Anyone who works in PR will know that case studies are media gold-dust. When leveraged effectively, a great case study can unlock top tier coverage that showcases the real-world impact a client or their company is having. In short, case studies humanise businesses and bring them to life.
But finding a great case study and placing their story in the media is no easy feat. Here’s how to approach the process to successfully source, pitch and land coverage for a PR case study.
What is a PR case study?
In short, a PR case study is an individual who has first-hand experience of using your client’s product or service, and is willing to speak to journalists about their experience.
Case studies are valuable because they enable PRs to feed journalists powerful personal stories to weave into their pieces. And because these individuals aren’t directly affiliated with the brand we represent (they’re not the founder, an employee or CEO), they can advocate for a client in a more honest and authentic way.
Sometimes, case study stories will make up an entire piece. Sometimes, a case study will form just a small part of a wider piece that also features other voices and individuals.
Almost always, case studies will need to be happy to be named and pictured in articles, and to share their age.
See here, here and here for shining examples of stories featuring case studies that our team at Crest has landed in the press.
Why are case studies important in PR?
Case studies create opportunities for PRs to showcase the real-world impact their client’s solution is having. And because the case study is slightly removed from the company itself, having them talk to a journalist about a product feels more authentic.
Case studies are great for building trust with an audience. Rather than taking a client’s word for the fact that their business is great, a case study can vouch for how they used the product or service, how they found it and what the outcome was.
Finally, journalists love case studies. When reading the news, you might notice that lots of articles open with a personal anecdote from somebody who has experienced a particular issue. This human focus adds life and colour and relatability to news stories, because humans love reading about other humans. By using case studies, we’re hoping to feed journalists great personal stories that they can use to lead or weave within their piece.
Image Credit: Romana and Ramisha Kiyani, a case study for our childcare client Tiney
What makes a good PR case study?
- An interesting story
There needs to be something remarkable about your case study’s story that will catch the attention or imagination of a journalist and their readers. For example, if you’re pitching a parenting app, is there a particularly emotive or personal reason why the case study turned to the app that will resonate with readers? You need to find an angle within the case study’s story that’s interesting to a wider audience and that people will want to click on. Make sure you’ve found an angle that feels fresh, topical and exciting.
Journalists are interested in case studies that feel relevant and newsworthy. For example, at the time of writing we’re experiencing a cost of living crisis. If you have case studies who can speak about how they’ve saved lots of money using a little-known app or hack during the cost of living crisis, journalists will likely want to speak to them. Stay plugged into the news and keep your roster of case studies updated so that you’re ready to jump when a topical news story relevant to a case study comes along.
- An on-brand advocate you can trust
It’s important not to forget the purpose of the case study exercise: to land valuable, positive coverage for your client. So it’s important that your case study is not only happy to speak, but has something to say that is positive and on-message for your client. Sense-check your case studies (we recommend having a phone call with them before pitching them to any journalists) to ensure they can speak clearly and will reflect well on your client’s brand. You want to ensure you can trust them to speak appropriately about your client to journalists.
- Great photos
Photos can make or break a case study story. Always include an image of your case study when you pitch the story to a journalist (even better if you can get a picture of them using the product). A colourful, crisp and authentic image can give your case study pitch an extra boost and help journalists envision the story on the page.
How to find great PR case studies
Finding and pitching great case study stories can take time and will require the support of your client. Different clients will approach this in different ways.
Some clients can easily survey their users to identify people who’d be happy to be involved in marketing and PR activity. Often, clients can offer incentives to users (i.e. vouchers or freebies) to thank them for taking the time to be involved in PR.
Other clients may have customer success or community teams who are closely connected to customers and speak with them regularly. These are often good people to approach about case studies, as they’ll have the best knowledge of their top users who might be happy to be involved in some PR.
How to brief a PR case study
- Get them on the phone
We always recommend getting a case study on the phone to explain how the pitching process will work and how their story might get covered before you pitch anything to journalists.
- Send them coverage examples
Where possible, send them examples of similar coverage you’ve landed for other case studies, so they can envision how their story might look on the page.
- Tell them who you’re pitching
It’s also good practice to give case studies a steer on the types of publications that you’ll be pitching. Some people may not want their story to appear in certain publications, so letting them know who you want to pitch gives them a chance to flag any concerns.
- Do some basic media training
Finally, it’s important to run your case study through some basic media training before they speak to any journalists. You don’t want to over-prep them (you want the interview to be authentic!) but it’s important to remind case studies that everything they say to journalists can be used as quotes, so to choose their words carefully and to not say anything they don’t want to end up on the page or in a headline.
Once you’ve got all the information you need and have confirmed that they’re happy to be interviewed, named and pictured, you’re ready to pitch your case study story.
Wondering who to pitch your case studies to? We’ve collated lists of some of the top healthtech, sustainability, education and ‘future of work’ journalists. Check them out for pitching inspiration!
By Jessica Sharpe, Senior Account Executive at Crest