Finding and then getting people to talk is one of the hardest things about writing case studies. I should know. Back in the day, as an editorial assistant for The Guardian’s Jobs and Money section, I was regularly dispatched onto the streets of London, photographer in tow, for hours on end asking unsuspecting passers by for their opinions on the latest breaking news story.

Many would agree to be quoted, then swiftly pull out when I asked if the photographer could take their picture. This was often a deal breaker. And still is today.

Read on to find out how to overcome this and other case studies challenges...

1. Let them know what's in it for them

I was often asked to be a case study by my then editors and wrote stories based on my own experience. Photo credit: Sarah Lee

In my 20+ years of experience in this field, the trick to persuading people to talk is about sharing what’s in it for them.

Perhaps the case study you write forms the basis of an award submission, helps to gather evidence for a promotion, or a good news story they can share on their website or intranet.

Or perhaps it plays to their strengths and helps them to develop their thought-leadership skills. Whatever the angle, you need to get to the bottom of their motives for speaking out.

2. Build relationships with your customers

It’s all about the people you know…calling in favours… to get people to talk.

As a journalist for The Guardian, I was always asking my friends and family to be case studies to bring my stories to life…

I wrote about Hannah’s fashion gala, Lawrence’s buying & selling vinyl records on ebay, Daisy’s graduate debt, Sarah’s high street woes with getting clothes to fit her, Natasha’s newly qualified teacher status, Guy’s policy research, Siobhan’s eco-drive… the list could go on.

As a marketer, it’s good to get to know your customers so you can find the people who are happy and willing to talk. They will help bring life and colour to your copy and website.

3. Find the interesting angle

Weird and wonderful story angles make for great reading. As a journalist, I’m always on the look out for what’s new, what’s innovative, and what will provoke thought.

Have you ever worked out how much it costs to be a wedding guest? Back in 2003, I wrote about it costing women, on average over £1,000 to attend a friend’s hen and wedding. I interviewed those who had to turn invites down and those who’d shelled out £4,000+ to go to the nuptials of loved ones..

In 2014, I persuaded my skeptical editor to let me interview people who were embracing mobile and contactless payments, something we don’t think twice about doing now!

A year later, writing about unusual investments, I came across a couple who had bought a private toll bridge and were enjoying annual tax-free profits of £75K, thanks to the little known 1780 and 1797 Acts of Parliament.

Land’s End to John O’Groats. We’ve all heard about the cyclists, walkers, and celebs doing it but what about the pensioners using their free bus pass (for charity)? Back in 2014, I spoke to campaigners lobbying Government not to axe their ticket to ride.

For each of these stories I had to find the unusual angle to spark the audience’s interest, which came from speaking to interesting people who became case studies.

I now help clients to tease out the interesting stories from their customers. I always start with trying to find out what’s unique about their challenges and how the client solved these in innovative ways.

4. Add images, especially of people

A picture paints a thousand words, so the adage goes. And it’s true for your customers too.

Heavy text needs to be broken up into digestible chunks, interspersed by pictures. Your stories need header images too.

People love looking at people. So, images of your customers will always win over stock shots.

Not all subjects are sexy. Not all budgets stretch to newly commissioned photography. But there are ways and means of getting interesting, eye-catching images to accompany your case studies…


Find out how we can help bring your customers stories to life. Commission us to write your case studies for you. Email: [email protected]