Four Ways to Gain Press Coverage with Case Studies

October 23, 2019 by
Four Ways to Gain Press Coverage with Case Studies

A few years ago, when I posted a link to my article 8 Ways to Leverage Case Studies in Your Other Marketing Communications on LinkedIn, I received the following comment from a software marketing manager:

"One item I would add to your list: Industry-specific publications are always interested in customer stories."

I totally agree.

But because trade publications are not under the direct control of your marketing communications department, I wanted to talk about them separately. In fact, I admitted to that marketing manager, "I was saving that one for my next article!"

So without further ado, here are four ways to gain press coverage with case studies…

1. Pitch Case Studies to Your Favorite Trade Pubs

You probably already have a few trade journals in which you place ads and possibly articles. Publications targeted at the industries where you do business. Publications your prospects read.

Well, those same publications will almost certainly publish your case studies, if you let them.

As that software marketing manager indicated, trade media editors love case studies. "When you attach a customer story it really helps to bring to life a company's solution or initiative," says Mila D'Antonio, Editor-in-Chief at 1to1 Media (www.1to1media.com). "It's a challenge to get a good story if it doesn't have a good customer story in it." {1}

Case stories play well with trade editors for a number of reasons. They're of interest to their audience, because they show how a problem was solved. They offer documented facts rather than marketing claims. They present the story from an unbiased, third-party perspective: that of the customer. And they tell a complete story – customer, problem, solution, results.. That complete story is important to editors.

But to get your customers' stories published, you need a good submission strategy – one that meshes well with the target publication's editorial strategy. And that basically boils down to two things: the editor's preferences and his or her editorial calendar.

You need to get to know the editors at your target publications. Find out what kind of stories they're looking for, and what they're looking for in a story. Also, learn how they like to have a story pitched to them. Some want a press release. Others may prefer a bullet-point summary that's easy to scan. Still others may want to see your full case study.

In any case, it's best to already have the story written down before you pitch it to an editor. If she wants to run it, she'll likely hand the story off to a staff reporter or freelance writer. That writer will have a deadline. Having the written case study on hand will make life easier for both you and that writer.

Just as important as editors' preferences are their editorial calendars. Most trade publications make their editorial calendars public, months in advance, to attract relevant stories and advertising. You can usually get a copy from the publisher's website or by contacting the editor. These calendars indicate the major themes of each issue. Using the editorial calendar will help you choose which stories to put in front of editors – and which customers to approach for new stories – in order to match those themes.

Along with your submission strategy, you should keep the following three things in mind when pitching your case studies to trade journals.

Right of first refusal

Many editors want stories that haven't run elsewhere. Offer your favorite editors "exclusives" to let them know they have the "right of first refusal" on a story, before you take it elsewhere.

Editors will do things their way

Unless you've been offered space for a contributed article (more on this below), don't expect your entire case study to appear in print. Editors may want to use it as part of a larger story focusing on a variety of possible solutions, not just yours. Or they may want to re-write it simply to ensure the story is fresh. Your story may get cut down, your product de-emphasized.

Don't worry. It's still good publicity. The perspective is totally unbiased, and that can pique readers' curiosity to find out more.

Anticipate interview requests

If an editor hands your customer story off to a staff writer, you can expect that writer to call. He'll want to check his facts, verify their accuracy. He may want additional information to support a slightly different story angle. Check with your customer contacts ahead of time to make sure they're comfortable speaking with a reporter. That way, you can provide their contact details immediately when a reporter calls.

2. Contribute Case Studies as Bylined Articles

As I'm sure you know, the Internet has created a boom in B2B publishing. And that means more and more B2B media outlets – trade journal websites, industry portals, blogs, e-letters, as well as traditional print media – are desperate for fresh content. So along with the content they create themselves, many publish contributed articles.

And that's great news for B2B marketers who publish case studies. Most outside articles that come across a trade editor's desk are no more than veiled product pitches or recycled content readers have likely seen elsewhere. So a customer success story can really stand out.

Plus, a contributed article gives you control over what shows up in print. You're free to showcase your solution. You just need to make sure the form of your article is acceptable to the editor.

To do that, get a hold of the publication's editorial guidelines. Like the editorial calendar, these can be obtained either from the publication's website or by contacting the editor. Be sure the written case study you submit meets any word count restrictions and conforms to all the dos and don'ts.

Also, pay attention to the publication's style. Look at the headlines. Many graphics-driven publications want very short headlines (two to four words), so they can set them in large type. In such cases, you may need a subheading (the case study's original title will often work) to convey meaning and pique readers' interest. Also note the length and technical density of paragraphs, and the tone of the editorial content. Ask your writer to adjust your case study accordingly.

Next, as mentioned previously, consult the editorial calendar. Try to find the issue that will give your story the highest readership.

Finally, case study expert and former trade journalist Casey Hibbard suggests giving the article's byline to your customer. In her book, Stories that Sell: The Complete Guide to Success-Story Marketing, Hibbard writes:

"Typically, a contributed article from your organization would be 'by-lined' (as in 'By Mary Smith') by someone within your organization. However, when turning a customer story into an article, it's much more credible and powerful with most editors for your main customer contact to be the author. If you already have that customer story written, it's a simple process to repurpose it as an article written by your customer contact." {2}

3. Distribute "Story Press Releases"

Don't underestimate the newsworthiness of your case studies, even amongst publications that aren't on your target media list. According to Hibbard, many companies see PR results using a "story press release."

Rather than following the standard press release format, a story press release presents a condensed version of your case study. Emphasis should be placed on why the vendor was chosen and the results realized. And you should always include a link to the complete version of your case study.

Dozens of PR wire services will distribute your story press release via the Web. Most charge a fee, but some, like PRFree.com, PR.com and PRLog.com, also offer a free option. Levels of service and media reach vary, of course.

Issuing a press release via a wire service won't give you the precise targeting you get from approaching editors directly, but you'll get much broader coverage. You'll likely get small blurbs in a number of publications. And if you may hit the right publication at just the right time, with just the right information, they may end up doing a feature on you and your customer.

Plus, blanketing the Web with your press release – with that link you included – can raise your company's search engine profile.

4. Use Case Studies to Compete for Media Awards

Many trade publications and industry web portals sponsor annual awards celebrating the year's "top innovations" or "top new products." Many call for nominations from readers and sponsors.

Case studies provide great supporting evidence for award nominations. They also supply great material for an article in the publication's awards issue, which can improve your product's chances when editors are sorting through nominations.

Find out what awards are available through your target publications, and find out the rules for submitting nominations. Some may be case study driven. Some may require submission by a customer. In the latter case, having a written case study available can make submission easier.

Take-Away Points

1. Trade media editors (and readers) love case studies.

2. For your favorite trade journals, get to know the editorial calendar and editors' preferences, and develop a good story submission strategy.

3. When submitting case studies as contributed articles:

a. Follow the published editorial guidelines.

b. Tailor your stories to the publication's style.

c. Consider giving the by-line to your customer contact.

4. Story press releases are an effective way to gain wider media coverage of your customer successes through PR wire services.

5. Case studies make great supporting evidence for industry award nominations.

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Next Steps

Need help crafting a compelling case study that's sure to generate some positive PR for your company? Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011-569-4951. Or drop me an email at info@copyengineer.com.

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References

{1} Hibbard, Casey, Stories that Sell: The Complete Guide to Success-Story Marketing, AIM Publishers, 2009.

{2} Ibid.

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