White papers

A white paper is an authoritative guide designed to educate readers around how to solve a particular problem. They are generally produced for one or a combination of these three reasons: to generate leads, to demonstrate thought leadership or to help close sales. As a primarily troubling tactic, white papers publicise a problem, preferably provide third party research around that problem, and draw a link to a solution aligned to your business services. However, this last step must be executed subtly or else the white paper will appear more of an advertisement than an objective, trustworthy guide.

General tips

  • Write about the problem that is most attractive for you to solve, and that you are strongest at solving. Businesses that have that problem are your target. This sort of focus ensures the paper will have a stronger impact, and provide the greatest return
  • Don’t hype the title. Keep it succinct and to the point
  • Promote your paper on your website and social media channels. Some topics may also possess a degree of newsworthiness, so PR may be appropriate
  • Consider if a registration process is required. However, if the purpose of the paper is to generate exposure then don’t create any unnecessary barriers
  • Include third party research to ensure the paper possesses some objectivity. Credible authorities on the subject are ideal
  • Consider if there is value in having readers complete a survey after the white paper, to assess how troubled they are about that particular topic (and therefore if they warrant follow up)
  • Clearly list your contact details at the end of the paper
  • Style
  • When using a white paper as a troubling tactic, ensure the title clearly presents the problem you are focussing on
  • There is no established best practice regarding length, but we would recommend between 6 and 12 pages long
  • Write in the third person to affirm your objectivity

Practical problems

Some offices simply don’t have the skilled resources or time to develop a white paper. However, it is possible to outsource the authorship of white papers to skilled professionals who can craft a paper that will succeed in educating your audience on a problem that aligns to your business services. If outsourcing, remember to thoroughly brief the author of the purpose of the piece and edit it before publication.

For more information, visit white paper master, Michael Stelzner].

Interactive white papers

When writing a white paper it is easy to fall into the pattern of talking 'at' yur reader in a way you (hopefully) wouldn't if face to face. Two ways to overcome that:

  • Use interactive language like "picture this in your own business, if you were ...". Sure that's a bit of a statement of the bleeding obvious but also not what most of us do
  • Interactive technology that requires the reader to film a form that has a diagnostic character to it. This is becoming normal in electronic messaging technologies, but (I think) is also possible in downloaded PDF