After 40 years of agency history, there are some key learnings I’d like to share on one of still the best PR tools: case studies. Let’s clarify first how we in the German market define a case study: That’s an article showing a solution (product/service) of a client of ours in use by one of their clients. The objective behind publishing a case study is to show proof of the quality of the solution in practice.
German trade media love those pieces of journalism and I assume that is the same in many other parts of the world. In addition, I’d like to underline that in general, we do not have to pay the media for those pieces, except in certain industries, where the media are almost asking. Here are our best tips on how case studies make all involved parties happy: the media, our client, our client’s clients and us.
- Make the media happy
The very first learning is related to the media where the case study is supposed to be published. Before we start, we identify a top target media that is ready to accept the case study as exclusive content. We do not spread the case study around to any other media. Otherwise, we’d hurt exclusivity and jeopardize the good relationship with the selected media.
Of course, after the initial placement, we might try to place the article in another media with another readership. This usually works. Therefore, we rewrite the case study to avoid duplicate content.
- Make the client happy
The next learning is about the client. We very often see that on the client’s side the PR/marketing team is not well supported by the product managers who would normally play a key role for us to get sufficient information on the products and services and to open the door to their clients.
Product managers often see the PR team’s activities only as a waste of time. They do not always understand how important a good clipping in a top-notch media can be. Therefore, we recommend our PR contacts to first sell internally the idea of a case study as a piece of sales material. This means after the case study has been published, we ask the media for copies that can be used as a sales tool. Needless to say, a case study officially published by a top media convinces readers much more than product brochures.
In addition, we recommend our client to publish a summary of the case study on their website and set links to the page of the media where the case study has been published. The same can be done through blog and social media posts or by introducing the case study via an e-newsletter.
Make the client’s clients happy
Prior to interviewing a client’s client for a case study, we prepare questions in advance and give the interviewee enough time to develop the answers before we meet them. This preparation in advance really helps make the interview meeting easy going.
Sometimes the interviewees do not understand that we are PR guys who will ask for approval before publishing the case study in the media. They take us for real journalists who can do what they want with the interview material. To avoid this misunderstanding, we always determine explicitly with the client that all content and visual materials will be subject to approval.
If no on-site appointment is feasible, the interview questions can often be clarified through a phone call or in writing. But we definitely prefer face-to-face interviews as it normally leads to better results.
Being on the customer’s side also helps us getting good pictures. For that reason, we bring our professional camera equipment and do the shooting after the interview.
Even without an on-site appointment, we make sure that we get good on-site pictures and photos of the participants by booking local press photographers. They know well how to shoot in company environments and their fees are very reasonable compared to photographers who do advertising shoots.
Make us happy
Working on a case study brings us closer to our client, spending more time together for background talks and learning more about the business. This way we get to speak not only with the same people of the PR or marketing departments, but we also get in close touch with product managers or even the CEO. This very often helps us to understand the client much better and can lead to getting input for further activities.
Last but not least, getting case studies published in the media are not only a great reference for our clients, but also for our agency. We show them to prospective clients when we try to underline our B2B capabilities. Trust me, it works.
Uwe Schmidt is CEO of Industrie-Contact AG, a leading PR firm located in Germany’s media capital Hamburg and a member of PRGN since 2002. The agency celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2019.