Case history

A case of great observation

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Professionals generally don’t advertise. Instead, they tell stories of case histories which demonstrate their prowess. A case history is much like any other story, except you already know how the story ends: With the case fully solved. The only question is how it gets solved and to what extent some lesser professional screws it up first.

In his eloquent argument for the hands on physician, Verghese also gives us a masterclass in case history telling, weaving as he does, one story into the next. He also touches on the quintessential case history expert, the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Enjoy.

Working like a detective

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For a great professional case it’s important the expert sees beyond where other lesser professionals get fobbed off. In this case, in what is a classic twist from Murder on the Orient Express, the incriminating hankerchief bears the initial H. So it can’t possibly belong to Natalia. Or so you might think. However Poirot knows that in Russian an H is pronounced an N and so it could indeed be Natalia’s.
The premise of expertise in case history writing is that when nothing is quite what it appears only a specialist with raised levels of perception can ascertain what really is going on.

What do professional organisations produce?

By | Case history, Communications craft, content

We all know that factories produce widgets. Or cans of fizzy soft drink, cars, smartphones and television sets, but what do professional organisations produce? If you show a car in a car showroom, you can get people to buy the vehicle; but what is the show room for the professional product?
If you ask the company they will tell you they produce solutions. But solutions tend to be invisible. They’re the lack of something; if you hold a solution up to the light, it’s usually colourless liquid.
It’s sometimes helpful to think of professional organisations as producing narrative. Either deliberately (PR agencies) or, as a by product of solving their client’s headaches. So if you’re, say a law firm, management consultancy, housing association or medical practice, these narratives can be stories of how various solutions came into being. The good news is they are usually very interesting stories. The bad news is that you have to work quite hard at retrieving them.

Moments of brilliance

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Great case histories always have a moment of brilliance that’s clearly defined. Like in a detective story, they have a precise motive, an instrument, a time and a place. When Michelle Mone OBE talks about where she got the idea for her push up bras from, she tells an amazingly detailed story.
Listening to her talk on Radio 4 today, she explains how she was at a dinner dance with an uncomfortable push up bra. So uncomfortable, in fact, that she had to go in to the ladies toilet to take it off. And while doing that, she decided it was time to create something that worked for women who wanted cleavage.
So if you’re trying to write or interview for a great case history, see if you can establish the exact motive, instrument time and place of the moment of brilliance. It will make your story a whole lot more sexy.


Has marketing changed?

By | B2B, Case history, Communications craft, content, Uncategorized

It’s hard to do marketing without thinking everything is so different from when we all came into the industry. Even if you’ve only been in the industry for a year or so, you’ve probably noticed some big shifts already. But as ever there’s a counter view, and one provide by the father of advertising, the late, very great Bill Bernbach.

“It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.” Bill Bernbach

*With thanks to Rory Sutherland for reminding us of this quote.

One of the classic B2B ads of Bernbachs era, printed in 1958 is by McGraw Hill publishing. It runs as follows.
So how might it read today? Here’s a guess.
The man sitting in the chair would also nowadays probably be sporting a beard and a mobile device, but as Bernbach would have said, his unchanging need to guard against an unknown visitors and their untested products is just as it strong as it always has been.

Conception or execution?

By | Case history, Communications craft

When writing a case history for your organisation, you’ll find a narrative is a great way to reveal the moment of brilliance. All you have to do is ask: what were the circumstances that helped you think up the idea? The exact time, place, motivation, and question that provoked it. Very often just unpacking that exact moment of conception will create the excitement in the minds of your audience. And consequently an appreciation for the brilliance that went into it.
A good example of this is Michelle Mone’s moment in the toilet during a dinner dance, when she’s taking off an extremely uncomfortable bra. In that moment she decides to invent her Ultimo bra. But how do you do this in a video? You can’t recreate that without actors, sets and a high budget. So very often the best way to show a case history is to show the idea being executed.
So with video as a story telling medium, it’s the execution rather than the conception which makes for a good case history. In the following ideas, the film documents the idea being installed. Usually they preserve enough mystery to keep the viewer guessing. And whether it’s a footprint a keyboard or a phallus, doesn’t really matter. What counts is that there’s a twist to whatever you might have expected.

Southampton FC – Geurilla Footprints from Elvis Communications on Vimeo.

Surprising elements make a story work.

By | Case history, content

Max Townshend uses story to convince people that frequencies far too high to hear, still make a difference to sound fidelity. Here he talks about high frequencies that go through the eyes, and cites ultrasonic welding tools causing factory workers to go deaf. The surprising elements in the story make it a credible and compelling piece of argument.