As I listened to Hillary Clinton's speech last week in the Democratic Convention (I know, I have been drawing a lot of marketing lessons from the presidential race, but I promise not to turn this into a political blog), I was struck by how often she weaved "case studies" into her speech.

She talked about a single mom who had adopted two children with disabilities and then lost her job. She also talked about a young marine who was worried about his buddies who were still over in Iraq. And she talked about people who were worried about getting needed healthcare for their families.

I've noticed that Mrs. Clinton has done this often over the course of this campaign. The people she talks about are real people she has met along the campaign trail.

Ronald Reagan did this too. Many of his speeches were laced with stories about actual people who were facing incredible challenges.

And you have to admit that regardless of your political persuasions, the use of these "case studies" makes for effective communications.

Now let me tell you the wrong way to do this. There is a personal injury lawyer who advertises extensively here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. Imagine the most annoying, most grating lawyer ads you've ever heard. Well this guy is worse.

He calls himself "The Texas Hammer" and he promises to "fight for you to get you the money you need." (Sigh).

Anyway, he also lists some of the recent cases he has one. Well actually he lists the dollar amounts of the awards he has won. He tells very little about the clients themselves as human beings. He might say they injured their leg or wrist or whatever, but no information about them as people that would make us sympathize with them or relate to them.

In other words, they are presented as dollar figures, not as people who were helped out of a difficult problem.

Don't make this mistake.

I've seen a lot of case studies that do the same thing. The subjects are presented as cardboard, lifeless characters who are little more than extras in their own movie.

But readers want to connect with the people they are reading about. Allow readers to experience the emotions and problems of your case studies subjects. Delve into their fears, the raw emotional nerves of their troubles. THEN when you show how they escaped from these problems, the reader will cheer for their happy ending as they would for a dramatic movie.

Hillary won 18 million votes, and I have to wonder if a lot of them were a result of her ability to tell compelling stories about our fellow citizens. And if it works in politics, it will also work in business.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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