Your case study doesn’t have to die a silent death on your website. Journalists will love to publish your story in their magazine or on their website. But you’ll have to do some tweaking first.
So, you have written a case study. You were able to convince your customer to spend some of her valuable time to work with you on fleshing out her problem and challenges, how she used your product to solve that problem, and even the results she was able to achieve with your product.
Now that the case study is written, designed, and put on our website’s download section, we can all go and have a little nap, right?
Well, not quite.
Far too many content projects stop right there. Unfortunately, the work is not done with the content creation phase. When you have released your case study to the world, it’s time to put on the content promotion hat. After all, you put so much effort in putting the damn thing together, that it would be a shame if it died a slow and certain death somewhere in the deep vaults of your download corner. Content promotion means sharing your case study on your social media channels, including it in your next newsletter, or posting it on your blog.
Closely related to content promotion is content repurposing. By this I mean adapting your case study to another channel. It’s another way of maximizing the return on investment of your time and resources. One of the most cited repurposing methods is making a bigger content piece of a series of blog posts. But content repurposing also makes perfect sense for a case study. One of the channels you can repurpose it to is the trade press.
Content repurposing maximizes the return on investment of your content creation efforts.
Trade magazines are publications that are geared to people who work in a specific industry. The content from trade magazines usually comes from a dedicated editorial team, sometimes complemented by freelance writers. But a lot of publications also welcome content from their advertisers. And that’s where your case study comes in.
For many B2B and industrial content marketers, trade magazines are a great additional channel in their content marketing program. In fact, many trade magazines are hungry for your content. Think about those poor journalists who need to fill their pages, chasing deadline after deadline. Your content is doing them a favor.
A lot of trade publications welcome content from their advertisers. That’s where your case study comes in.
Magazines like to have a varied offer of articles, and a case study from your company fits perfectly between the other types of articles, such as industry news, interviews, or event reports.
But why would you want your case study to appear in the trade press anyway?
- The extra eyeballs: Irrespective of whether your company is spending advertising money on that trade magazine or not, chances are that this publication is exactly targeting the audience that you’re after. By repurposing your case study for the trade press, you are expanding your audience.
- The authority: The fact that a third party (not yourself, not your customer) is shining a light on your company, gives your content authority and impartiality.
Or at least an air of authority. Not all trade magazines are created equal. In my experience, a lot of them do have high quality standards when it comes to content and journalistic ethics. But magazines have to make money too. Very often, editorial content from advertisers is traded for advertising space. Of course, this reduces the credibility of your content to a certain degree.
Another caveat I have, is that the authority of the trade press has suffered a lot in recent years, not in the least because of people like us, content marketers. Content marketing gurus worldwide have urged companies to become their own publisher and trade in their advertising budgets for content production budgets.
Still, all caveats aside, I still think repurposing your case study to your favorite trade magazine is worth the effort.
Magazines love your case studies. Your case studies benefit from your magazines’ broad audiences. It’s a win-win. So, how do we get our case study in those magazine pages?
Repurposing your case study for trade magazines is not that hard. But here are a few handy tips (you might say ‘duh’ with some of them) to improve your chances of getting published.
1. Make sure your content is a good fit for your target publication.
OK, maybe that’s the first ‘duh’ tip for you. Before even thinking about mailing your case study to the editor, be sure to do your homework first. Ask yourself who is reading this publication is and whether the magazine is either focused on technology or on business news and general market trends.
Some magazines focus on the technical side of things. They are read by engineers that want to follow the latest technology trends. EE Times, a website platform and print magazine for the electronics industry, is a good example of that. EE Times publishes highly technical articles about electronics and is focused on a well-defined target group of engineers. If the case study you are pitching to the magazine focuses a lot on the technology behind your product, it might be a good fit for such a magazine.
Other magazines like to focus more on market trends and industry news. These types of publications are typically read by professionals with a more general skill set, such as managers and C-level people. ITS International, a magazine for the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) industry, is a very good example of that. For this type of magazine, you might want to focus on the implementation of your product in a specific market and how well it is performing, not on the actual technology behind your product.
2. Check editorial calendar for features
Trade magazines make yearly editorial plans and have a pretty good idea which topics they will be talking about. If you visit the website of your trade magazine, usually you will be able to find a ‘media kit’. This is a document that outlines all the information advertisers need to be featured in that magazine, either by means of advertising or by editorial content.
By checking your magazine’s editorial calendar, you can check whether your case study matches one or more featured topics. For example, have a look at the editorial calendar from ITS International for 2017:
As you can see, this magazine publishes every two months. Every issue has at least five fixed topics. If the topic of your case study happens to match one of the topics on the editorial calendar, there’s a good chance your magazine will want to include it, because it perfectly matches their content plan. Say your company has just released a case study about a customer using your Transportation Software 2.0, then May/June is the issue you want to target. In other words: the editorial calendar is the perfect guide for a good case study pitch.
3. Find your hook
You know the typical problem – solution – results structure from (badly written) case studies? Doesn’t work for magazines.
The problem – solution – results structure might be a good way to quickly present a case study on your website, but as a magazine article, it does not really stimulate the reader to really get into your story. Editors will sniff at case studies like that, because they will not meet their journalistic standards.
Magazine articles need a hook, an interesting angle, a fresh perspective. You will have to re-write your case study accordingly. Unfortunately, there’s no ready-made formula for finding a good hook. You have to make the effort and look a bit further than the end of your nose. It’s a combination of inspiration and transpiration, probably somewhere in the ratio of 20/80. Or 10/90. You get the idea.
Magazine articles need a hook, an interesting angle, a fresh perspective. You will have to re-write your case study accordingly.
Finding a hook can be a tough search for clues that can make your story interesting. But don’t make it too complicated either. Maybe you can plug your story into something remarkable that happened on the news. Maybe you can link your case study application to a bigger market or technology trend or to an opinion of some industry leader.
Somebody will have to find the hook. If you’re lucky, you will have a benevolent magazine editor who will re-write the case study for you, but don’t count on it. Better make sure your case study is pitch-ready from the start.
4. Leave out the superlatives
We know them from press releases. We have seen them in brochures and on websites. We’re talking about those horrible gobbledygook superlatives and cliché words, like game-changing, innovative, revolutionary…
Makes my stomach turn already.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend using those words in any of your marketing copy anyway, certainly not in a case study. For one thing, you don’t want to insult the intelligence of your reader. Also, think about how little credibility these words convey.
Trade journalists are even more wary about this. If they read words like this in your case study, the thrash can will be a more likely end station than the magazine pages. Again, trade magazines need to uphold their content quality standards. They need facts first and foremost. What is your case study about? What have you done for your customer and what are the results?
5. Check the editorial guidelines
Trade magazines have editorial guidelines. Following these guidelines will increase your chances of getting published. See how Municipal World, a publication about municipal governance, does this. Editorial guidelines can include:
- Guidance for the voice and tone of your writing
- A description of the typical reader profile
- The types of articles your magazine is publishing
- Required number of words
- Guidelines for images (size, image resolution, etc.)
- Whether or not to include a writer bio
- Contact information for the editors
6. Get friends with your editor
A magazine editor is not only someone you want to sell your case study to. Also consider your editor to be a helpful guide in the pitching process. Editors are there to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask them how you can improve your case study content so it will match their editorial guidelines. If you think you have a good story hook for your case study, but you’re not sure whether it’s going to resonate with your audience, don’t hesitate to run it by your editor for a second opinion.
Consider your editor as a helpful guide in the pitching process.
In the long term, it pays to maintain a friendly and professional relationship with your editor. Let him or her know that you are interested to hear about future editorial opportunities whenever they arise. Also, be proactive and regularly reach out to your editor (without being too pushy) to see if you can help out with fresh content. They will appreciate your efforts.
Let it go, let it go…
Case studies are great content marketing material, especially for B2B and technology companies. But don’t just let your case stories gather dust on your website’s download section. Repurpose your case study content for other channels as well, so you can make the most out of your time and efforts. Pitching your case study to the trade press is great way to repurpose your content, but you need to be prepared to put some time and effort into it to make it work.
One final thought maybe. When creating your case study with your customer, you probably put a lot of effort into getting the words and message right. Maybe it took several revision rounds to come to a satisfying result for both parties. Your case study might be a compromise between what you and your customer thought was the right message, but at least you had control over the content. When you submit your case study to a magazine, be prepared to let go some of that control.
When you submit your case study to a magazine, be prepared to let go some of that control.
Ultimately, it’s the editor who is going to decide how your case study is going to appear in the magazine. Maybe some parts will be left out, maybe some part will be rephrased. Live with it. Let it go. You’re going to have to trust your editor on this one. But relax, the longer you work with a magazine editor, the longer you have maintained a good relationship with your editor, the better it is going to work out for you.