Expert View: Communications: Handle case studies with care

Using real case studies to raise awareness of an issue is a staple part of our work in the sector. Yet occasionally we forget to treat our case studies appropriately.

I was recently involved in a campaign that put forward a woman for interview to highlight an upsetting issue. She had been badly briefed, was clearly still in a state of distress and, in my opinion, should not have been used, even though she had offered to share her story.

In another instance, I came across a charity whose subjects were paid for their involvement in a media campaign - a bad precedent to set.

After giving your case study to a newspaper, it will inevitably be used online and on other platforms. Newspapers, radio and TV programmes can also be accessed on the internet. Your case studies are now global, so handling them with care is more important than ever.

Finding the right people to tell their story requires careful preparation. Spend time working with and supporting your interviewees; the more prepared they are, the better the interview they will produce.

Mental health charity Rethink has produced an excellent guide to using case studies: You and the Media. Website Volunteer Genie also offers useful information on working with journalists. Here are some tips when using real case studies.

Make sure you brief your case study in advance. Explain why they have been asked to tell their story and how the interview will be used. Let them know it is likely that their story will feature on multiple media platforms.

Remember that your case study is not used to this kind of work. Give them a rough idea of the questions they might be asked. Role playing and practice interviews can make them feel more confident.

Give the interviewer as much detailed information as possible about the subject in advance.

Make sure that the person you have put forward is the right person and has the right story to tell. You do not want to be left with an interview where your key media message is lost.

After the interview, don't forget to tell your case study how the campaign is going. Building longer-term relationships with people who provide case studies will enable you to use them on other occasions.

Remember to put together consent forms if you are recording the interviews yourselves - the interviewee should be aware of how and where the interview will be used.

Finally, don't pay your case studies. Cash incentives set a bad precedent; vouchers may be given in some cases, but think long and hard about this way of nurturing people.

 - Jude Habib is the director of sounddelivery, a media production company

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