By Roberta Marcroft, Senior Account Manager

Problem: Company X has a terrific product/service that solves a common or challenging problem experienced by its target market. Company X developed a media release about the product/service but it didn’t gain much exposure. Company X becomes frustrated and wonders what else it could do to drive awareness of its offering. After all, its customers are happy and the product/service is an undeniable winner. Why doesn’t anyone care? Why doesn’t the target market understand? Why isn’t it getting more leads?

Solution: PR agency Y develops a case study that demonstrates how a customer used Company X’s terrific product/service to solve all its woes. PR agency Y pitches the case study to relevant media and identifies some other ways to communicate this story more directly to Company X’s target market. PR agency Y recommends Company X upload the case study to its website and share it with potential new customers through marketing campaigns or even its social media assets. What a great sales tool!

Outcome: Company X is delighted. It has built awareness of its terrific product/service and the business’ expertise through a range of media and marketing activities. Company X’s target market has a greater understanding of the product/service and many have identified that they too regularly experience the same problem as the individual/business profiled in the case study. New leads are coming in every day wanting the same solution. Company X now has another problem – how to deal with all these incoming enquiries. Recruitment agency Z thinks it has the answer.

While clearly hypothetical, the situation above demonstrates the case for case studies.

Some products/services require little more than a media release to help your target audience understand what benefits they offer. For others, it can be infinitely more challenging.

A media release is a great way to help publicise an easy to understand product. It’s simple to see how a toaster, shampoo, camera, car or television, fit into life. But what about products/services that may be somewhat technical, contextually difficult to grasp or perceived as dry and uninteresting to the uninformed? This is when a case study might prove beneficial.

A case study is essentially a form of problem-based learning. You present a situation that needed resolving and illustrate how you went about delivering a solution. The reader is presented with historical background on the situation, challenges and objectives are outlined, recommendations are made, then outcomes are documented.

While case studies serve to put context around the features and benefits of a product/service, they are also effective in helping businesses demonstrate thought leadership and establish themselves as experts in their field.

Vertical media are particularly receptive to featuring case studies. Some newspaper sections feature them regularly too. That’s because case studies lend themselves beautifully to the ancient art behind journalism – storytelling.

So how do you source the necessary information for a case study?

Firstly, you’ve got to find a satisfied customer who is happy to go on the record. If publicity is the central purpose for developing the case study, this customer should anticipate that a journalist may want to interview them about their experience with you.

The next step is researching and documenting the issues this customer faced, the path that lead them to your door, their experience with you and your product/service and finally the outcome. A case study briefing form is a useful document to have on file. This will help you extract all the information you need to get started.

The focus of a case study is not necessarily on the product/service, but on the benefit it provides. Case studies often influence a person’s purchase decision – seeing how a product or service helped a business similar to their own serves as a powerful testimonial.

Case studies can require extensive liaison and preparation, but this is well worthwhile. For presenting your business at work and meeting customer challenges successfully, they just can’t be beaten.