Producing case studies is a delicate ballet of PR, journalism and diplomacy. Get it right and they can generate good publicity and goodwill. Get it wrong and I don’t get paid.
Recently, I had two case studies go off the rails. In both cases the main interviewee changed their minds about participating at the last minute. In one case, after I had written my first draft. Ouch!
So here are my lessons from this experience:
- Try to manage the relationship with the interviewee from the beginning myself rather than relying on my client to do it. I have more experience at it and it relieves my client of a time-consuming job.
- Are they happy? Check they are willing to do the interview and endorse the case study before spending a lot of time on the process.
- Keep it human. If they know they’re dealing with a human being (me) not a big corporation, people seem to relax.
- Stress the benefit to them. A case study is an opportunity for mutual back slapping and PR at my client’s expense. If they see it as an advert they will be less willing to participate.
- Keep up the momentum. Ideally, it should take less than a week from first contact to first draft.
- Get the whole story. I need to interview the supplier (my client) and the customer (their client) so I know the whole story.
- Confirm the brief every time. Word count, style guide, target audience etc. What works well for one customer may be poison for someone else.
- Manage the approval process. A first draft needs to be written and checked as if it is a final draft (i.e. no typos). The interviewee needs to understand what copy approval means: fact checking and quotation approval. It is not an opportunity to have their PR firm rewrite the case study.
- Explain what a first draft is for. A first draft is just that – ready for improvement. So: my proofreader, then the interviewee and then to the client for their final approval. If necessary rinse and repeat.
- Send everyone the final version for their records.