Plumbing Industry Veteran Applies Product-Development Skills to Bring Clean Drinking Water to East Africa

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Water is a basic building block of life, but how often do we carefully consider its use? According to the United Nations, roughly one-fifth of the world’s population (approximately 1.2 billion people) live in areas of physical water scarcity, facing problems on a daily basis that rarely, if ever, cross the minds of those who have easy access to clean water.

Don Arnold, a 50-year veteran of the U.S. plumbing industry, immediately recognized Africa’s water problem during a mission trip to Uganda in 2008. He saw that in Africa, half the water pumps that are designed to destroy bacteria, viruses and parasites are not working because they are broken and require costly maintenance or unavailable parts. Rain is scarce, and available water is often dirty, used for both bathing and drinking by people and animals.

With his extensive knowledge and experience in plumbing products and systems, Arnold was able to formulate a solution that would significantly change the lives of the people in the villages.

“I knew that any number of water-purification options could help the situation,” Arnold explains. “But the more I spent time immersed in the realities of life in the villages, the more I saw how often devices and systems that require periodic maintenance – such as replacing a filter cartridge or adding a chemical such as chlorine – often fall into disuse.”

Utilizing “slow-sand filtration,” a basic technology that is more than 200 years old, Arnold is working with Safe Water Team-Kenya (SWT-K), a subsidiary of the Michigan nonprofit Safe Water Team, Inc., to introduce BioSand water filtration units in villages throughout that country. In this simple, yet efficient process, the bacteria in a sand-and-gravel mixture feed on other bacteria from the dirty water, thus reducing waterborne pathogens by more than 90 percent.

The cost of materials, installation and shipping is about $100 per filter, and residents are charged 300 shillings (about $2.65) for each unit. “[It] doesn’t seem like much, but that could be a week’s income for them,” he says.

Arnold hopes to expand these efforts beyond Kenya and make safe water accessible throughout East Africa. He sees his work on this project as the most rewarding of his career.

“To do something as basic as provide safe water and keep people healthy is beyond satisfying,” he says. “I wish I would have done this a long time ago. It’s making a huge difference, and I have dreams to make it even bigger.”

O’Reilly DePalma helped Arnold share his inspirational tale through several pro-bono communications efforts designed to raise monetary and volunteer support for Safe Water Team Kenya.

Don Arnold was featured in the Lake County News-Sun and Supply House Times for his efforts in East Africa. For more information on this announcement, view the complete press release here.

Good Works, Good Business | The OR-DP POV


How to Pitch Story Ideas to Dwell Magazine

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With a national circulation of approximately 325,000 trade professionals and design enthusiasts, Dwell magazine is now one of the most influential publications in the residential design and construction field. Landing content on its pages is a huge “get” for any marketer.

In a presentation during Dwell on Design in June in Los Angeles, editor in chief Amanda Dameron shared a number of insights on the best ways to approach her editorial colleagues with story ideas. Whatever the content you have in mind to pitch, it must inevitably help the Dwell staff answer a fundamental question asked of every potential feature article:

“How do we best tell a story that appeals to [design] professionals?”

Essentials: All five Dwell editors are open to receiving pitches and other correspondence. But, according to Amanda, when it comes to formal press communications, two are key: Send general-announcement press releases to senior editor Kelsey Keith ([email protected]), based at Dwell’s New York office. Direct new-product information to associate editor Diana Budds ([email protected]) at the headquarters office in San Francisco.

Projects: Scan any issue of Dwell and you will readily understand that the editors devote most of their time, interest and passion to whole-house projects. As a result, they are open to fielding suggestions from all quarters. To find first-rate project stories, Amanda’s team relies on:

  • word of mouth (“Know of a great project?”);
  • editorial outreach to favorite residential architects (“Let us know when your next project is breaking ground!”); and, believe it or not…
  • unsolicited, outside leads that arrive via letter or e-mail. As Amanda noted, even a direct and unadorned pitch — “I have a great home and want the editors at Dwell to know about it” — will likely grab the editors’ attention at least initially.

But if your pitch is to succeed, you must also get beyond your surface enthusiasms to detail what makes your project so special. What is the rationale for the house and its particular design? What were the design challenges and their solutions? What needs did the products and materials used on the project fulfill? What were the budget limitations and how were they finessed?

And, finally, no surprise here: Any project story you hope to place with Dwell must necessarily be exclusive to this publication.

Photographs: A project pitch should be accompanied by images of the exterior and interior, but “a couple is enough,” Amanda advised, adding that “you need not commission a high-priced professional” to do the picture-taking.

In the same spirit, she cautioned against making the home’s interior appear excessively groomed for the camera lens, pro or amateur. Dwell favors a “naturalistic point-of-view. We want real homes, so show us the space as it really is. Don’t hide all the household detritus for the shoot, but just enough to make the space comfortable — as you would if a good friend were coming over to visit.”

Following these few basic tips is no guarantee that your project or product is a slam-dunk to make the pages of Dwell. But Amanda made it clear that in their zeal to uncover compelling homes with compelling stories, Dwell editors stand ready to learn what in home design feeds your passions as well.

# # #

Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV


What’s the Point of Content Marketing?

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by Christine B. Whittemore

What’s the point of content marketing? Good question. If you’re like me, you are overwhelmed with the day-to-day activities associated with running your business. The last thing you want to worry about is another obligation such as creating online content.

However, as a business person, you’re aware you need to be in front of your customers when they are in the buying process.  Increasingly, the buying process begins online, at a search window, typing in words that relate to the challenge they face, to the problem they are looking to address.

If you’ve done your digital homework and created online content, you have a terrific chance of getting found online in search engine results by the people who are most likely to become customers.

Content attracts customers. Really.

The point is that online content allows you to connect with people active in the buying process.  Really.

If you think of your online presence, and particularly your company website, as the digital equivalent of your brick-and-mortar business, then you have a chance of succeeding.

Why? Because you’ll start taking seriously the presence that your online real estate creates for you. You’ll think of it as a business asset that you deploy strategically.

You’ll consider which potential customers (aka personas) come to your site and what they do once they arrive.

You’ll start thinking about the path they take before purchasing.

You’ll anticipate the questions they ask and the words they use and be ready with responses and technical references to support your stand.

Here’s the interesting part about all this. You naturally do this when you discuss your business and marketplace with your sales organization, or when a potential customer approaches you in person.

All you need to do, then, to create online content is make multiple use of what you naturally do in support of your business:

  • Publish on your website or your blog answers to the questions potential customers ask you using the language they use. Do so regularly and consistently.
  • Explain how you, your organization and your associates are different from other resources. Be sure to highlight how those differences create value for your prospects. You may be bigger and better, but who cares if that means more bureaucracy for customers to wade through!
  •  Share your message using multiple media. In addition to your website and blog, publish updates on the social networks relevant to your customer audience – perhaps that’s LinkedIn or during a Twitter Chat. Don’t forget the power of a conversational follow up email after a phone call.

Online content is effective; it’s useful; it works for you 24/7 and it can help you build customer relationships.

After all, in a world where people are busy, don’t want to waste time, don’t trust marketing pitches and tend to do their own research before making a buying decision, online content rules.


O'Reilly DePalma content to conversions results

Good optimized content converts to leads

It supports the sales process and helps build relationships with customers over time and across the phases of the buying process. It allows you to humanize yourself, your company, your employees and your solutions for prospective customers. In the process, you not only educate them, but you pre-qualify them to do business with you.

The final point of online content is that you are able to measure what works and what doesn’t by observing website analytics and evaluating performance – something not as easily available offline.

Ready to commit to online content now?

(Note: O’Reilly DePalma is ready to commit to online content!  Realizing that we also get caught up in the daily service of our clients and running our business, we’re happy to announce that we’ve retained Christine Whittemore, Chief Simplifier of Simple Marketing Now to guest-blog for us once a month, on topics of content marketing, lead generation, and customer relationship marketing.  Christine and Nora DePalma met via Twitter in 2010, and have been collaborating ever since. For examples of our collaboration,  follow Mr. Steam at


Content Marketing Insights | The OR-DP POV


Trade Show Marketing: Three Surefire Ways to Reach the Media

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Considering a new-product launch? Want to give it a running start?

You may not believe it any more, but trade shows were actually invented for this sort of activity. Our recent economic woes have taken much of the shine off product shows. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that tomorrow’s trade shows will — and must — look very different than their predecessors. But as a tool for reaching a critical mass of your core audience in a single time and place, the trade-show model still has a lot of life left in it.

Of course, not every industry player attends a given trade show in a given year. Even those who do may not find your booth. And even those who drop by may well forget most of what they saw once they return to their daily routines.

That is why a big part of your show-floor, product-launch strategy should include an aggressive outreach to all media in attendance: print, digital and – if available –broadcast. Your primary role at these events is to identify, package and convey your news to these folks, so they, in turn, are better able to deliver this news to their audiences; i.e., your customers and prospects. Except for word of mouth and referrals from friends, those audiences will likely find what the media have to say about your product the most convincing stimulus to action.

What are the most effective ways to connect with media attending a trade show? A mix of methods typically works best. Here are a few of the most important:

Hold a “presser”: If you have a major new product to unveil, a press conference early on Day 1 can be the best way to grab the media’s attention at a show. These events are often held before the show officially opens, so you have the media’s undivided attention — and they yours, because no customers are around. Having your CEO or some other senior exec lead the presentation is the best way to assure preliminary interest and a bias to attend, especially if your event is up against other press opportunities happening concurrently. Like all of us, managing our schedules, the media focus inevitably on the stature of the speaker as well as the relevance of the news.

Offer one-on-one interviews: The downside of a press conference — from the media’s point of view — is that every attending scribe is hearing exactly the same presentation. Sure, that’s great for your messaging, but remember: The media must set themselves apart from their competitors, too. So, reinforce your presser by offering top-tier media outlets one-on-one time with a senior company manager — well out of earshot from any rivals. Given an opportunity to ask his or her own questions in private, the editor can create his/her own slant on the story. The benefit for your brand and your new product may ultimately be stronger coverage in the form of a bigger story or one that more fully presents your product’s best selling points.

Always conduct booth tours: Not every editor will attend your press conference. Not everyone will make the time for a one-on-one meeting. Regardless, be sure to offer every media attendee an appointment for a personalized tour of your booth. This will allow you to present your new-product story in vivid detail, as well as to make certain the media carry away any press materials you have created for the occasion. (More on what those should look like at another time.)

Just as importantly, it will give you a prime chance to get to know each media member better, both professionally and personally: What sorts of topics and stories is the editor/blogger/producer pursuing? How might our new product fit into her plans? How might our company otherwise support that pursuit — both today and in the future?

In short: How can you help the media, not just how can the media help you?

Even if you have no new product to launch at a particular show, the booth tour is an excellent way to build and sustain relationships with the media. Forget the notion of “taking a show off” because “we have nothing new to say.” The media is always writing about something; always looking for ideas, projects and personalities; always open to substantive input when chronicling the story of the industries they cover.

In the end, building relationships with media members, one at a time, is the most effective way to make sure your company remains an integral part of that ongoing story.

Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV | Trade Marketing Insights


Super Content

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Whenever anyone points to branded content as the big new thing in marketing, I have three words for them: Super Bowl ads.

An entire segment of the population watches the game exclusively for the ads. Including me in those years when the game doesn’t involve the Giants, the Packers, the Eagles, or the Falcons (such as last night-at least until it got interesting after the blackout).

According to Wikipedia, super content in Super Bowl ads started to emerge in the 1970s with the classic Master Lock ad, as well as Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene” ad.  Then the  folks at Apple brought us “1984″ and it was game over for lame advertising in front of the biggest TV audience of the year.

Now with the advent of self-publishing, similarly great content doesn’t need to reach the biggest audience, it just needs to connect with the most important audience, prospects who can be converted to customers.  Here’s an “ad” for Mr. Steam home steam showers you won’t see in today’s USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter, that stays true to the power of short-form, entertaining storytelling:

MrSteam: Work It Out or Steam It Out?.  Way better than Go Daddy, we think.

In my house, we enjoyed two new social media twists in last night’s content:

1. Pepsi hijacking the “Coke Chase” ad with it’s own video. Not the most entertaining of videos, but intriguing in the sense of how self-published content creates buzz and talk value without that pesky Super Bowl ad price tag.  (And late-breaking shoutout to Coke for a rebuttal video to Pepsi’s rebuttal video, issuing in a new era of cola content wars with this memorable copy:  “…it doesn’t take an esteemed actor to see that sequels never surpass the real thing.”)

2. Also, the Oreo brand team, on the ball as the lights went out in New Orleans, serving up this tasty nugget on Twitter and Facebook:

At this hour, this simple graphic has garnered almost 800 comments, 19,800 likes and almost 6,700 shares on Facebook.

One thing is true for all these examples: it takes talent.  For every CFO who believes a $15/hr copywriter is all it takes to fill a blog, there are forward-looking brands who know the true value of investing in good content.

Super content.

Content Marketing Insights | Social Marketing Insights | The OR-DP POV


Social Media and Marketing Tips: Top 10 Blog Posts of 2012

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In 2012 everyone at O’Reilly-DePalma learned a lot, and had so many amazing conversations, both in real life and in the Twitter-verse. We realized the value of bringing the fun to conferences and trade shows, and navigated the sometimes confusing waters of SEO and social media. We looked at building clout in the industry and building Klout on Twitter. We even learned a couple of dance moves from a Rockette. (See: bringing the fun.)

We’re pleased to share this list of our ten most popular blog posts in 2012, and we hope these ideas and insights have been as useful to you as they have been to us:

This Just In: Social Media for Natural Disaster News: It’s not hard to imagine why this post was the #1 most read in 2012. Social media can be a lightning-fast way to share news and even quickly provide aid to families affected by disasters, whether natural or man made.

CES Loses Clout as New Products Launch Pad: We take a look at why industry trade shows have lost their impact and influence over the past few years, and also examine what some shows are doing right. (Hint: incorporating some fun into your booth is the way to go.)

eTail 2012 – 10 Things Building Products Marketers Need to Know: A nice girl from the building products industry shares ten amazing lessons on technology, social media, and online marketing that are relevant for almost any industry.

Building Relationships on Twitter with Stacy Garcia: We loved doing this interview with Stacy Garcia, the brains behind the popular KBTribeChat on Twitter. This post includes some really helpful insights into using social media to build a business.

A Klout Definition, As Best We Can: This post from 2011, in which we help untangle the real meaning of a Klout score, remained popular last year. Klout isn’t the ultimate measure of a person’s influence, but it can be a helpful evaluation tool.

Curation Nation - 10 Community Building Tips from #AtomicChat: Yes, Twitter conversations can help build your brand. We look at how to curate your social media content to effectively appeal to your target audience without wasting time or effort.

What Do Pandas and Penguins Have to Do with Your Marketing Strategy? Google updates its algorithms to keep over-optimized, spammy websites from rising to the top of search results. How do you make sure your websites are the cream of the crop under the new rules?

Brand Engagement Lessons from BlogHer 2012: Our overview of the highlights of brand engagement (featuring the Rockettes and pedicures) at BlogHer 2012. Creativity is key!

McDonald’s Redesign: Think Presentation and Environment Don’t Matter? OR-DP looks at the amazing effects a store redesign had on overall sales and even interest in new products at McDonalds.

Altitude Design Summer - New Model for Industry Conferences: You may have never heard of this conference, but if getting attention from influential design bloggers is your goal, this conference is the place to be.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when we’ll share our top ten Client News blog posts. Happy New Year, everyone!

Content Marketing Insights | Public Relations Insights | Social Marketing Insights | The OR-DP POV | Trade Marketing Insights


Curation Nation - 10 Community Building Tips from #AtomicChat

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Content curation may just be the most misunderstood piece of the social media puzzle.

Not to mention the most underestimated skill set, especially for building products.

Curating content. Also known as being an editor.

It’s a special skill to provide content that draws and keeps a crowd. In the old days, some six or seven years ago, we called these people “editors.”

The best editors could quickly sort through volumes of junk to present the most interesting and relevant content that would engage their audience and keep them subscribing or tuning in for more. Brands paid for that skill with advertising and sponsorships, because good editors attracted a critical mass of their best prospects.

Now brands can attract their own prospects, but many fall way short, because they continue to think like marketers, not editors.  Too many marketers remain focused on what they want to say, vs. what their prospects want to hear.  “Curation saves your community time!” noted a participant in last night’s  #atomicchat on Twitter. Led by @JamesHicks of Hicks New Media, last night’s chat provided tips on how content curation can build a better community:

1. Stop, look and listen. What does your target audience discuss? What gets them fired up?

 RT @LindsayFultz: @mnashevents If you enlist and empower community, you’re never alone:)

@jameshicks: By linking to and collaborating with thought leaders in your industry page views, mentions and leads will come.

2. Smart curating demonstrates your value to customer prospects.

@Versalytics: Curating helps - indicates market awareness, opportunities, short falls.

@jameshicks By providing quality content from other trusted sources you build on your relevancy and build on the sense of community

3. Stimulate different senses with different types of content.

@jameshicks: Think different content types - text, audio and video content - to increase amplification

4. Develop an editorial calendar, but be ready to jump on “breaking” news, if the community is buzzing about something.

@jameshicks My content creation is most successful when I schedule time for it.

@jameshicks: breaking news and also the ability to analyze the news

5. Curating is different from stealing.

@jameshicks:  First and foremost always provide proper attribution back to the originating source

6. Curation attracts the right prospects through organic search.

@Shelby_Thev Content marketing and SEO go hand in hand.

7. Expect to invest time in curation.

@Modenus: ‘Free for all’ is easier and faster but curated is long lived substance.

8. Make the most of your curation investment with tools.

@LindsayFultz: Curation tools to check out that help SEO: @atomic_reach, @listly, @ranker & @markerly.

9. Also make the most of your curation investment by sharing the content on multiple platforms.

@Atomic_Reach: Round up top articles and use curation in newsletters, all social networks, blog posts, etc.

10. Recognize that curation IS marketing. It’s just different, requiring a different skill set.

@LindsayFultz: Brand advocates - most trusted WOM and for most part, only cost time (listen, engage, promote, empower)

#AtomicChat occurs on Twitter every Monday at 9 pm ET, led by Atomic Reach, a curation platform that helps brands and bloggers.


Content Marketing Insights | The OR-DP POV


Bathroom Blogfest 2012. BTW, What’s a Blogfest?

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What is Bathroom Blogfest?

More to the point, what’s a blogfest?

Even more to the point: why should you care?

A blogfest, also known as a blogoff or bloghop, is a social marketing technique that builds valuable inbound links among bloggers, builds community and comments, generates targeted impressions, and increases organic search visibility.

Bathroom Blogfest 2012, with its theme “Still Climbing Out”  is dedicated to the topic of the “customer experience in the bathroom.”  Every contributor is challenged to make the content compelling. Last year, the O’Reilly-DePalma contribution to the theme Climbing Out was about the challenges of my aging parents in a typical home bathroom

In 2010, the Mad-Men inspired 60s-theme gave us the chance to engage our American Standard client’s Professor Toilet blog in some retro advertising fun:

Now in its seventh year, Bathroom Blogfest participants include interior designers, health and wellness experts, marketing, public relations and customer service professionals, retailers and bathroom products manufacturers.

“The purpose of Bathroom Blogfest is to build online relationships and conversations about an intensely compelling topic,” says Christine B. Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now, who organizes the yearly Bathroom Blogfest.

Bonus Impressions and Links from #kbtribechat on Twitter

As with last year’s Bathroom Blogfest, this year’s content receives increased visibility via the weekly #kbtribechat on Twitter.  Christine and I are hosting “Still Climbing Out: Bathroom Design After Cancer,” inspired by breast cancer awareness month and a question posted online by design blogger Lisa M. Smith (Decor Girl) seeking special shower design ideas for a friend with advanced cancer. Join us TODAY for #kbtribechat at 2 pm ET.

Watch how it all comes together this week, reading the bloggers listed below, following along on Twitter with the hastag #BathroomEXP or liking Bathroom Blogfest on Facebook.

With the entire building industry—not just bathrooms—in the process of climbing out after some slow years, the power of top-notch content and smart social marketing to attract sales prospects is a vastly underestimated power in the hands of marketers.  Make it part of your 2013 plans.

Name Twitter Username Blog Name Blog URL
Susan Abbott susanabbott theIdeaStudio
Laurence Borel blogtillyoudrop blog till you drop
Bill Buyok AventeTile Avente Tile Talk
Jeanne Byington jmbyington The Importance of Earnest Service
Nora DePalma steamtherapy The Mr. Steam SteamTherapy Blog
Mr. Steam noradepalma OR-DP POV
Stacy Garcia kbtribechat kbtribe
Diane Kazan dkazan Public Bathroom Blog
Arpi Nalbandian Arpi_Nalb Avente Tile Talk
Victoria & Shelley Redshaw & Pond scarletopus Scarlet Opus Trends Blog
Sandy Renshaw sandyrenshaw Purple Wren
Bruce D. Sanders rimtailing RIMtailing
Paige Smith none Tile tips from installation professionals
Todd Vendituoli TALV58 Thebuildingblox
Shannon Vogel cyswebsites From the Floors Up
CB Whittemore cbwhittemore Content Talks Business Blog
Irene Williams crossvilleinc Elevate Your Space
Linda Wright skiptotheloo Skip to the Loo!

Social Marketing Insights | The OR-DP POV


Effective Marketing Communications to Millennials: Socializing and Strategy

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So your building products brand has a Twitter account, and an iPhone app is in the works. Think that’s effective marketing communications to successfully engage Millennials? A new generation is beginning to buy starter homes and tackle home improvement projects, and their attitudes toward advertising and branding are vastly different than other age groups. Millennials – young people ages 16 to about 34 – are sophisticated consumers who are fluent in technology, heavy users of social media, and they can see right through traditional advertising techniques.

Here are a few tips for successfully engaging these young consumers:

Give something back. A study by PR News found that Millennials are 7% more likely to choose a product if the purchase supports a cause than non-Millennials. If your brand supports a cause, especially a cause the brand shares a relevant and authentic connection to, it can be easier to gain the attention and respect of the Millennial generation according to a study by Cone Inc. and AMP.

Cause marketing can also be an excellent loyalty strategy when targeting young consumers: Millennials who feel a deep commitment to a cause can be more likely to develop a “strong personal relationship” with a brand that supports that cause.

Be a smart social butterfly. The importance of having a social media presence for your brand is old news by now, but make sure you’re managing your accounts in a thoughtful way. Social media is first and foremost about interaction, so don’t just broadcast promotional posts and tweets and call it a day. Look at what your target audience is already chatting about and converse, don’t sell.

Millennials want the opportunity to speak to and about your brand. Ask them engaging questions through your social media accounts, and provide space to rate and review products. The younger generation can be turned off by straight marketing pitches, so conversation is key.

Creativity counts. One of the best ways to gain the attention of Millennials is to produce fun, creative social content. A relatively small investment in creating a unique campaign on Facebook or YouTube can result in millions of impressions if the content is appealing to young consumers and they find it to be something that is worth sharing.

This point is particularly key in the building products industry. Prospects need education on the process and the products. Edutainment fits the bill: inspiring confidence and action.

Finally: keep your messaging consistent across all your earned, owned and paid media outreach. Not only will you maximize awareness, you build trust with a generation that has an innate mistrust of marketers.

The OR-DP POV | Trade Marketing Insights


What Makes a Good Case Study?

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Everyone appreciates a good case study…

…especially manufacturers, looking for a credible way to depict the value propositions of their products in real-world settings through third-party testimonials;

…especially specifiers, builders and installers, looking to showcase their most attention-worthy projects and the professional skills that brought them to a successful conclusion;

…especially the media, always in need of compelling, newsworthy editorial that they may not have the time, the resources or the good fortune to uncover themselves;

…especially the readers of these case studies, trade and consumer, seeking innovative ideas to make their own lives easier, more productive and more fulfilling.

In many instances, these case studies — “project profiles” might be a more accurate term — are rendered briefly, sometimes with simple bullet points: a quick overview of the most salient details. It is enough to celebrate a high-profile project, allow for a quick bow by the key participants, while underlining critical role the highlighted product played in it.

But our changing media landscape now offers more opportunities for another type of case study, one that permits deeper storytelling and a genuine narrative arc. The editors who solicit — or are at least receptive — to this longer-form case study will likely insist that branding on behalf of a manufacturer or product be removed. But if one of their readers tells your product story through his on-the-job experiences, that is a more believable approach that is readily embraced by many editors.

So what are the core elements of a successful, B-to-B case study these days?

Compelling story line: If the project is large or prestigious, perhaps headed to LEED Platinum status or a high-profile design award, etc., that certainly helps. But a high profile is not essential to success. The best story lines involve problem-solving: What kinds of challenges did the individual at the center of the “action” encounter? How did the chosen product (yours) help him meet these challenges? Finally, what were the payoffs — preferably in tangible, measureable benefits — for all involved?

Credible players telling the story: Readers — and the editors who serve them — tend to place greater value on the words and experiences of other readers: people who do exactly what they do for a living. That’s why testimonial advertising is such a staple of business-to-business advertising. A professional reliving his successful saga for the edification of his like-minded brethren is compelling stuff, because it’s so easy readers to imagine themselves grappling with similar circumstances. “If that product/system/method helped that guy succeed, hey, maybe I should give it a shot, too.”

Captivating pictures enhancing the story: If you’re tempted to skimp in this area, don’t. Chances are, the editors already have had to themselves, which is why they need your help. Whether working in print or online, editors love good images because they bring readers closer to the action, while making stories more real and — best-case scenario — more comprehensible. Last, but far from least, excellent photography adds luster to any story, as well as to the media hosting or publishing it.

In short, excellent photography or illustration is the capstone of a well-conceived and well-written case study. It is an essential ingredient the media’s cultivation of loyal, enthusiastic audiences who believe and value what they are reading.

For more on the art of the case study, check out our three part series on a builders materials case study completed by O’Reilly-DePalma that garnered over 40 million impressions.

Content Marketing Insights | Public Relations Insights | The OR-DP POV | Trade Marketing Insights

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