What is a Case Study a.k.a. What is Brand Journalism?

Posted on November 8, 2011 by Nora DePalmaNo Comments

What is a case study? At its heart, a case study or a testimonial sample is an incredibly well-told story that compels people who experience it to buy into its value proposition.

“Great work. This is exactly the type of PR that makes a difference.”
-Chief Marketing Officer, American Standard Brands

Ten years into our relationship with American Standard Brands, O’Reilly/DePalma enjoyed such feedback after USA Today and The Economist travel blogs, as well as AOL News and others ran stories about how the Loews hotel chain saw maintenance calls for clogged toilets plunge 80% after the Champion 4 toilet was installed.


It all hinged on the money quote we sourced through solid brand journalism:

Maintenance calls at the Loews Portofino Bay property plunged more than 80 percent after replacing 750 Kohler® brand toilets with the American Standard Champion® 4 toilet.

We sent our findings around to influencers seeking trends in the hospitality industry and garnered fantastic coverage for American Standard and the Champion 4 toilet:

“‘Think about the embarrassment and inconvenience of a toilet clog,’ Dick Senechal, Loews’ senior vice president of facilities, who calls American Standard’s Champion 4 toilet an industry breakthrough, told me. ‘Eliminating that is a great service for our guests.’” — From Barbara DeLollis of USA Today Hotel Check-In.

“The chain has decided that enough is enough and is to upgrade the toilets across its properties. And we’re not talking any old loo. We’re talking American Standard’s Champion 4.” — From Gulliver, The Economist

“According to James Walsh, American Standard’s vice president and general manager of consumer fixtures, the Champion 4 proves that not all low-flow toilets do a crappy job. ‘The first generation of low-flow toilets had such poor performance that they left many people under the impression they weren’t, pardon the expression, worth a ‘crap,” said Walsh, whose knowledge of the inner workings of toilets has led some of his co-workers to call him ‘Professor Toilet.’” – From David Moye, AOL News

To date, this case study has garnered more than 40 million impressions and is a 2011  PRSA GA Phoenix Award winner for Feature Stories.


How do big-time “top-tier” media placements like this happen? Three not-so-simple steps:

1. Create a good quality product that solves a real problem. Your product has to do what it says it will do. Otherwise, the Internet will find you out and destroy you. Be authentic.

2. Hire people who know how to find and tell a compelling story so that prospects absorb your message. If you have never fast-forwarded through a TV ad  or clicked impatiently through a marketing message to get to the story you want to read, we permit you to believe that you can still force-feed marketing messages.

3. Do your homework to identify the best media outlet and the best journalist to tell your story to a larger audience. Tailor the pitch, keep it channel-exclusive and follow up patiently and appropriately. Think about helping someone else (the journalist) instead of pushing them.

How do you find and tell a good story? It starts by asking the right questions of the right people. In the building products industry, that requires someone with the subject-matter expertise and journalistic tact to engage homeowners, developers, builders, architects, facilities managers, designers, contractors, specifiers and designers. (Remember, people: Don’t try this with a generalist PR agency junior account executive.)

Next: What is a Case Study Part 2

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