The role of a case study in PRoving your worth
As a PR consultant, one of my main priorities is to prove my clients’ worth and convey this value to potential customers, stakeholders and broader audiences through editorial; clearly and accurately illustrating why customers and businesses would choose to purchase from, or work with, my client over their competitors.
Conveying this value must be achieved in a genuine way. Just because a story reads well doesn’t mean that it will be pitched successfully. Words are just words, to get ‘buy in’ from journalists, what you need to provide is evidence. I would argue that the most effective and easily digested form of evidence is a case study – which provides demonstrable proof that your client can deliver, coupled with salient testimonials from happy customers.
Rather than evidence, all too often what journalists are hit with is a piece of stock standard ‘PR’… basically a product brochure. Sending indiscriminate press releases to journalists, without any evidence, shows a basic lack of respect for the journalist you’re pitching to, likely leading to you being email blacklisted. Even if your piece is published, this sort of PR is almost certainly likely to lose you your audience.
To avoid this rookie mistake, always keep the end-user in mind. Ask yourself: What are the issues affecting their lives or the success of their organisations? What is the problem you are providing a solution for? What will motivate your clients’ customers to switch suppliers, upgrade their current systems or even adopt something new?
Regardless of whether your target is B2B or B2C, you cannot rely on your product or service to speak for itself simply on face value, or through the key messaging perfected over many brainstorming sessions in the marketing department. There must be follow-through – why should the consumer select your product or service over others, and what can they expect after purchase.
A case study can be written in a number of styles and has many uses. It is the ideal way to demonstrate the purpose of overly complicated products, which may be otherwise difficult to explain; or, on the other hand, to show the immense impact that a seemingly simple solution can make.
The specifications of a product or service alone will not demonstrate how it benefits the end-user. Any company can claim to deliver the ‘latest/greatest/fastest/smallest/biggest’… the list goes on.
What matters are: How will it improve an individual’s life? How will it increase an organisation’s efficiency and profitability?
Ultimately, the case study must build consumer confidence and prove you can and will deliver on your brand promise. Marketing collateral and advertising can overflow with enticing and persuasive messaging but it will be the strength of your case study that will dictate the success of your communication.
A key element of an effective case study is an authentic and descriptive customer testimonial. The testimonial verifies your case study; it provides journalists and potential customers with information about your product or service from a customer’s point of view, not that of your marketing or sales manager.
Your credibility can skyrocket through a strong testimonial. But be warned – lukewarm or obviously fabricated testimonials will have the opposite effect.
Even if you’re telling a story to inspire action or motivate change, rather than simply trying to publicise a product or service, your message will lack clarity and strength without a case study that your readers can relate to and apply to their own circumstances and/or business.
For example, we recently developed a case study for one of our clients, Best Group – a leading signage strategy, design and implementation consultancy based here in Melbourne. Best Group offers a broad range of services across corporate signage, built brand, architectural and wayfinding projects, delivering fantastic results. However, to prove the value of Best Group’s work, we had to go beyond complicated industry terminology and provide tangible evidence. The most effective way to achieve this was through a case study.
Recently Best Group managed the design and construction of all branding and wayfinding signage for Burnham Beeches, one of the latest projects by chef and restaurateur, Shannon Bennett.
Best Group’s work on Burnham Beeches was very well received, both in terms of client feedback and arresting visual media, providing excellent material for a case study suited to the architecture and design media outlets. The case study was well received, easily demonstrating Best Group’s expertise and flair, which led to Jacob Burke, Projects Director for Best Group, being invited to write a piece for Architecture & Design. The project will also be featured in an upcoming issue of Artichoke magazine.
This fantastic buy in from the architecture and design media was exactly the sort of result we were looking for, but a press release wouldn’t have demonstrated our client’s expertise or what customers could expect from Best Group.
Concrete real world examples, imagery and testimonials are key.