GET IN THE PRESS: DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE A CASE STUDY?
Journalists are always being asked by commissioning editors to find case studies. People who’ve lost weight or thrived in the face of adversity. People who’ve changed their lives/left their hated job/moved to the seaside/made a living from their hobby. Seeing your face in a magazine is great, but is it useful? Case studies give trend articles an element of ‘human interest’, and if being a positive one gives you the chance to highlight your business in the right way, along with a great accompanying picture, it can be the kind of holy grail press coverage you long for. But if the end result shows you gurning, doesn’t mention your website address or makes you sound smug or unlikeable, you may end up regretting saying ‘yes’. After all, once it’s out there on the shelves of WHSmiths, there’s no going back. Having worked extensively on both sides of the commissioning process, I have rounded up 12 key issues to consider in order to avoid the many potholes on the road to case study success.
1 What is the publication’s target market? Ask the journalist for some information on the demographic of their readership. Is it at least partially in line with your customers?
2 Ask a few questions about the ‘angle’. Is this article really going to serve your business and bring it to the right people’s attention, showing it in a good light? Will putting a link to the article on your website make you feel good?
3 Find out what other case studies are being included in the article, as this will tell you a lot about the overall feature. Does it still feel like a good fit?
4 Think carefully about the premise and who will be affected. ‘My business launch was a success against the odds’ will probably not be regrettable. ‘My marriage collapsed when my business soared’ may well be.
5 Is being a case study for the ‘wrong’ publication ever of benefit? Not often. But if it has an enormous circulation (and the article will also be on its website), you could argue that it’s still getting you ‘out there’. Remember that magazines aren’t only read by their target market but also by other journalists, plus everyone in waiting rooms, hairdressers etc. So the right article in the wrong publication can work.
6 If your story is suddenly relevant due to a news hook – e.g., you have a rare medical condition that mirrors that of a celebrity – you may find you are, briefly, like gold dust. There are a variety of websites that specialise in placing unique case studies with the right publication.
7 Many publications offer payment for a case study, especially when the story is a very personal, intrusive one. It’s pointless demanding payment, however, if you are delighted to be in the publication in question, and feel it may benefit your business. Especially as paying you can sometimes mean taking liberties with your story.
8 Ask for copy to be read back to you. Be careful the journalist hasn’t put words in your mouth to make your story more ‘juicy’. Make sure your website address is included in the copy or credits.
9 Find out what the picture requirements are – i.e., do you need to provide your own shots, what kind, and if not is the journalist arranging to send a photographer to you, or get your picture taken in a studio? Ask to see the image they are using, once chosen.
10 Develop a good relationship with the journalist and let them know at the outset WHY you are volunteering to be a case study. They will feel duty-bound to respect your wishes. If you really don’t like the way things are going, you have every right to pull out before it’s too late.
11 It’s also wise to find out if your story will definitely be used, and when, so you don’t waste your time. Case studies – and sometimes whole features – often get dropped at the last minute, and this can be heart-breaking if you’ve given a lot of your time to the journalist.
12 In the event that you get dropped – and it’s not usually the journalist’s decision – you can negotiate to get a mention of your product or service on the news pages in a future issue to compensate for your trouble.
If you would like to discuss your potential as a case study, or other ways of getting press attention for your business, contact me at Marina Gask Media firstname.lastname@example.org.