Case Studies bring life to a story: using case studies to drive PR for your company

Evadney Campbell is an expert in journalism and PR. We caught up with Evadney to understand how journalists use case studies, and how case studies can drive press coverage. 

Sarah: Hello Evadney – can you tell us a bit about your background? 

Evadney: Hi Sarah. I’m Evadney Campbell. I run a company called Shiloh PR. We are a public relations and training company. 

We do public relations for those people that want to hire our services along with a a number of training courses aimed at primarily smaller to medium sized businesses teaching them how to put together a PR campaign. Also, how they target the media and how you find the right media for your business. 

Sarah: I understand that you have deep experience in journalism. Can you tell us about that? 

Evadney: I worked for BBC as a news broadcaster for thirteen years and also as a freelance presenter and producer. So in effect I’ve been in the media for just under thirty years. Deciding to do public relations is the other side of the coin. 

Sarah: Where do journalists get their story ideas from? 

Evadney: We tend to get a lot of our story ideas from public relations agencies. 

Companies want to promote their services and often work with a public relations company who then sends the information out to the journalist. 

Sarah: Where does public relations differ from marketing and advertising? 

Evadney: We’re selling stories. That’s exactly what we sell to the journalist. 

A PR agency your journalist isn’t there to market your product, we’re there to offer journalists interesting stories. We have to look at the stories behind what it is our clients are offering. 

Sarah: Why do journalists find case studies useful? 

Evadney: Case studies bring life to a story. If someone has a product that on its own it may be a little bit difficult to make grab the interest of the public. If it’s a product that can improve people’s lives, that impacts on people, then the best thing for the journalist is to have a case study. 

Reading about someone who’s used it, who has found value in it, that makes it real for the public because they are reading someone’s personal experience of using that product. 

When I worked for the BBC as a journalist there was really a lot of wonderful stories that came through to us but the agencies were sometimes really just selling a product on behalf of that company. We might be interested because the product has a value to people but we want to know from a third party have you used it? What would you say it was like? That’s where the case studies are vital. 

Alot of time stories fall down because the company has failed to get a good case study that can back and really sell it on their behalf. So for me, what you’re doing sounds really amazing. 

Sarah: Where do journalists typically find their case studies? 

Evadney: Well ideally what you want is for whoever is sending you the press release to identify a good strong case study. Failing that, we use the internet to search and discover if there been any stories written and in any other media or someone has reviewed something and commented on it, so that’s where they will find their case studies. 

Another option would be to go back to the story originator of the story and you say look have you got anyone who we can talk to, who can talk about this product or service so that we can really sell it on your behalf. Really, what you’re looking for is a third party endorsement. 

Sarah: What I’m hearing from that as well is it’s important not to just have the case that lays out what the company did and achieved and delivered but also make it easy to contact the people connected to it. 

Evadney: It’s vital. Absolutely vital. I run a number of training courses as I’ve said and what we say to people over and over again, journalists are really quite lazy, resources are tight, cause especially with local media, there are very few reporters working on a local paper these days so they don’t have time to be going chasing and hunting down case studies.  

Sometimes this will result in them they’ll dropping a story or because there isn’t anyone available to speak who can really kind of bring this thing to life. So in our company, whenever we do our workshops for instance, or we don’t finish a product I will ask for a testimonial. 

I will say to my clients, would you mind just giving me a quick view on how it went for you, what you thought of us as a company? and how you related to us? That will go on our site and we will use it as part of our promotional tools. When we then go to other clients, I expect them to have gone on to our website, so they’re looking at what we have done, who we have done it for and they will see if I put on there a short testimonial from someone and that matters to them. 

The other thing I do with testimonials, without necessarily giving away people’s personal details, I will make sure there’s a name of a person or a company so they can follow that through and double check and see if this is for real. 

Sarah: It seems that there is a real shift in PR but also in email marketing towards this kind of actual real evidence, and away from making wild claims about a product or service. Is that something you agree with? 

Evadney: There are loads and loads of these advertorials on TV these days, I mean, they’re like a program in themselves. And you’re watching it and you’re watching these people who are telling you how amazing it is and how it’s changed their life, but you’re not quite sure if you can believe them because you know actually that program was paid for. 

PR is what they call a third party endorsement and that’s what you provide through the case studies, is real third party endorsement and it is more powerful because it is real people. 

When you’re going into the press the case studies really gives that third party endorsement because you know it’s not coverage based on who’s paid for an ad in that paper. They’ve quoted real people who’ve now back up that play, who’ve now said ‘Yeah I’ve used it and it helps me’. 

Sarah: Can case studies offer an opportunity for learning? 

Evadney: When we ask for client testimonials I will say: “Give me one thing that I can improve and one thing that you really like.”

I  go through all of the feedback poems forms and I have a look at the things that they say we could improve on, and if it’s something that we can do, then we improve it. Saying ‘it’s a great course’ is wonderful but I also want to know what I could do to make it even better. Sarah:Can you give our readers one top tip? 

Evadney: Whatever it is you want the press to cover, coin it in a story. Make it a story 

Sarah: What do you think of Case Study Ninja? 

Evadney: What you’re doing is really interesting to me because case studies are vital, they are the backbone of what we need to be able to offer the journalist so that we can get whatever it is that we’re doing covered. 

What I like is the simplicity and that really is vital because we‘re bombarded with different apps and products and online. No matter how we think we’re pretty on the ball with using internet, you’re using so many different types of software you just want one that I can just put the basic information into and then it churns out something that looks amazing. 

I think that for every business, it doesn’t matter what your business is, case studies are vital. People don’t always recognize it, but it’s vital no matter what service you’re in. People want to know what your users experience has been and therefore this is amazing. 

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