There is no question that a properly prepared and sufficiently detailed case study can be a useful addition to any company’s output of press materials and collateral, complementing other content including product releases, technical articles and comment pieces. Whether for placement in a magazine serving the relevant industry sector, for use by sales staff when they visit prospective clients, or simply for placing on the company’s website, they are a valuable publicity tool.

Through them your company can highlight exactly what it is capable of. Indeed, case studies are the next best thing to a personal recommendation as they provide solid proof of your capabilities.

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However, there are a number of reasons why a potentially interesting and promotionally worthwhile case study can fall short of the mark – with the result that the resources allocated to undertaking background research, writing, amending and managing approvals can all end up being wasted. During my years in PR and tech journalism I have seen some poorly fashioned examples of this art form. Based on this experience, here are a few pointers to dodging some of the pitfalls.

Before even embarking on a case study there are a series of questions that you need answers to.

These include:

• Is the customer willing to have their name used in promotional material?

• If the answer to the first question is “no”, the next thing you must ask yourself is whether the piece will have enough impact without a specific customer name being mentioned. If so then it is still possible to carry on with a ‘generic’ case study.

• If the answer is “yes”, then there are still a couple of supplemental issues that need to be addressed – namely will the customer offer adequate support to the endeavour and will their corporate approval process slow things down too much?

• Do the individuals or teams tasked with generating the case study have the armoury of skills needed to complete it with full effectiveness?

• If the answer to this is “no”, then this probably means you should find someone externally with the capability to do the work for you in a timely fashion.

In addition, to all this the following rules must be adhered to:

• Do not approach the case study as simply an advert for your company or some sort of self-congratulatory ego trip. Such pieces fail to captivate the reader and will limit the chances of the material being published in any well-regarded media outlet.

• The piece should be well-reasoned, correctly structured and should describe the project with sufficient detail; explaining the challenges that were faced and how they were overcome, or illustrating the benefits that were derived by implementing a certain strategy.

• Both the technical and budgetary criteria that the customer had to satisfy for this project need to be catalogued and then clarification given of how your company’s technology and engineering expertise was better able to tick each of these boxes than your competitors.

• It is important to think how the reader (or magazine features editor) will view what they are reading and what they are going to get out of it that might be beneficial to them.

• You must safeguard against the customer hijacking the case study and simply promoting their capabilities rather than yours. You need to set the scene by explaining what the customer does and the market sector they occupy, but then it should move on to talk about the project itself.

You can download Pinnacle’s 10-step guide to case study composition here: