying decisions for businesses usually have to justify their purchase in terms of how it will improve a process, address issues, save time and of course, money. For these buyers, hard facts and figures about the features and performance of the product or service, and the pain points they address, are vitally important.

For consumers, the buying decision is a more emotional one. How many times have we all bought things on impulse, because we just liked the look of it, or because we wanted a particular brand of clothing, mobile phone, car or whatever it might be.

The easiest way to think about it is that business buyers want to know how the product will help to ultimately improve the bottom line, whereas consumers want to know how it will benefit them personally. How does the product make them feel better about themselves and how other people view them?

This has an impact on how you promote yourself and what media you use. If you are looking to get your message across to business buyers, you need to know what magazines and blogs they are likely to be reading and make sure that you target those publications and sites with articles and press releases that will be of interest to the readers.  You need to know how best to reach them directly and indirectly through key influencers such as the media.

Anything you write needs to be full of relevant facts and figures, and should focus on the benefits of your product to the business. The cost of the purchase in a B2B context is usually more expensive, so it is also important to get across the credentials of your business.

Potential customers will want to know how long you’ve been trading, what other clients you have and how financially stable you are. In the B2B sector, it can sometimes take several years before a decision is taken to buy, so you also need to take a long term approach, having one hit in the media is unlikely to be of much benefit to you.

It is also important to build strong relationships with journalists in key trade publications and build up your reputation with them, so that they will potentially turn to you if they want someone from your industry to comment on a particular issue, or to find out what is the latest news from your sector.

At Nellie, we have years of experience in B2B communications in many different industries. If you would like to find out how we could help your business, please drop us a line at hello@nelliepr.co.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

Hashtag Event Revolution

Twitter is great for supporting live events. As more and more of us trade nationally and in a global marketplace, so attending all ‘must go to’ live events becomes less and less possible and effective – when 100% of your potential leads were based in the UK, an event at the Birmingham NEC would reach many of them, but when 10%, 25%, 50% or 90% of them are based in the EU, North America and South East Asia, that event in Birmingham becomes a much less attractive marketing proposition.

Twitter solves this problem by allowing your potential customers to attend the event virtually. It also means you can take part in events that are always train trip away – very handy for a Nottingham-based company like us.

By doing this you not only vastly extend the reach of your event, you also enhance the experience of all those who are able to attend, and you can exponentially grow the number of people who follow your future tweets.

So, how do you do it?  Begin by establishing a suitable hashtag for your event. Make sure no one else is using it for something unrelated to the event. You can also set up a site which contains all the tweets carrying your new hashtag, as well as a space for people to upload text, photos and videos of the event.

You have now created a virtual space for your event. Encourage people to start using it by integrating the hashtag into your existing marketing: add it to your email marketing campaigns, your existing Twitter conversations, and your sign-up process for the event itself. You can monitor how many people are noticing it and beginning to use it by dedicating a column to it using a tool such as Tweetdeck.

Running this sort of social media mash-up is a fairly straightforward process, but it’s one that can produce impressive results.  We helped to run a social media mash-up for our client Infogroup/UK back in 2010 at Technology for Marketing & Advertising (TFM&A), in Earls Court, London.

The website recorded more than 2,000 hits during the event, 75% of which were from new visitors to the Infogroup/UK website, with the average visit lasting an impressive 17 minutes. So, not only did this campaign convey Infogroup/UK’s immediate messages to this audience – many of whom were not at the event itself – it also provided a long-term boost to Infogroup/UK’s social media following with Twitter follower numbers rising by 20%.

It is a vivid example of just what can be achieved through more advanced use of Twitter, and is just one of many ways in which social media is changing marketing. As Carly Ferguson, former Infogroup/UK Marketing Executive, and now Marketing Manager at B2B Marketing, concludes: “I’d always been enthusiastic about using Twitter and other social media, but the work we did at TFM&A really opened my eyes to the possibilities.”

To join the hashtag revolution, and start leveraging the power of social media for your next event, either give us at Nellie PR a call, or start yourself by following these five top tips:

1.    Establish the hashtag sooner rather than later and make sure no one else is using it for something unrelated to the event.
2.    Integrate the hashtag into email marketing campaigns, through Twitter and within invitations and sign up confirmation emails.
3.    Monitor the success of your hashtag by dedicating a column to it using a tool such as Tweetdeck.
4.    Give attendees content to aid their blog posts about the event by capturing as much on film as possible and promoting it via YouTube, Flickr or Vimeo.
5.    Finally, monitor increase of followers on any of your social media platforms, as well as traffic to your website from new visitors, to get a view of the success of your social media campaign.

Want to know more?  Contact Nellie PR.

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