I have run several training courses over the last few months, and a recurring theme has been how you tell the story of your organisation, of your impact, of your work. Borne out of this, here are my 5 top tips for writing a case study for your charity or company.
Know Your Audience:
Who are you telling your story to? The tone, the language, the length of your piece will all be influenced by who you are writing for. If you are telling your funders about a great success you had, you’ll be writing differently to writing some copy for a marketing flyer about what you do.
What Are You Expecting Your Audience To Know Already?
It is so easy to get caught up in our own area of expertise that we forget other people don’t live and breathe this the way we do. If you use an acronym, is it reasonable to think your audience will know what it means?
Read your document through at the end and ask yourself how much you are expecting your audience to infer from your text. Can you make it easier for them?
What Is Your Case Study There To Achieve?
Do you need to persuade someone to buy your product? Do you need a funding body to say yes to your idea? Do you need to give your participants something tangible to take away with them? Your case study is not entering a void. Before you start writing, take a moment to consider what this piece needs to achieve. At the end, look at your work and ask whether it is possible it will achieve this.
Tell A Story
If you have lots of data, it’s tempting to try and use it all to show your success. Can you tell the story behind your numbers? What narrative can you create? We remember stories far more easily than lots of numbers. We can pass a story on to friends and family and colleagues more easily than we can list numbers to them.
How often have you said, or heard someone say, ‘I can’t remember the exact numbers, but ….. happened’? The narrative sticks, the detail doesn’t.
Does your case study tell a compelling story?
First Do No Harm
A positive case study can do no harm, right? Wrong. There are many ways a case study can do harm, and before you send your story out into the world it is prudent to consider the harm it may do – to you, your brand and to the person or people at the centre of your story. Would your participants agree with the language you have used to describe them? Or will your case study risk excluding the very people you are aiming to include? Is your case study about a child or a young person? Can they reasonably consent to having their story told by you? What length of time are you asking them to give you permission to use it for? If you work with vulnerable people, your safeguarding procedures must include your impact statements of your work. If you work with refugees, their families may still be in danger zones, and your public story could put them in danger. Or perhaps you are overstating need and vulnerability to make the case for your project, which could backfire in the future for you or for the people you work with.
Depending on your work, the type of harm you can do with your case studies will vary, but unless you have first looked at your work and asked ‘what harm can this do?’ your story should not be released.