“Show don’t tell” is the mantra told to aspiring writers.
That’s because, as a species, we like to feel properly involved in a story, whether it’s a novel, a magazine article or a news story.
When faced with a barrage of facts there’s only so much information we humans can retain in one go.
It’s like weather forecasts. How many times have you waited for the weather forecaster to come on, then five minutes later when it’s over you struggle to remember whether you’ll need a brolly tomorrow or not?
Often, when we’re talking to clients, they’ll have some excellent information, maybe resulting from research they’ve carried out, and are naturally keen to get that news out to the media.
Sometimes, if the information is strong and topical enough, that’s all we need to entice a journalist to use it, together with some insight and commentary from our client.
But from experience, as both journalists and PR consultants, we know that to really give the story “legs” we’ll need to bring it to life, give it context and make it more relatable on a human level.
And for that, you need a case study.
Good case studies, with relevant, relatable people all affected by the issue you’re trying to get into the media, are like journalist catnip.
The next time you watch a bulletin or read a news article, see how often the journalist illustrates and amplifies the story’s importance through use of case studies.
That’s because the case study is the “show”, while the facts supporting it are the “tell”.
Last year our client, national law firm Clarke Willmott, came to us with an important story. Their Southampton team was representing a patient whose treatment at Southampton Eye Hospital had been postponed many times, and as a result he’d come to significant harm.
However, with Clarke Willmott’s client wanting to retain their anonymity for perfectly good reasons, the media was uninterested.
Several months later – and with Southampton Eye Hospital back in the spotlight for delayed appointments – we once more reached out to BBC South about the story.
This time the journalist had her own case study of a patient affected by the delays, and as a result couldn’t wait to set up a pre-record interview with a Clarke Willmott expert.
The resulting story was the lead on both the tea-time and late bulletins, delivering excellent (and valuable) broadcast coverage for Clarke Willmott and its team in Southampton.
It doesn’t always pay off – gaining media coverage is a notoriously unpredictable discipline – but a great case study is one of the very best techniques to turbo-charge your PR activities.