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

Gold rush – the secrets of writing a winning awards submission

Adam Fisher 6th July 2018 — 3 mins read
W

e use the word ‘daunting’ because the entry process can seem time-consuming with no guarantee of a return.

So how can you ensure your awards submissions stand out and capture the judges’ interest?

Here are eight tips to help you ensure your award entry is a success:

 

Captivate the judges

If the award is worth winning, the judges will probably have hundreds of entries to read through.

So your submission needs to stand-out. This means you need a strong opening to draw them in and encourage them to keep reading.

The key is to get to the really strong part of your entry early on and not leave it until the end of your submission.

Some journalistic principles also apply here to ensure interest and focus is maintained. Ensure sentences are no longer than 30 words and start each sentence as a new paragraph so that judges don’t face daunting passages of text.

Also, think about what makes something ‘newsworthy’ to a journalist and apply the same principle. For example, what makes your entry unusual?  Is it because what you have achieved is a first, or the biggest, or the smallest? This will help you find that all-important ‘wow’ factor.

 

Storytelling

People love stories. They want to read and hear stories.

And your awards submission will be much more memorable if it includes a story.

Like all good stories, your tale will need a hero (you or your organisation) and a villain (the problem you have solved) and if it has an innocent victim (your customers) then it will be even stronger.

And it should have a beginning, middle, and end.

Get straight into your story in the submission - don’t feel compelled to introduce it by saying something like ‘here’s a story which shows that…’ or through a sub-heading called ‘our story’.

 

Put people in your story

People love stories that involve people, and including them directly in your award submission will help it stand-out.

Quotes from colleagues, customers, and stakeholders about the impact of what you have achieved will help bring the crucial human element into the entry.

 

Substantiate claims

It could be tempting to fill your submission with bold claims about your success.

But, unless you can back these up with facts, figures, and examples then they are just claims and ultimately are pretty meaningless.

Judges will be looking for evidence to ensure that claims are more than just rhetoric.

 

Show don’t tell

Do you always ‘put customers first’? Is your business ‘client-centred’, ‘visionary’ or ‘innovative’?

These tired adjectives are not only overused but they are also all rather hollow.

A much more effective approach in awards submissions is to show how you do these things, rather than telling us that you do them.

Show how you are putting your customers first and how you are being innovative. Examples, case studies, stories, quotes and testimonials will all help here.

 

Avoid the jargon

You may understand the technical language and acronyms used in your organisation and industry but there is a good chance it will not mean anything to the judges.

And that could cause them to lose interest.

Stick to everyday language that everyone can understand. Think about how you would explain what you have achieved to a friend or a colleague.

 

Paint a picture

A picture is a worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, and that idiom is particularly true when it comes to awards submissions where there are often word limit constraints.

Images, tables and, infographics can bring entries to life and help make the complex easily understandable.  

 

Proof

You’ve told your organisation’s story. You’ve got facts and figures to support your points and some strong quotes from customers and colleagues.

What a shame it would be then if all that work was undermined by typos, spelling mistakes, and punctuation errors.

The simple fact is that these mistakes make award submissions memorable for the wrong reasons and can ruin otherwise strong entries. Details matter.

We love helping our clients with their award submissions. Our journalist-led approach ensures all our content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content, award submissions or a whitepaper.

 

 

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 a whitepaper.

 

Aimee Hudson
3rd October 2017 - 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.