Let’s explore the secrets to wielding your voice in writing client stories. In this post, I give you one of the concepts that constitute a classic case study. Use them to portray your customer as a hero and your brand and solution as their guide.
Letting Your Voice Out
All writers have voice. Most case study authors avoid sounding personal at all costs. But to portray a hero well, a storyteller must illustrate the main character’s personality, virtues, and fears. No client story will endure beyond the sales cycle without echoing its characters’ humanity. Identity is what engages a reader in story.
As the driver of all economies and business, mankind should take center stage in every corporate success story. A brand or solution shines most brightly when it exposes both the acts of courage and the foibles of a patron—the two poles in the universal compass of heroic feat. Readers are filled with warmth when, in unexpected contexts, they encounter experiences and images common to human lot in all places and times.
Making the Unknown Familiar
The commonplace. Ordinary people. They are what makes any story hero-driven. A success story needs elemental quality to penetrate our senses. No matter how technical, innovative, fiscal or abstract a solution, the business writer is responsible for translating its value in a language people can relate. Figures of speech that personify purpose and solutions, metaphors that connect notions to nature, similes and roles that resonate with our ecological existence all bring technical processes to life, turn abstract solutions to concrete answers, and fiscal projections to human connections.
Making the Familiar Meaningful
A case study is most compelling when it combines success summary with personal subplot, or summary with scenes. Together, they herald the relevance of the solution not only to the company but also, and not less meaningfully, to the individual. Subplots and scenes are best remembered when they ignite our senses. To do this, a client story writer needs to allude to customary activities of life and natural settings using words that awaken our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic perceptions.
A character comes to life thru sensory associations. Good or bad, his tastes, visions, beliefs emanate in the objects, sounds, forms, and motions he picks. A hero’s words—spoken and unspoken, reactions, pains, choices, hopes, joys, values make clearer sense when they engage our multiple senses.
Turning Meaning to Value
People vary in their default modes of representing and perceiving value. Writers must let readers perceive how things look like, sound like, and feel like. Some of us are auditory and hear a message better when the author tunes up vocabulary to ring our ears. Phrases like: “We’re on the same wavelength,” “clear as a bell,” “music to my ears”. Others are visual and pay more attention when they see text that paint a picture for their visual imagination. Forms like: “a glimpse of reality,” “seeing the market through a new lens,” “tunnel vision”. And the rest of us are kinesthetic and most gripped by meanings when terminologies charge either our sense of touch, smell or taste. Statements like: “We reshaped the work,” “get to grips with,” “solid as a rock.” The more senses you involve, the more readers you engage.
Learning from Example
Read this portion of a client story by world-leading education provider, Edmentum:
The main benefit of Study Island, as Seymour saw it, was in test preparation: “It takes away the fear. It builds self-esteem when a student experiences growth when no other process has worked for the years that a student has been assessed.”
With the students’ newfound confidence at test time, Vero Beach High experienced all-time high scores on the SAT in 2012, beating the state average by nearly 100 points.
Here’s my attempt to optimize the story portion through perceptual engineering—particularly, kinesthetic representation:
The main benefit of Study Island, as Seymour saw it, was in test preparation: “It takes away the fear. When a learner experiences growth – after years of flunking in other systems – it builds his self-esteem.”
The students gained confidence at test time, and Vero Beach High hit all-time highscores on the SAT in 2012, beating the state average by nearly 100 points.
(Note: When quoting people, the case study writer needs to first ask permission to revise any weak wording for clarity or impact.)
Promoting Value Perception
When a writer doesn’t see to it that a client story sprinkles sensory hints evenly, he may fail to nudge some readers and may not call forth their imagination. As an author, you need to audit your loudest mode of communicating. Then strive to balance and expand your range of expression. This way, you can show a narrative that lights up all three neuro-linguistic modalities.
Readers engaged in your story can turn into advocates—whether they need your product or just find its value meaningful.