How to craft a compelling case study

Hands of two women holding coffees while sitting at wooden table

True stories from people your organisation supports can provide a valuable, objective endorsement of the services you provide. Whether you’re in the business of delivering groceries, fuelling family cars, or supporting families experiencing crisis, case studies are powerful content. So how do you craft a case study – and do it well?

Top tips for crafting a case study

1. Unearth and connect with people who’ve had a good experience with your organisation

Stories are at the heart of human connection. We relate to each other by sharing experiences. Within most organisations, staff working on the frontline have the best access to and understanding of client experiences.

Good news stories and positive client experiences are sometimes captured through formal processes, like client feedback surveys, however personal human impact stories are usually only shared and celebrated among colleagues.

To unearth leads for potential case studies:

  • Provide avenues for staff to share positive client feedback in an informal, easy way. Consider creating a dedicated stories email address for your organisation or adding an online form to your staff intranet.
  • Encourage clients to share their experiences with you directly by creating opportunities for open communication and engagement. Online forms, email addresses, phone numbers and paper-based forms could work for you depending on the communications needs of your clients.
  • Build relationships with frontline staff, who have direct interaction with clients, so they can let you know about any potential stories to explore.

2. Prepare well to provide a positive experience

So you’ve found someone to chat to – great! But how are you going to approach the conversation? Depending on the nature of the story and on the client themselves, sharing an experience with someone new can be confronting. There are many ways you can support someone to feel comfortable in sharing their story.

  • Get to know them informally first by meeting for a coffee, talking about the process and how stories are shared at your organisation. This is also the ideal time to talk about their rights and options in regards to providing consent, maintaining privacy or anonymity, or withdrawing consent if things change. Ensuring people are aware of all their rights is absolutely critical in developing and sharing case studies.
  • Prepare some questions or topics of conversation ahead of time and share them with the client in advance so they can think about what they might like to say.
  • Meet in an environment that is comfortable and convenient for your client – whether it’s their home, the local park or a cafe.
  • Allow plenty of time so you don’t have to rush through the conversation.
  • Consider taking an audio recording so you aren’t busy scribbling notes while chatting. Having a notepad can also make the conversation feel more formal, which may prevent people from feeling comfortable. There are many free audio recording apps you can download to your smartphone.
  • Thank the client for sharing their experiences and let them know about next steps.

3. Tell the story – set the scene and share the successes

Finding the start of a story or the best angle is often the hardest part – and also the most important to draw the reader in. Think about what stood out from your conversation with the client – was it something they said, was it seeing the smile on their face, how they interacted with their world, or maybe an anecdote that really resonated with you emotionally?

There are many great resources available online to help you find an angle and write your human interest story. With a case study, your narrative is likely to follow a client’s journey from:

  • their life before they engaged with your organisation or service
  • how they found and connected with your organisation or service, and
  • the positive change your organisation or service has brought to their life or the life of someone they care about.

Over time and with practice you will develop your own style and confidence in crafting a case study.

4. Close the loop and make a call to action

Through the case study, you should aim to:

  • demonstrate how your organisation supported the client to achieve a good outcome, and
  • provide a meaningful link to how other people can access your services or get involved

After taking readers through the narrative of a case study it is important to provide some guidance and next steps by adding a call to action that aligns to your business and content goals. Depending on the nature of the case study, and your audience, your call to action could be to provide a link to:

  • ways to donate or support a project
  • how to learn about or access a service or product
  • more case studies for people who’d like to read more.

I hope this guide inspires you to start storytelling in your organisation by crafting compelling case studies. Not only are they great content, they are a fantastic way to celebrate positive outcomes and experiences.

About the author

Over close to 10 years, I’ve worked within non-profit and community organisations to drive communications and marketing campaigns and initiatives. Telling great stories is a true passion of mine; and a passion I’d love to share with your organisation.

Learn more about Pen For Purpose, the copywriting, editing and content marketing services available to you, or simply get in touch to talk about your communications needs.