Case studies are a key feature of effective corporate communications, content marketing and journalism.

Case studies are a great way to highlight successes and show the human impact of your work.
Newspapers and broadcast journalists incorporate them often to delve into the personal stories within a broader issue.
 
Most major news stories feature a picture case study in addition to the long piece.
When John Howard marked a decade as the Prime Minister, I had to source a dozen case studies of families for The Courier-Mail as picture stories for the Australian Budget special.
 
All of them lived on a Howard Street in various parts of Queensland.
The theme was that as Prime Minister for such a long time, Mr Howard had shaped society so we were all “living on Howard Street”.
 
Not only did the subject families have to live on a Howard Street in a town where we could access a photographer, they also had to agree to be photographed for the paper, revealing their financial information and family details.
It was not easy to do!
 
But when the liftout came out on the day of the Budget coverage, the results were a terrific display of its human impact and the social trends of the time.
 
So what is the best way to write a case study? What does a case study include, and how do you build one?
 

Case studies highlight human stories

 
Case studies are ideal to highlight the personal impact of an issue, policy or product.
They bring out a human story and add emotion and Insight to what could be a dry topic or a complicated idea.
Case studies simplify. They allow the writer to cut to the heart of the matter and share a story in clear, jargon-free language.
 

Start with the impact

 
A great way to kick off a case study is to summarise a person’s experience in the opening paragraph.
An easy way to do this is by using the word, when, as the start: “When Rosanne Barrett was confronted by xyz, abc soon followed”.
It is also another way of quickly summarising an issue: “It was the issue that reunited the community”.
 

Explain the challenge

 
After summarising the impact with a brief and punchy intro then explain the challenge.
What has the project, initiative or product overcome to achieve this outcome?
What were the hurdles that the project, initiative or product cleared to allow the person to achieve their success.
The focus of the story is on the person, but the enabler allows the success. Your subject is the enabler.
 

Use supporting evidence

 
If there are people who you can quote, do it! Quotes add emotion and colour to a story.
Using people’s words allows the subject to sing the praises of the initiative/project/product without a direct sales pitch.
Data, facts and figures in support of your argument also add value.
 

Return to the human factor

 
Once you have included all the supporting evidence for your case study, return to the human elements.
What does this mean for the people involved?
Perhaps end with a quote or a concise summary of their experience to wrap up the case study.
 
 
Content can reinforce your authority and highlight your capability.
Barrett Comms’ Rosanne Barrett has written hundreds of case studies for The Australian and other media.
If you want help with your communications or content, contact Barrett Comms on 0425 420 024 or use the contact form.

Rosanne Barrett property writer