10 Steps to a Winning Success Story

thumbs up business womanThe demand for content has never been greater, and PR professionals are typically tapped to meet content needs in most organizations. For solo PR pros, content strategy and creation can represent a significant portion of our business. As you seek to feed the content beast, don’t forget the often-overlooked case study – it can be a multi-tasking powerhouse in your content strategy.

Whether you call it a success story, a case study, or a customer/user story may depend on your industry. But virtually across the board, both business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients can benefit from these multi-purpose customer endorsements.

What Can a Case Study Do For Me?

The obvious:

-Provide third-party credibility
-Make a new or unusual product accessible
-“Brand journalism” – tell an engaging story on your client’s blog, website, newsletter, etc.

The not-so-obvious:

Jump start user story discussions with your target publications.
When your case study has a unique angle or is especially illustrative, use it to pitch your top target(s) before it’s made public.

Adapt and use as proof points for a submitted/bylined article.
When writing an executive bylined article for submission to a publication, think like a journalist and illustrate your points with customer stories.

Use as a lead generation tool on the client’s website.
A case study can be “gated” content or part of an offer. For example, “register for our newsletter and get our case study free.”

Distribute to the client’s sales force for use with related prospects.
Think beyond the PR silo for larger clients to marketing/sales, and get extra mileage for your efforts.

Success Story How-To

A good case study subject is a positive customer reference, has applicability to your client’s target audience/customer, and offers a good “angle.” But don’t just tell a story – answer “what’s in it for me.” While it’s tempting to just tell the story of a happy customer (first they did this, and then they did that…), case studies are among the best ways to show prospective customers what your client can do for them.

Our road-tested case study process includes the following 10 steps:

PRE-INTERVIEW

1. Identify a case study candidate.
Obtain the names, contact and background info from your client. In some cases, you may want to give the prospect a quick, preliminary call to determine likeability and usefulness.

2. Ask the subject if they need internal approval.
For B2B clients, don’t skip this step! Many customer contacts don’t think about the fact that their internal PR team may not want them making statements… until you ask them this question. When in doubt, have them ask their manager before you proceed with the interview.

3. Schedule the interview
Once you’ve determined the candidate is worth your time, setup the interview and send confirmation.

4. Craft customized interview questions.
Always think through what you’d like the customer to say, and what questions will get you there. Also, keep in mind your subject’s valuable time and make the list manageable. Your interview shouldn’t last more than an hour – the shorter the better.

INTERVIEW

5. Conduct the interview.
Be sure to stray from your stated questions if the customer takes you in an unexpected direction. Ask follow-up questions and request additional details if they allude to something interesting. This can be the difference between a good story and a great one!

POST-INTERVIEW

6. Send the customer a thank-you note/email.
Not only is this courteous, but it gives you the opportunity to reiterate the approximate timeline to the customer (so they don’t pester you later!).

7. Write the case study draft.

8. Send to your client for review/edit.
Having the client review first can reduce back-and-forth later.

9. After incorporating client changes, send draft to the subject for approval.
Reiterate the timeline and provide a clear (and realistic) deadline. Again, remember the customer is doing you and your client a favor.

10. Notify your client of any changes from the subject and obtain their final approval.
If the customer has a number of substantial edits, you may have to repeat steps 8 and 9, but this is rare.

Once your case study is final, use and re-use it wherever possible! The result will be one of the most sharable pieces of content in your arsenal.

Do you have any tips or case study war stories to share? Let us know in the comments!

For more success story how-tos and Pro Tips, including information on what fees to charge, pitfalls to avoid, and templates of what questions to ask, join the Solo PR PRO Premium membership site and download the ebook: Success Story Secrets.

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  • KarenSwim

    I love customer case studies! I use them to pitch, as bylined features and for client marketing.

  • Samantha

    I definitely need to create more of these! Clients are very impressed by them.

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