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Shhh! Tips for Writing a Case Study When Confidentiality Is Required

Jul 7, '16 / by Mark Loehrke

Tips for Writing a Confidential Case Study

The beauty of case studies is that they’re not hypothetical. They’re real – stories about real people and real businesses and real impact. But how do you go about writing a case study that feels real when you’re not allowed to divulge all the details?

This is an issue that comes up frequently in the financial services and health care industries, where strict regulations and privacy provisions often limit the content and potential use of a case study.

What you want is to describe a real-world business case that allows the reader to see him or herself in the story:

This is a problem (just like ours!) that a company (just like us!) ran into, and this is how they solved it (just like this company can do for us!).

But what you’re stuck with is a great story to tell and very few colors to work with and no realistic way to sell it beyond a very small audience. No naming names, no social media, no press release.

So is this still a story worth telling, what with your tree falling in the forest and all?

Related Content: Dig Deeper to Find the Real Story

Almost always, any case study – even a confidentiality-bound case study – can still be an important asset in your marketing toolbox. Sure, anonymity may rob the story of some of its inherent punch, but you can still make it compelling if you keep a few tips in mind:

Avoid fluff

Resist the urge to compensate for a lack of details by adding filler to pad things out. The key to writing any good case study is to tell a good story (which starts with a good interview, by the way), but good doesn’t have to mean overloaded with unnecessary description.

Your available “real estate” limits the number of details you can provide anyway, so don’t stress over the limitations you face. The heart and soul of your case study is still the underlying business problem and how you solved it – so dive right in.

Think differently about your audience

The point of including specific names and numbers when writing a case study is to build credibility with the reader. If you’re unable to include this information, then consider targeting your case study to readers who already know and trust you.

This might be prospects who are far along in the sales cycle. These bottom-of-the-funnel leads are likely more focused on making a business case for your solution than they are on being wowed with big names and huge statistics.

Similarly, existing clients could be a great audience for blind case studies that explore new products or services – giving you a perfect opportunity to up-sell and cross-sell these relationships.

Get the language right

If you can’t divulge specific data, you can still build that desired credibility by making sure the rest of the details in your case study are 100% spot-on.

Dig deep into the challenges the case study client faced and why those challenges were so critical. Hit hard on the unique solution you delivered and the impacts of that solution. Make sure your language mirrors the language your target audience uses, so that your story still resonates powerfully for the reader.

Related Content: The Best Way to Uncover Customer Pain Points

Above all, follow the rules

Whether it’s HIPPAA, the SEC or just a client’s internal policy holding your reins tight, the worst thing you can do is skirt those restrictions by strongly hinting at details you’re required to hold back.

For example, if you provide three very telling pieces of information about a company or patient without actually naming names, it won’t matter that you followed the letter of the law. Violating the spirit of the law will be just as damning when the truth is discovered.

Looking for more help with writing your case studies – or any other aspect of your content marketing? Clariant can help you identify your best opportunities with a free inbound assessment. Contact us today to get started!

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Topics: Content Marketing

Mark Loehrke
Written by Mark Loehrke

Throughout my career, I've covered a huge range of topics – from asset-liability management to up-and-coming jazz artists. I know what it takes to sell an idea, and I write content that informs and entertains in equal measure.

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