Charles Abel
25th February 2020 - 6 mins read
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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

Podcasts are the business

Mark Mars 3rd October 2017 — 5 mins read
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etting people to listen to your story or message for 15 minutes to an hour is challenging when you think about how short our attention spans have become (just eight seconds according to recent research). But businesses are increasingly realising the power of podcasting.

Savvy brands are recognising that well produced podcasts differentiate them from many of their competitors.

The most successful are those where products and services are subtly woven into the story the podcast is telling rather than being pushed as a hard sell.

Here are some of our favourites:

 

InterContinental Hotels

The hospitality chain launched its podcast series exploring unique features about its hotels with the goal of tapping into a traveller’s passion for new discoveries.

For example, one episode revealed that deep within the InterContinental New York Barclay Hotel’s basement there is a hidden tunnel which was used to transport wealthy travellers to and from Grand Central Station in the 1920s.

The 20-minute Stories of the InterContinental Life podcast is aimed at reigniting the guest’s passion for travel and intrigue in discovering new places. It is produced to inspire travellers to experience the world and create their own stories.

The podcasts were created as part of a global marketing campaign to drive engagement by connecting the InterContinental brand to what is relevant in culture.

There are now a series of videos to go alongside the podcasts to really bring the stories to life.

 

General Electric

This multinational company which operates in many sectors including aviation, digital, healthcare, oil and gas etc. launched its first podcast series, The Message, in October 2015 and garnered 4.4 million downloads.

The sci-fi podcast show managed to reach the No. 1 podcast spot on iTunes and fans called for the series to be made into a film.

It was a huge success with an average of 450,000 people tuning into each episode. When the podcast series ended the episodes were collectively listened to another 90,000 times.

A new series, LifeAfter, was launched in 2016 and explored the question of what happens to our digital identity when we die, and the role AI can play in the grieving process.

The goal of the podcast series is to tell a really good story that touches on a theme that reflects General Electric’s work in science and technology.

It’s clear to see General Electric saw an opportunity in the story telling space and took it. They learned that quality generates an audience reaction and being clear on their objectives and not naming General Electic and its products in every other word builds value and trust. Something that clearly brings listeners back again and again.

 

Tequila Avión

The Rich Friends: The Elevated Conversation podcast by spirits firm Tequila Avión, launched in 2016 in association with GQ associate editor Mark Anthony Green and The New Yorker nightlife editor Matthew Trammell.

Its podcast explores current affairs, music, lifestyle, art, culture and fashion in New York.

Both men bring their own unique tastes to each episode with their experience in fashion and lifestyle magazines. The dynamic, enthusiastic and opinionated hosts make this podcast feel like you’re with them exploring the best of what ‘the city that never sleeps’ has to offer.

Tequila Avión’s forward thinking attitude combined with Matt and Mark Anthony’s cultural backgrounds makes this the perfect podcast partnership which has resulted in a unique piece of programming.

Topics are always discussed with a cocktail in hand and in any way the duo see fit. Founder of Tequila Avión, Ken Austin said “When we came in, we said, we’re willing to sponsor this thing, but I said to the guys, I don’t want to tell you what to say […] it was more about the audience and the listener versus a brand dictating anything”.

With 24 episodes under their belt, it seems the elevated conversation continues.

 

Slack

The Slack Variety Pack podcast launched in 2015 and is held to be the gold standard of branded podcasts. This is down to the fact it understands its audience very well.

As a result, the company – a cloud based collaboration tools and services firm - has grown dramatically, predominantly due to word of mouth in Silicon Valley and among other American workforces, and it is now slowly making its way across The Pond.

The podcast drew in the ‘tech-savvy, young, curious and light-hearted’ with their stories about ‘work, life and everything in between’.

The 20-40 minute long episodes that included work-life anecdotes and self-contained stories, as well as Slack’s signature quirky and curious personality, enabled the podcast listenership to grow with every episode.

With success like this, we can only assume that Slack will continue to create podcasts.

 

Shopify

‘Thank God it’s Monday’ is not something everyone utters as they walk into work (although we do, in case you are reading boss), but this is the title of Shopify’s podcast.

It was created for ambitious entrepreneurs who can’t wait for a new week to begin. Shopify aimed to inspire listeners by telling success stories of like-minded innovators.

In addition to a very successful blog, Shopify created the podcast in order to capture a part of this growing marketThey identified that many people prefer audio to text as a learning format, and as portable content, anyone can listen to it wherever they are.

By interviewing high-powered businesspeople including marketing guru Seth Godin, Hootsuite CEO Ryan Holmes and serial start up entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk in 30-45 minute episodes Shopify creates quality content that people want to listen to.

Mark Macdonald, content manager at Shopify, said: “We would much rather be the content than the advertising. We are creating something that people want to consume, rather than interrupting them with something they wish to ignore.”

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content marketing 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 blog post.

James White
5th June 2020 - 4 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.