Tamsin Constable

Business case studies / success stories: message, stickiness and clout

We’ve all got something to say, a message we think others should hear. And perhaps the single most effective ways of doing this is to tell a story.

‘Story’ is quite a tricky concept. Not everyone has the ability, skill, time or opportunity to identify a story in the first place, never mind write it well. Sometimes, the people whose stories are the most important are also the ones whose stories are never heard. And the people who are doing the best work often struggle to explain this to others in a way that is effective.

So what is a story? And why is it so powerful?

Basically, a story is no more than weaving a series of events into a narrative where (and this is key) something happens above and beyond the events themselves. Stories work because they engage the reader, provoke some kind of emotional response and offer a satisfying experience. Like a tuning fork, they get the message to resonate with the reader. Trainee journalists spend a lot of time ‘getting’ the concept. There are entire books about it.

Today, there’s a growing realisation among businesses and public sector organisations that they can get their message across even better by adding written business case studies – business stories – to their marketing mix.

These can be written as simple, short and highly focused pieces, or they can be much longer and more in-depth.

Last week, for example, an article in the Guardian online reported on a report that the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) delivered to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan. The report looked at how many top businesses are now making biodiversity a priority – not just because it’s good for PR, but because sound stewardship of the world’s increasingly limited resources is now become a fundamental business necessity.

By including case studies from six heavyweight WBCSD member companies (Natura, Rio Tinto, Fibria, Weyerhaeuser, Volkswagen and PwC), the rather heavy report brought the concept of biodiversity-for-business to life in a way that is memorable and powerful.

Message, stickiness and clout: business case studies and success stories help get the message across.

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