Charles Abel
25th February 2020 - 6 mins read
Y

ou’ll notice I’ve left the caps lock on when I’ve written the TRUTH. That is because it is an acronym used to describe what the term ‘newsworthy’ means.

And it also applies to case studies. You can read more about what it stands for in this recent blog, but for now I want to focus on just two elements of it which are crucial for writing convincing, authentic, memorable and believable case studies.

 

Trouble

When we think about the testimonials and case studies we read when we are looking to buy something, they are often little more than a description of the product and a few lines on why they liked it.

And this is all a bit bland. The quality of many case studies is dubious at best.

To make something attention-grabbing you need to have that trouble element. By that, I mean that your product or service will have solved a particular problem. And solutions sell, so it is crucial you find this type of content.

The fun bit here is that that the trouble element may not be your customer’s problem. It could be a concern they had about your product or service before they chose to buy. Perhaps they didn’t think that it could do the job properly until they saw it in action.

I recently bought a laminator and I wasn’t convinced that this particular one I was interested in could treat the thickness of material I wanted to use. I was worried about the thickness going through the laminator and then I saw this one testimonial that said it is absolutely fine with 250 microns and it solved my worry about the product.

 

Human interest

Your case study also has got to have the H-word – human interest.

As a journalist, I have made money writing stories that are full of human interest – they are about people, not products and services.

And it is the people that bought your product or service that matter. How did they feel? What motivated them? What was their emotional response? You have got to get to this to bring the story to life otherwise it is just a corporate brochure. And that is boring.

So, how do we get to this content?

The key is in the questions that we ask. You need to ask questions that steer and guide the person you are talking to away from saying bland things like ‘it is brilliant’.

A question that works really well is something along the lines of ‘what were you concerned about before you bought this product?’.

They might respond by saying something like “I didn’t think it would be cost-effective”; “I thought it would be too expensive”; “I didn’t think the service would be good enough”.

And from there you can find out what changed their mind and convinced them to buy.

Another question I love to ask, is “what did you enjoy most about the product/service?”.

We get too bogged down with the logical, rational reasons for doing things. They might be worthy, but they are also dull. A more emotional response can be much more impactful. For a car, something along the lines of “what I really enjoy is that you can get to the national speed limit from the traffic lights far quicker than anyone else” might really resonate with some audiences.

I wrote a testimonial on an Israeli plastics manufacturer which produces these huge rolls of netting wrap. The man I was speaking to was talking about the benefits but was also saying how heavy they were and said that when they added a handle it made it so easy to put in the machine. At that point, the case study came alive.

The other great benefit of this type of question is it encourages people to talk in a natural way. There is a great risk with case studies that people will talk to you corporate to corporate, business to business and that is bland, boring and turns people off. 

You want them to talk to you as if you are their friend and use that language and talking about enjoyment can achieve that.

“Is there anything you’d like to add?” This may sound like an innocuous question. Perhaps, more of an afterthought. But you would be amazed how many good stories I’ve got from asking this simple question as a journalist.

And it works for case studies as well. You tend to find that because the interview feels like it has come to an end, they are more relaxed and speak more freely. You can find some real gems of information through this question.

What else can you learn from journalists that might help with your case studies?

Well, a crucial one is avoiding offering copy approval. 

If you send them the text, you can be sure they will worry about it and they will pass it around colleagues who have had nothing to do with it, and it will come back with all the good stuff stripped out. Instead of copy approval, I ask them at the end of the interview if they are happy with everything that has been said and give them a summary of what I have taken from it. That’s the end of my approval process.

Another useful tip is to think in advance about what you want them to say and then tee them up to say it. Phrasing a question by starting with ‘would it be fair to say that…’ can be a good way of achieving this.

When newspapers quote ‘sources’ in their articles it is often seen as half-truths and spin and there is a growing backlash against it in the age of fake news. And it is the same with anonymous case studies. If you saw a case study from ‘service user, Peterborough’, would you believe it?

This is a person who isn’t prepared to put his name to the comment. So where is the integrity? Did he really believe what he said? If you are reading that you are thinking “this is rubbish”. Prove the person is authentic by including their name, job title and a little bit of information about their business.

My final point here is that you need to be careful with your editing. If you try to polish too much you are going to end up with something that resembles an advert. Journalists don’t change their quotes and neither should you. Rephrasing is a terrible thing to do which takes away authenticity and the customer will invariably see through it.

But where are you going to get these testimonials from?

Just like a journalist, you need to cast your net far and wide and have different strategies to gather the content you need.

It is key that you engage your sales team and ensure they understand the benefits of what you are trying to achieve so that they don’t see it as a marketing whim. They will have the relationship with customers and will be able to identify the success stories where one of their clients may be willing to speak.

It is important here that they are able to tell the client what they will get out of the process – raising their profile.

Another good avenue for spotting case study opportunities is social media. Make sure you know what people are saying about you.

And make it easy for people to leave case studies and testimonials on your website through a simple form.

The final point from me is that everyone seems to be looking to create a case study that will go viral and get thousands of clicks. But will anyone buy anything else as a result? This process isn’t just about generating clicks – it is about creating something helpful that encourages people to find out more and ultimately buy.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is a podcast or email marketing.

Marketing

Six benefits of employee advocacy on social media

Adam Fisher 2nd May 2018 — 6 mins read
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hat this means is that ‘employee advocacy’ is more than just some trendy buzzword.

It is something that businesses should strive for on social media and something with lots of possibilities. It is also something which some of the country’s leading brands are already doing as we will show you later.

 

Reach

Arguably the biggest reason to strive for employee advocacy on social media is one of mathematics.

The simple fact is that if your employees share your content it reaches a much bigger audience.

Many of us have Facebook accounts. In fact, there are around 32 million user accounts for that network in the UK alone.

The interesting bit is that the average number of ‘friends’ for a user currently stands at 338.

So, if you have 10,000 employees and just five per cent of them started sharing your company’s social media posts, your content would reach an extra 169,000 people – that’s a lot of extra people who could be seeing your content.

And if you have younger members of staff they will have significantly bigger networks. 27 per cent of 18-29 year old Facebook users have more than 500 friends.

If your employees are on Twitter, the reach is equally impressive. The average user there has more than 700 followers and, if you take out the accounts with more than 100,000 followers, then that average is 453.

If your staff are active on LinkedIn then they could potentially have a bigger audience, as 27 per cent of us have between 500 and 999 connections.

These numbers alone tell you that your employees are one of your most powerful social media marketing tools.

 

Trust

The great thing about your employees sharing your content is that potential new customers are seeing it through people they have a connection with and invariably trust.

In the age of fake news, it is perhaps not surprising that research has shown people’s trust in content on social media is stronger if they know the person who has posted it.

Additionally, the 2018 Endelman Trust Barometer showed that ‘a person just like yourself’ is seen as the third most credible spokesperson, showing that people typically trust their peers.

Tellingly, ‘employees’ also scored significantly higher than ‘CEO’ or ‘Board of Directors’ in the credibility stakes.

This all shows that content is trusted more when it is shared by people rather than broadcast by brands.

 

Industry experts

Not only can your employees help to spread your content and messages on social media to a wider audience, but they can also start to become seen as experts in their field and thought leaders.

The more they share, comment and discuss relevant topics on social media the more they will showcase their expertise and knowledge.

This is a mutually beneficial process. 

The organisation stands out as a brand with talented employees willing to share their thoughts and expertise and as one which is open to new ideas and collaboration.

Meanwhile, the employee benefits by building their personal brand and network, as well as from feeling trusted to talk about key issues.  

 

Empowering

It was only recently that I worked in a place where all employees – other than me who was managing the corporate social media accounts – were denied access to social media channels through the organisation’s computers.

Not only did this not feel particularly trusting, but it was also a largely pointless exercise, as technology had overtaken the decision makers and the vast majority of people had access to smartphones.

I felt at the time, and I still feel now, that a better approach would surely have been to encourage employees to talk about their work on social media channels, blogs and even forums and allow their expertise and passion for their roles to shine through.

 

 

Consistency

Some of your employees may already be posting and sharing stories about your organisation.

But is it what you would want them to share? Does it include the most up to date information, for example?

A more structured approach to employee advocacy will help ensure the right messages get out without losing that all important authenticity.

 

Attractive

Many of us have worked in places, or at least seen job advertisements, for companies that speak eloquently and glowingly about their culture.

But those messages are much more authentic when they come from current employees.

Employee advocacy can, therefore, help you attract the best talent and people who will add value to the organisation and make it more likely you will retain them.

 

Employee advocacy in action

Retailer John Lewis recently carried out an employee advocacy trial.

Just before Christmas around 100 ‘partners’ from six stores were selected to share specific content on Instagram and Twitter.

Using the hashtag #wearepartners, the three-month trial generated nine million impressions.

Meanwhile, Sky is using employee advocacy to showcase its position as an employer of choice. The hashtag #LifeatSky is regularly used by people across the organisation, including some of its big name presenters, to highlight the perks of working for the broadcaster.  

Your employees tell the best stories, they're authentic and you should be encouraging them to share on social media. #employeeadvocacy via: @37agency

 

The challenge

But employee advocacy is not without its challenges and it would be amiss of us not to mention them.

Firstly, employees are going to need some great content to share, so a solid content marketing strategy needs to sit behind this approach.

Another issue is that while some people will embrace this enthusiastically, others will be more reticent. One of the biggest factors here is a fear of doing or saying something wrong which could see them face disciplinary measures. The key to tackling this particular challenge is to have a clear social media policy and guidelines in places.

Others may not feel motivated to share content, so it is important that personal benefits, such as wider personal networks and the development of their own personal brand, are explained to them.

It is also important that leaders buy-in to employee advocacy and lead by example. If they are not active on social media and are not sharing content why should the employees? It is particularly important that middle managers, who are often more visible than the senior leaders, embrace the programme.

Finally, there is the issue of trust. As I hinted at earlier when discussing my own experience at a previous employer, if you can’t trust your employees to have access to social media at work then you can’t realistically expect them to share your social media output.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging, informative and shareable so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a Whitepaper.

Additionally, our sister company Media First offers bespoke social media training courses

Adam Fisher
23rd May 2018 - 6 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.