Making the Case for Case Histories

It’s no secret that our anemic economy, though technically growing, has not treated public relations agencies very well.  RFP Associates has received reports of diminished billings and layoffs at agencies of all sizes, particularly here in our base of Washington, DC, where the sequester and now the government shutdown has paralyzed many once high-flying firms.


When business slows and RFPs are few and far between, what is an agency to do?  One suggestion:  build on your library of client case histories.

In virtually all RFPs we’ve managed or seen, a standard requirement is for responding agencies to share client references and case histories.  Written case histories represent one of the most trusted and effective ways for agencies to demonstrate their expertise, value, and focus on outcomes and results.


The most effective client case histories share some key characteristics.  First, they are succinct and easy to understand.  Second, they are structured in a “background-problem-program-results” fashion: they state the key communications, public affairs or marketing problem addressed, explain the key strategies undertaken by the agency, discuss research and evaluation methods, and list the outcomes of the program, preferably in quantifiable terms. 


Ideally, case studies should “name names,” and include the clients’ names as well as their contact details as references. If you are not permitted to use a client’s name in a case study, remember that industry or area-of-expertise case studies can be useful, too.  Just be sure to avoid vagueness and hyperbole, be as specific as you can regarding the work performed, and cite the specific measures and research you undertook to produce results.


Pulling together new client case histories offers agencies a number of benefits.  Not only will you have fresh material to include in your next new business proposal or presentation; your outreach to your clients, including having them review and approve the case histories, is something of a business-building activity itself!


If the economy is roughing up your agency, we urge you to continue to invest in your future by updating and adding to your library of client case histories.

- Steve Drake