Corporate Storytelling: Writing a Powerful Case Study

04/29/2019

When it comes to telling your organization’s story, data should be in the driver’s seatthat’s a given. But are you leaving stakeholders in the dust? No matter how good your numbers are, they won’t necessarily leave a lasting impression with your board members, investors, and clients. This is where effective narrative comes in: where numbers communicate success and stories communicate impact, helping you generate connection and engagement.

If your company offers services, gives to causes, or awards scholarships, grants, or fellowships, highlighting stories about real people can show the human side of your company, demonstrating how your work aligns with institutional goals and values. To be sure, creating quality content is more time consuming than a quick social media blast, but case studies build trust and connection that are irreplaceable. The following tips will help you get started on crafting a compelling story:

Collect Candidates

Put together a list of individuals and organizations your business has supported, perhaps with grants, donations, or scholarships. In your notes, be sure to include important dates, the reason for your acknowledgement, and relevant details you have, such as how any awarded funds was used. More recent acknowledgements will likely have to be saved for future useyou want to be sure your case study incorporates outcomes. A story in progress may be interesting but will carry little weight without tangible results.

Clarify Objectives

Establish your goals for writing a case study. Why tell one particular story over another? Which of your stakeholders do you most want to target, and why? Which story on your list is most likely to inspire your chosen audience or support your sales and marketing teams? What do you hope your readers will do when they’ve finished reading? Once you’ve answered these questions, select one story from your list that will help you achieve these goals.

Establish Contact

Reach out to the individual or organization you will be highlighting to get their permission and request an interview. This is also a good time to send some preliminary or example queries that will help you craft good interview questions. Using the features included in a submission software platform can help you collect this information, including photos or any other supplemental materials you might need.  

Make an Interview Plan

Write down what you know so far and then generate interview questions that will help you understand the story better from your interviewee’s perspective. Be sure to keep your questions open-ended, and stay curious. The best interviews are conversations rather than interrogations. Being flexible and asking spontaneous questions during the interview can also help you discover aspects of the story you might not know otherwise. Be sure the data you already have and the data you’re seeking both play a role in the questions you draft.

Shift the Focus

Before you begin writing your case study, keep in mind that the most compelling stories will not highlight your company, but rather, will serve to show how your company has played a role in supporting the goals and dreams of another person or individual. Overselling your company will be off-putting, but connecting your readers to a human story will help them see how your company is making a difference.

Borrow from Narrative Technique

Craft your case study keeping basic story structure in mind. Your narrative should have a protagonist (the individual or organization you are showcasing), and they must have a problem they are trying to solve. Establish these details early in your case study and then show how your protagonist works to overcome the challenges they encounter, your company’s role in assisting them, and the resulting impact. Be sure to use quotes from your interview to allow readers to “hear” your interviewee’s genuine voice. This will establish trust and greater connection.

Focus on Facts

Keep the story fact-based and avoid editorializing or offering opinions. You want readers to reach their own conclusions about the power and impact your company has had. Additionally, you will want to write the story in a conversational, friendly tone rather than the more formal writing you might use in a report or memo.

Guide your Readers

Be sure to end your case study with a call to action. What do you want readers to do now that they are moved by the success of the story you’ve told? Be sure to provide links to purchasing options, donation pages, surveys, applications, demo sites, or any other materials that will give readers an opportunity to get involved with your company.

Incorporate Compelling Design

Finally, get creative with your case study’s design. Using images will help draw your readers in, and if possible, adding a supplemental video to your case study will enhance engagement and inspiration.

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Using case studies to tell a story about how your company has supported real people can be an excellent way to connect with stakeholders. Be sure to think strategically about who to highlight and how before beginning, and aim for content that is personable and helps bring important data to life. With the right combination of storytelling and statistics, a great case study can be a powerful and persuasive corporate tool.

Interested in finding out about how Submittable can facilitate (and fuel) your storytelling? Please reach out anytime.

Emily Withnall

Emily Withnall works as a freelance writer and editor. Emily also teaches poetry in public schools in and outside of Missoula and in the Missoula County Detention Center. Some of her work is available at emilywithnall.com.