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Top tips for selling-in real life features to the media

Last month we shared some insider secrets on the fundamentals of successfully securing coverage with UK TV and radio outlets. If you missed it take a look here.

Following on from that, we’ve decided to take an in-depth look at the power of a strong case study that can lead to the kind of compelling real life feature the British media loves. First though, let’s look at what a case study actually is.

In the simplest terms, a case study can be a set of facts and research, or a real life example that shows clear value in a product or service. In B2B circles this would usually be focussed on statistical information, when it comes to a consumer audience, though, journalists need a human element that speaks to empathetic readers. 

When packaged correctly, the information sent to publications should explain the benefits of what a brand is selling, ensuring the company message is clearly articulated, and relate to newsworthy issues. By ‘humanising’ a story you bring it to life in bold colour, effectively delivering a complete real life feature specifically aimed at the relevant audience, who will find it both engaging and useful.

Here are some recent examples we have worked on…


Melanoma UK

The heartbreaking story of Sarah Brooks is another example of a highly personal case study, whereby an individual’s tragic story has been sympathetically used to deliver brand message. In this case, the work of Melanoma UK to try and educate people on the dangers of UV-damaged skin, and its campaign for a total ban on sun beds.

Working with the organisation’s founder, Gill Nuttall, we were signposted to the story, made contact with Mrs Brooks and explained the idea of harnessing this highly sensitive example in order to inform other members of the public. Representatives of the Smoking Gun team then sat down with all parties to conduct interviews once we had confirmed the availability of press assets such as images documenting full story. You can read the outcome of this on Mail Online here.  

FMCG beauty brand

Sometimes a great case study for a real life feature comes to you, and there’s really nothing better than members of the public stepping up of their own volition to become great brand ambassadors. For example a mother sharing to Facebook how she used a cheap moisturiser on her daughter’s eczema, with incredible results. 

Global virality and national retailers selling out, what more could a brand hope for? And the best part of this beautiful yarn is the fact it was genuinely unprompted— authentic, fan-based, emotional story telling. The clever trick was knowing how to maximise the opportunity for long term impact on reputation and sales, but you’ll need to talk to us directly if you want to know more about that.   

Enough examples, we want tips

Needless to say, though, it’s not merely a case of delivering worthwhile information that lends itself naturally to a compelling piece of journalism.

There are several steps that should be taken to increase the chances of your work being picked up. We asked our in-house experts to share some of their wisdom, so here are our top tips for selling-in case studies to the media:

*A strong case study is all about personalisation and personalities— A set of numbers can be interesting, but ensuring there is a real person to focus on adds a compelling edge to the information. The more intimate details that can be included the better, as this human element promotes empathy and sympathy, core aspects of strong news stories.

*Visual examples are essential— A picture tells 1,000 words, they say, and this is never truer than with case studies. It’s no use simply making claims with text, the press will want to see examples for themselves, and so will consumers. ‘Before and After’ imagery is therefore a pre-requisite, and video content is even better.

*Find the news angle— You could have the best case study in the world, but if it’s not timely the chances of it working are low. Spend time working out how yours can fit in with the current news agenda, because this is the bottom line when it comes to how editors decide which stories to run, and which to leave unpublished.

*Include brand message, authentically— Nothing is more off-putting to a journalist than when brand message is tacked onto interesting information. Editorial is not advertising, and the press have to be careful how references to businesses appear. As such, if you want to score a media hit with full brand message it must fit with the story naturally, rather than feeling shoe-horned.

*Think like the press, so be succinct—. The research may have taken months, but it needs to be presented with brevity and in a format that can be understood quickly. Your goal is showing how situation A became outcome C via the use of brand B, or similar, so stay focussed. Break up the information, clearly highlight the results and never, ever ramble.

*And finally that headline— The final news story won’t be the same as the case study verbatim, but your case study should look like a news story. What’s the point in using a title like ‘Baby Moisturiser found to have benefits for eczema sufferers’ when you could have opted for ‘Mother finds surprise cure for eczema ’, which has much more immediate impact.

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