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Case Study definition

Concept of a case study. (© Sergeyvasutin -

Concept of a case study. (© Sergeyvasutin -

A case study is an overall account of an event, an activity or something problematic. It contains either a real or a hypothetical situation that could be encountered. The purpose of a case study is to help you find out how the intricacies of real life impact a decision. From a public relations standpoint, case studies offer a tremendous amount of value. In this article, we’ll discuss the place for case studies in PR and how the benefits that they can provide.

Public relations professionals wear a lot of hats, but one of the most important hats that they were is that of a storyteller. They are constantly developing stories on behalf of their clients in order to put them into a positive position in the eye of the public.

As this industry becomes more and more integrated, public relations officials are constantly trying to come up with new ways to tell their clients’ stories. One tactic that is often overlooked but can be extremely useful and provide a number of different opportunities for developing innovative and incredible stories is the case study.

openPR tip: From the outside, a case study might look like nothing more than a hidden portion of an organization’s website that is intended to be an over-the-top customer review. In reality, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Why? – Because case studies actually provide several unique opportunities to paint a positive picture for a client.

Case Study Defined

In the life and social sciences, a case study refers to a research method that involves an up-close, highly detailed assessment  of the subject that is being studied. It also examines the subject’s contextual conditions.

A case study can be developed by adhering to a formal method of research. These types of studies are usually seen in

  • formal research venues, such as professional conferences
  • and journals; however, they can also be used in public works, making them a powerful tool for public relations.

When a case study is being developed, the “case” (the subject being examined) can be:

  • A person
  • An organization
  • An event
  • An action

A “case” can also be abstract; a claim, an argument or a proposition, for example.

Case studies rely on both qualitative and quantitative information.

The Benefits of a Case Study in Public Relations

In public relations, a case study can be an extremely powerful tool. It can be used to develop various forms of highly useful content. That content can be given to the public and can help paint a positive picture of a client.

When it’s done the right way, a case study can be used to create the following types of content:

  • A video. One of the most telling signs of an excellent story is its ability to help those who are watching it visualize all of the detail. With a video, you have the opportunity to tell a full story; a story that comes directly from the source. A video also gives you the chance to provide your audience with the visual aids that they are looking for. Prospective clients have the ability to attach a face to a name, which helps to personify the individual or organization, making it much more approachable. In fact, videos are so highly effective that most marketing professionals agree that they convert better than any other type of medium. Additionally, given the fact that the average web user spends nearly 90 percent more time on websites that contain video content, and it’s easy to tell how effective they are.
  • Press releases. The press release is the quintessential tool of all public relations professionals. It helps to paint a picture for the audience, and it also offers all of the pertinent details that make that bring that picture to life. A case study can be reworked into a press release format, giving it a newsworthy angle that journalists are looking for. In turn, your press release will become much more marketable and effective.
  • A blog post. A case study can also be used to create an awesome blog post. The case study can be transformed into a blog format, creating a conversational, informative piece of content that will allow you to speak very highly of the client you are serving. When creating a blog, you have the ability to tell the same type of story that a press release or article tells, but it’s much less formal, and you can highlight all of the benefits that your client can offer the public. While journalists might not be interested in the details that a blog post contains, the general public certainly is.
  • Media pitch. Creating a media pitch is an excellent way to grab the attention of the media, and a case study provides pertinent details that can easily be transformed into a pitch that will be sure to grab the attention of the media. In essence, a media pitch allows you to share a snipped of your story; just enough to get reporters interested. If done right, a successful media pitch can secure coverage, creating great exposure clients and customers alike.

Types of Case Studies

In public relations, there are three main types of case studies:

  • Process-orientated
  • Grounded
  • Linear

Under these more generalized case study categories are subdivisions. Each subdivision is serves a different purpose and offers different goals. These include:

  • Exploratory. These are more condenses case studies. They are executed prior to the implementation of a large-scale examination. The basic function of an exploratory case study is to identify questions and choose the best types of measurement before the main investigation is conducted.
  • Illustrative. Essentially, an illustrative case study is a descriptive study. Typically, they use no more than two instances of an event to illustrate an existing situation. These studies primarily serve to make something unfamiliar more familiar. They also supply readers with a common language that they can understand about the topic that is in question.
  • Critical instance. This type of case study look at one or more sites. The purpose is to examine a situation that is of particular interest, and there is very little, if any, interest in generalization. It can also call into question a very generalized or universal claim. In short, a critical instance case study is used to answer cause and effect questions.
  • Cumulative. The purpose of a cumulative case study is to collect information from several locations. The idea is that the collection of previous studies will provide greater generalization without spending any additional time or money on new, but possible repetitive, studies.

Writing a Case Study

A case study requires three basic elements:

  • The challenge the individual or organization faces
  • The solution
  • The benefits

Additionally, editors tend to like stories that are focused on customers and their issues over those that are laden with tons of mentions of the client.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when writing a case study:

  • Use a descriptive title that sums up the story
  • Whenever possible, use statistics
  • Avoid salesy terms, like “unique” and “marketing leading”
  • Incorporate key facts in a summer: the size, location, sector, as well as the issue and the benefits that are covered in the case study


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