I followed a Twitter link on a HOW-TO subject that interested me for the simple fact I have to write case-studies … I naturally fell upon this typical ‘Content Marketing’ nonsense advice.
Desperately disappointing and so typical of the WWW repository of nothingness!
How to write a credible case study
At XXXX we have written hundreds of case studies for clients like Microsoft, HP and LinkedIn. Based on our process and experience, here are ten tips to help you write better case studies:
- Do your groundwork. NO SHIT SHERLOCK! I AM NOT GOING TO WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING FOR A CLIENT THAT I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT AND THEY EMPLOYED ME!!! Understand the product or service being sold, and research the companies on both sides of the deal. This can be as simple as reading the ‘About Us’ section on a company website, or their company news page. You need some context for the deal you’re writing about.
- Get some background. I AM CONFUSED HERE ABOUT OBVIOUS QUESTIONS! Try to get hold of the person who was on the ground and made the deal, and get them to tell you what happened. Get some background so when you speak to the client you aren’t wasting their time with obvious questions.
- Interview the right person. WELL I NEVER! … WHAT? GET HOLD OF PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY WORKED ON THE DEAL! … The real story will come from the people actually involved in procurement, implementation and customer relations. Avoid interviewing marketing or PR people, as they will only tell you a repackaged story, which will sound hollow when you write it up. You want the real customer, preferably a champion of your product.
- Find the story. A USE CASE IS A STORY OTHERWISE THERE IS NO STORY! This is the crux of the case study. There has to be a story: a struggle before, a journey to improve, and a benefit in the present. This doesn’t always mean profits: it might be improved employee retention, saved time or a new business model. The focus is on what matters most to the person you interview. And make sure you tell the real story – no inflated figures.
- Create a template. NOT THE CREATE A TEMPLATE ADVICE – WHOOPEE DOO DAH! Once you have your basic story you can build a structure. Most case studies fall into company biography, challenge, process and benefits. Structures are there to emphasise the story, not shackle it though. Tweak it to the story, and give yourself four or five subheadings.
- Categorise your transcript. GO THROUGH YOUR NOTES… ARGHHH! OH YES … IT BECOMES AUTOMATIC DOESN’T IT? Take your interview notes and go through them, assigning each part to one of your subheadings. You should end up with three to five key points for each section. The more you write, the more automatic this step will become. The flow of the story will be obvious as you do the interview.
- Find your key quotes. WHAT THE EFFS A FRANKENQUOTE??? Never use frankenquotes in a case study; people can spot them a mile off. It is best to use short, snappy quotes, dotted throughout the case study that underline or explain one of your bullet points. Let your interviewee’s personality shine through.
- Flesh it out. OH MY – NOW WRITE IT ALL DOWN????? You have a structure, bullet points and key quotes, which means the writing part should now flow easily. If it doesn’t, you haven’t got to the real heart of the story: go back and reassess the structure to make sure you are emphasising the right points.
- Clean it up. EDITING BABY EDITING_IMPORTANT STEP N’EST CE PAS! … Don’t use too many marketing phrases or clichéd product explanations – keep it human, but make sure you are referring to products correctly, and types of implementation or acquisition in the right way. Keep the story accurate. And be sure to include specifics.
- Cut your copy. WHAT RANDOMLY SAYING ANYTHING A MILLION TIMES IS NOT GOOD???? MAKE IT VITAL HA! HA! HA! – SERIOUSLY PEOPLE!!!! A case study shouldn’t be longer than 500-750 words. Any more and people just won’t read it. Cut out repetition, shorten quotes, and make sure everything you write is vital to the story.