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Writing a Successful Case Study

By Steve Slaunwhite

As I pointed out in my previous column on case studies, readers love a good story. That's why these chronicles of success will often stand out on the editor's desk while press releases, media kits and other media communications fight a tough battle just to get noticed.

Case studies tell the story of a great product or service and a happy customer. Often (ideally) the customer is interviewed and quoted in the article.

Unlike a press release, there is no standardized format for writing a case study. They can be as short as a single paragraph, or as complex as a four-page document with sidebars, summaries, and charts. Having written hundreds over the years, I recommend they follow what I call "The Case Study Sequence."

  • The customer. In the lead paragraph, focus on your customer, not on your product or company. Gain attention with an interesting lead.
  • The challenge. Next, introduce the problem. What condition was your customer trying to change or improve? If possible, use the customer's own words in the form of a quotation.
  • The journey. What steps were taken to solve the problem? What other products or services were investigated? Why didn't these work out? Many case study writers skip this section. Don't you skip it. This is the place in the story where the reader begins to identify and empathize.
  • The discovery. How did the customer find out about you? In an ad? At a trade show? Through a media interview? This section often acts as a bridge to the remainder of the case study.
  • The solution. This is where you have unbridled freedom to pitch your product or service without fear of sounding too promotional. The earlier sections have earned you this right.
  • The implementation. How was your product or service implemented? Was there any downtime or disruption involved? How long was it before it was up and running at 100%? Be honest about any problems that arose and how they were resolved. Highlight instances where you went "the extra mile" to satisfy the customer.
  • The results. How well did your product or service solve your customer's problem? Be as specific as you can here. If possible, use hard numbers such as savings, revenue gains, sales growth, and return on investment. This is another good spot to include a customer quotation. And a great place to summarize and close your story.

Steve Slaunwhite is an award-winning copywriter and consultant specializing in marketing communications. He can be reached at 905-846-2620 or

See also:
How Media Relations Helps the Marketing Plan
7 Ways to Get More Mileage from a Case Study
Public Relations Strategy a Valuable Fundraising Tool
Getting Ink for Your New Product
Managing the Media
3 Keys to Keeping Your Marketing and PR Writing on Strategy