How to Create a Good Media-Ready Case Study Every Time
There's a good chance you're very excited about your business, but gaining the attention of journalists can be harder than it looks
When it comes to building reputation, nothing beats the voice of your satisfied customer. A good quality case study can increase your chances of press coverage especially when it is written in a way that attracts journalists.
Aside from actually talking to potential customers, case studies are a great way of showing off what you do well and getting your business noticed. They can be used on your website, newsletter or brochure. But getting your case study printed in a magazine or newspaper or posted on an influential website is a sure-fire way to build brand awareness, generate new leads and secure a perceived level of industry endorsement.
We know that journalists find case studies extremely useful to illustrate how businesses have successfully overcome certain challenges or achieved certain objectives. But what specific characteristics do journalists look for in good case studies?
What makes a good case study?
To find out the answer to this precise question, we recently conducted a survey with 77 of the UK’s leading technology and business journalists to find out exactly what they thought made a great case study. We’ve summarized the top three highest rated factors, below, to help businesses build these elements into their case studies from the start.
Before we focus on creating journalist appeal, however, it’s important to remember the essential components to effective case study writing.
Business case studies are first and foremost stories about how you help your customer solve a particular problem. Good case studies consequently follow a certain formula detailing: the business challenge, how you solved it, and what the outcome was.
You can add bells and whistles, like testimonials, images, a client profile, or even a video, but if you don’t get the structure right, the case study is in danger of losing impact as well as media appeal.
Understanding your target audience is also critical. Think about who are you talking to, and which publications are you aiming at.
If your target is an engineer that reads a specific trade publication, for instance, then go heavy on the technical detail. If it’s a potential investor that reads the tech press, then make sure you highlight the business growth potential.
Once narrative structure and targeting are in place, it’s time to focus on journalist appeal.
What do journalists look for?
According to our survey, the number one component that journalists look for in a good case study is that it includes ‘a named organisation’. Confirming your customer proves that the case study is genuine and confers credibility on everybody involved.
Not every customer is in a position to add their name to a case study, so before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), check in with your customer and ask what they think about being named in a case study.
Some customers will be thrilled to be included in a piece that is aimed at the press. Others will have strict confidentiality restrictions. And some will be open to being named in the public domain – but only under certain conditions, such as with assurances that sensitive data is withheld, for example.
Either way, have that customer conversation early, ideally while you are still delivering the work. It is very frustrating going through the process of honing the perfect case study, only to find that your customer cannot sign off on it.
In our journalist survey, the second highest rated factor in a good case study is that it focuses on ‘a hot topic’. Subjects like financial technology (FinTech), internet of things (IoT) and augmented reality grab plenty of headlines, but don’t despair if your business is in a ‘less sexy’ field.
Try and tie your case study into current events or wider industry trends, if possible. If your product or service is niche, be sure to target journalists who write about that subject. Twitter is a good way to track them down.
In third place, according to our survey, journalists also ranked highly the importance of having ‘an authentic voice’ within a case study. Journalists hate any hard sell and simply won’t run the story if it’s perceived as advertorial. So keep your tone factual and objective at all times, and don’t be afraid to include what you have learnt or your specific project approach.
Journalists are very interested in innovation – and its partner buzzword, ‘disruption.’ Focus on how you solved your customer’s problem in a way that differentiated you from your competitors – and always steer clear of forceful sales messages.
Finally, you need to quantify the benefits that you have delivered to your customer, if at all possible.
If your product or service has increased revenue or reduced costs, then be very clear about how much. If it is too sensitive to show an exact figure, consider using a percentage, such as the fact that your product/service generated a 60% increase in monthly revenue, for example.
Include as many of these short sharp proof points as possible – they are very powerful and much easier to include in an article than a lengthy product description.
How to help the process of publication
Now that you’re ready to pitch, help the journalist by including a customer testimonial, your contact details and some high-resolution images.
Editors usually want exclusive stories, so make sure you do your research well to ensure you approach the right publication that fits your story and target audience. By doing this you will hopefully end up with one happy customer, a few good inbound sales leads, and some influential, new media contacts, at the same time.
Sarah Dillingham is founder of CaseStudyNinja.com