Top tips for using case studies to raise your online profile
By Fiona Lewis.
You are your own brand therefore whether it be an online profile, blog or webpage that you have written, you want it to sum up who you are and what it is you do. In a world where online content is king, case studies will only become more important. It’s not just about featuring real life stories in an annual report or using them to secure media coverage (although this is still great!), case studies provide rich content that can be used on your website, in email communications and via social media.
A ‘case study’ is quite simply a real-life story of a customer or beneficiary of your work. I think case studies are pure gold because they bring your work or products to life, helping you to interest the media and connect with your audiences on a deeper level. For an adoption agency a case study could be would-be parents who finally found their child; for a cancer charity it could be the family member who inspired someone to fund raise; while for a business a case study could simply be a satisfied customer. Whatever your issue or sector, your case studies can provide an authentic endorsement of your work and can show the results of what you do.
Here are my top tips for great case studies:
- They take time and require a particular skill set – make sure staff responsible for collecting case studies have the time to do so and are confident in interviewing individuals and writing up their stories.
- The write-ups need to be engaging stories with little details that make us care about a person. It needs a before and after: what impact has your organisation had on the individual?
- Ideally every case study should have a photo and other multi-media content such as film footage or audio when possible. Even unpolished audio-visual content can be incredibly powerful.
- Utilise your best case studies across your communications channels – from Facebook posts to web content, to print advertising and media interview opportunities.
- Ensure the case study’s safety and well-being at all times – do they understand what speaking to the media entails? Are they happy to have their story posted online? Consider asking them to sign a ‘release form’ to make sure they understand what they are agreeing to. And don’t forget to say thank you for their help!
- Keep good records of your case studies: you may need to get hold of them quickly for media opportunities and of course their circumstances can change from year to year.
- Generally quality is better than quantity: a few truly compelling case studies that back up your key messages and are enthusiastic about supporting you are better than dozens of so-so case studies. However, depending on your organisation you may want to think about ways to quickly collect mini case studies online – for example customer reviews of products on online shops.
- Look for opportunities to learn from your case studies too – they could provide valuable insight that could help you improve your products or services.
Working with case studies can be an inspiring reminder of why you do the work you do. Those I’ve come into contact with over the years include an illiterate mum who desperately wanted to support her daughter’s education; a Second World War veteran who had lost his sight; and a recently widowed woman who was particularly grateful to an estate agent for the sensitive handling of two house moves. Put the time in and I’m sure you’ll enjoy and learn from meeting the people that your organisation ultimately exists to serve.
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Fiona Lewis is a consultant, trainer and coach who helps people and organisations to fulfil their potential and raise their profile for greater success. She has over 16 years’ experience in communications and PR gained in-house and as a consultant in the not-for-profit and private sectors.