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

7 reasons your organisation should produce an eBook

Adam Fisher 10th December 2018 — 4 mins read
E

lectronic books, or eBooks as they are more commonly known, occupy the middle ground of the content world, between the shorter and more regularly produced blogs and the more formal, often academic approach, taken in whitepapers.

It is a format which has enjoyed something of a boom in recent years and it looks set for further success.

What exactly is an eBook?

When we talk about an eBook we are not talking about the publications you read through a device like a Kindle.

The eBooks we refer to are produced by businesses and typically come in PDF format.

They enable brands to explore a topic in deeper detail – often aimed at solving a problem customers may be experiencing - but through an easy-to-read style.

And producing them has many benefits.

So without further ado, here are seven reasons why your organisation should produce an eBook.

 

Cover a topic in more detail

If you are already regularly blogging, you are probably tackling topics in somewhere between 500 to 1,500 words.

An eBook enables you to tackle topics in much more depth, usually starting at around 5,000 words or around 20 pages.

This gives plenty of scope to educate, entertain and engage readers and potential customers.

Longer form content can appear daunting to a reader – many would be put off by a 5,000 word blog for example.

But putting it in the format of a well-designed eBook, which is supported by eye-catching design, will make them more likely to download it and read when they have time.

Not only that, but an information-driven, educational eBook could become a resource they refer to again and again.

This creates brand loyalty, enhance the reputation of the band and the connection the customer has with it and ultimately helps to drive revenue.  

 

Showcase expertise

Producing an eBook can help position your organisation as a thought leader in its industry and showcase its expertise.

Tackling important issues which matter to your customers in detail not only reveals a deeper level of understanding but will also encourage prospects to view your organisation as a trusted source of information and as a problem solver.

This in turn helps organisations cultivate the credibility customers look for.

 

Generate revenue

eBooks are a great way to generate new leads that could lead to new sales.

In return for your carefully crafted insight, potential customers typically need to provide their email address for the download link.

In some cases they may also be required to provide other details such as job role and phone number.

That means an organisation now have valuable information about someone who has expressed an interest in your content.

They are also a great tool for sales teams to use to generate interest and new business.

 

Reusable content

One of the great benefits of an eBook is that it provides a lot of content which can be repurposed and recycled in blogs.

I have written a few eBooks for our sister company Media First and I have been able to take parts from each one, whether it is a chapter, section or even just a paragraph, and turn that into a blog at later date.

For example, one I wrote on the importance of preparing for a media crisis has led to blogs on holding statements, risk register, the importance of communicating internally and identifying the right spokesperson.

Additionally, they also provide plenty of reusable content for social media teams.

 

Rise above the competition

Not only do eBooks provide another channel to promote your organisation, but they are also something many of your rivals may not be using.

There are plenty of blogs out there, for example, but how many companies in your sector go beyond that?

So, not only do they help to ensure your brand stands out, but they could also help you tap into a wider audience.

 

Retains its value

An eBook is an item of content which retains its value.

Unless it is on a particularly time sensitive subject, it can stay on your website indefinitely generating leads and interest.

You can also keep referring back to it in blogs to attract new readers and post about it on social media.

At the very worst you may just need to update it occasionally.

 

You may already be half-way there

If you are already regularly producing content like blogs then you may already be well on your way to producing an eBook.

Your existing content could form the basis of your eBook and may just need some repositioning, a slightly different angle, more detail and some good design.

 

In summary, eBooks are premium content which should form part of your content marketing strategy.  If they don’t, your customers may just find the information they are looking for through a rival organisation’s eBook.

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 social media content or an eBook.

Emily Stonham
11th January 2019 - 9 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.