How to tell someone’s story in the best way possible?
What’s the goal?
The purpose of case studies is to use impactful and emotive language to tell someone’s story. It needs to resonate with people and bring to light the issues we’re trying to raise.
For example, with the Putting a Face to Unmet Need project, we want to share stories that demonstrate the real-life cost of the current failings of the social care system. What life’s really like when you can’t access the care you need? We’d also like to show the other side of the story and unpack what life’s like when you can access the care you need.
Before you conduct your interview don’t forget to:
- Have your questions pre-planned and ready to go.
- Make sure the interviewee understands how their story will be used and promoted. Find out more about consent.
- Make sure they have specified whether they wish to be anonymous or identified.
- And, don’t forget, once you’ve developed the case study – send it back to them to check they are happy with it and the facts are correct!
When conducting your interview, make sure to gather the facts. Think about your story in terms of:
Who is involved? Who is affected? Start with a few lines of background about the participant, including their condition/disability, age, gender, etc. Build a profile of them and set the scene.
What is the issue? What change or effect might occur as a result?
When will or did the story take place?
Where did this take place? Where do people live who are affected?
Why is the story important? Why does it matter?
How did the issue come to be? How are those involved affected? How would someone’s experience be improved?
Start with a strong introduction
Your introduction is the most important part of your story. Evidence suggests people spend less than 15 seconds deciding if the content they are viewing is relevant to them.
- Use an enticing headline that tells the reader what the story is about.
- Open with a short sharp summary of the story, focusing on the most interesting elements.
- Use simple, everyday language people will understand immediately.
- You want to avoid having somebody read the introduction and think, ‘So what?’
Remember - It’s their story, but you’re the storyteller
We want as much of the case study to be in the participants’ voices as possible, but this doesn’t mean the case study should be just a record of what they said. Your task is to use what they said to build a story. You’ll need to include some explanation to link quotes together so that you create a clear narrative.
And remember - quotes don’t need to go in the exact order the person said them in. Feel free to edit the quotes to improve clarity. However, make it clear you have done so by including ellipses when you remove words or phrases.
Pack a punch with your case study
Less is sometimes more. You don’t need to include everything the person told you about. If a part of their story stands out and has real impact, focus on that and keep it clear and effective.
Plus, when you’re reading back your case study, consider whether a reader would clearly understand the participant’s situation and the issues they are experiencing.
Top tips to keep your audience’s attention:
- Get to the point
- Avoid jargon and acronyms
- Keep it punchy - use short words, sentences and paragraphs
- Break up text with subheadings and bullets
- Use strong video, photos or graphics to break up the text
- When talking about your work, focus on the impact of what you did, not the details
- Focus on what your audience cares about
- Include any action the reader can take
What should the case study look like?
It doesn’t need to be War and Peace! Aim for around 850 words – around two pages of A4. Then, once it’s ready to go, please submit them as Word documents, not PDFs.
To get an idea of some good practice case studies why not check out: