How to write a sure fire public sector case study
Not sure to how best communicate the work you've been doing with Gov? Our Strategic Adviser Jos Creese, gives you his take on what makes a great public sector case study!
There is no doubt that practical case studies and reference examples are powerful ways of promoting your product, bringing a product to life in terms of service outcomes. Since the public sector communicates together a great deal, a good case study will travel and can help to cement a reputation for successful delivery as much as a reputation for technology innovation.
But if you are going to build a case study its important to do it well, so here are five tips to help:
Do it collaboratively
Don’t try to write a case study without the full involvement of the public service client referenced, including their marketing team. It may take a little longer, but you will avoid making errors, underplaying true value or simply irritating the client. Ideally, get the client to write parts or at least to review an early draft. In general, public service organisations are keen to promote their success and you can help! Promoting a successful digital development is good for both parties and you may be able to bring bigger marketing strength to bear than they can alone. Equally, if the public sector client is not keen (maybe for reasons of internal politics) then its best to find this out early and back off, or produce an anonymous study explaining why it needs to be confidential. Never publish without approval or based on a ‘verbal understanding’ – the public sector will be very sensitive about that.
Make it practical and punchy
Keep it short (1-2 pages unless you are writing a white paper) and focus on process as much as results. Prospective public sector clients will want to know how hard the journey was with others and how you overcame problems, not just the glittering success you both had in the end. Many case studies fail to talk about the process challenges, yet, as a CIO, this is often a differentiator in understanding the product’s potential. Indeed, how problems were dealt with is often more powerful than simply avoiding them altogether. Of course, this is why you must work with the client – they must not feel embarrassed by the disclosure of problems, and they will often be better at describing the value than your own marketing teams can. A ‘story board’ approach can work well in doing this
Be honest and personal
Don’t let your marketing colleagues go into hyper-drive in eulogising about the amazing credentials of your product. Keep it simple and honest. If you’ve a referenceable project, trying to over-sell the value wont work, and any exaggeration will quickly be exposed and potentially discredit your promotion. Without being too awkward, make it personal – its always more interesting to read quotes from a public sector leader involved, using informal and down to earth language that resonates with a public sector readership. But never lie – if the project wasn’t fully delivered for example, or perhaps only in a small scale, say so, or find a different case study.
Language and translation matter
Many technology vendors have great case studies but not necessarily within the public sector. This need not be a barrier, especially since the public sector is very keen in general to learn from the best practice in the private sector. But there needs to be a translation. So, you might want to tweak a case study from another sector and provide some covering material to explain how it could apply in the public sector. Above all, when you are writing a public sector case study, use a language that works for the audience. For example, if you are targeting a CIO community, it needs to be written in business terms and related to the challenges the public sector is facing (such as, but not limited to, efficiency). Don’t make it too ‘techie’, abstract or generic.
Make it a jolly good read
This sounds obvious, but many case studies are just plain boring. Too many words, too many tech-speak phrases (“a transformational cloud solution, enabling smart and cyber-focussed innovation in the design of public services”). Pretty but generic pictures of conceptual technology models should be avoided, especially when they could almost apply to any sector and technology type. Diagrams are good but go for simple pictures where possible which position the product and solution in terms of the public service value they bring. Ask yourself, if you changed your name to a competitor in the case study, whether it would work as well. If it does, rethink how you are promoting your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Above all make it fun to read.