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8 Basic Tips for Writing an Amazing White Paper

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❶Having trouble shortening your title?

When I first started writing white papers more than 20 years ago, I looked all over for a FAQ.

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A white paper should be fulfilling the objectives of your content strategy—for example: Optimize the reuse and repurpose of white paper content. Teams to align with include: Review the following questions in preparation for title brainstorming: Who is your target audience? What are you providing in this white paper that your audience cannot get elsewhere? Ensure your title represents what is truly in the white paper.

Unless you work in a highly technical industry, avoid buzzwords and stick to clear and easy to understand language.

Consider search engine optimization as part of title creation. Optimal title length for search engines: As they say, less is more.

Do take the time to create a shorter, more powerful title. Having trouble shortening your title? Break it down into sections with a colon, or insert a subtitle that can be more descriptive. Write the abstract after you have completed your white paper. Use a direct structure format for the creation of your abstract. Keep it short, simple and to the point. A commonly recommended length is to words.

Put the entire abstract on the title page. Then you can use the title page as a separate sheet for your sales team to send to prospects. Add a call-to-action linking to the full white paper and save it as a PDF. Ensure that the abstract answers the following questions: What is included in this white paper? Why should I read this white paper? Give your audience a reason to take time out of their busy schedule to read your white paper.

Have someone review your abstract. Outline Develop an outline prior to beginning the writing process; it will eventually take form as its shorter, more succinct cousin, the table of contents.

Yes, it will take time and delay the start of the writing process. However, it will save you an enormous amount of time in the long run, and more importantly, ensure you have a better final product. There are plenty of other formats to provide company or product-specific information to your audience, such as data sheets for example.

Be sure to include team members as part of the development and review of the outline to ensure your white paper plan is on target. Plan on many revisions. Creation of an outline is an iterative process. Map out sections and subsections. It is important to break up your text into several sections, including section headers and subheads within each section. This increases readability and allows your reader to skim through the document and absorb the sections most relevant to their business.

Set up the problem, need or pain point right up front. Use data to support your point s. Provide additional detail to that included in the abstract, but avoid going into too much detail. Indicate the objective s of the white paper, as well as what specifically will be included in subsequent sections.

Providing a map or structure in the introduction will help your audience follow your thought process and understand how the white paper is organized to achieve its objectives. Sample questions to be answered in this section: What is currently happening in the market today? Answering this question will help readers understand why your solution is of value; and more importantly, entice them to continue reading. What data points help to support answers to the above questions?

Introduce the solution s , including a clear definition and even a framework or model. Provide a detailed description of each part of the solution. Use subcategories as required to help readers draw distinct boundaries between different parts of the solution. Subcategories also make it easier for your audience to follow your thought process and absorb the content.

Be very clear regarding the benefits of each of the solutions , including how it specifically impacts your audience. Provide specific, real-world examples to support your solution s. These examples provide another opportunity to connect with different segments of your audience.

One example from our recent business blogging study can be seen below. The conclusion provides the opportunity to: Summarize the white paper objectives. Review the problem statement s. Highlight the solutions and their value for your audience. Be clear regarding how these solutions address the problem statement s. Finish with a strong statement. Additional Resources Provide a list of available resources for your audience. Create a consistent color scheme based on the color of your logo.

Use the most dominant color for your section headers. Use a softer version or a shade of gray as the subhead color. Ensure your white paper has been run through several editors for quality control.

Once someone downloads your white paper, it is in his or her possession and you are unable to make further edits. Correct spelling and grammar will elevate your message and back up the credibility of your company. Use the white paper to link to your other content marketing assets, such as other white papers, eBooks or blog posts. Substantiate your message by including content from subject experts by getting quotes directly from them or curating their content.

For a guide to ethical curation, download our complete eBook on the topic: Content Marketing Done Right. Really great info…and its for free.. Good solid information, thank you Michael!

Like any corporate writing project, you must allow time for interviews, research, outlining, drafting and perhaps coming up with diagrams.

A client will expect a few progress reports. And you will have to incorporate their comments into your drafts. If you manage this process well, writing a white paper can be smooth and efficient. If not, it can turn into a never-ending project that drags on and on and on and on and on and on Obviously, if you have specialized knowledge about a niche market, you can charge more than a generalist who will need more time and ask more questions to get up to speed. The most effective strategy is to head off these problems before they happen, by planning and managing a white paper to yield the best possible results.

Submit short deliverables for discussion , like a creative brief or a one-page outline, before you start writing a page document. Get your client or company to make a tangible commitment to completing a white paper. For example, freelance writers can get a partial payment in advance; in-house writers can get an okay to forego other duties writing the document.

Work closely with the designer and make sure they understand the white paper format. After that, to take part in a forum where white paper writers post and answer related questions, visit my LinkedIn group, called Get More From Your White Papers.

This group is by request only and sticks strictly to white papers. Any off-topic discussions such as "where do I find clients? You can see what reviewers are saying about it here or check out the book at Amazon here. Then, once you start writing white papers, publish good samples and testimonials on your website. And keep doing whatever works for you. For more in-depth information on this topic see my articles: To get clients, learn how to call a moose and Writers: Five strategies for finding white paper clients.

It was used to distinguish shorter government briefs and position papers with white covers from longer reports and policy books with blue covers. I have located white papers from the UK dating back to the late s. I am still searching for the earliest one on file in the UK government archives. One of the earliest white papers many people point to is the so-called Churchill White Paper from See more background at www.

With the rise of the PC in the 80s, white papers started to become extremely popular in the IT industry. They have a major impact on buying decisions for billions of dollars worth of products and services every year. Although these formats can offer a more engaging experience for certain audiences, they require higher budgets and different production methods. Those who call some other medium a "white paper" are likely trying to trade off the popularity and impact of these documents.

For a longer discussion, see my article " When is a white paper NOT a white paper? Are there any industry standards for these? What different types of white papers exist? When is each type of white paper most useful? White papers and other documents White papers and blog posts: White papers and brochures: White papers and case studies: White papers and e-books: White papers and press releases: White paper readers Who reads white papers? Why do people read white papers? When do people read white papers?

How do people read white papers? White paper sponsors Who publishes white papers? Why do companies produce them? Where do white papers fit in the sales cycle? Which type of white paper should your firm create? How much does a white paper cost? How long does a white paper take? How do you promote a white paper?

White paper writers What kind of companies need white papers? How hard is it to write a white paper? How long does it take to write a white paper? How much can you charge to write a white paper? What main problems do white paper writers encounter? How can you learn more about white papers? Where do you find clients? White papers past, present, and future Where did white papers come from? Where are white papers today? Where are white papers going in the future? Back to top What exactly is a white paper?

A manifesto on how to solve a certain problem A "bait-piece" The glue that holds a campaign together An information widget A way to freeze-dry ideas A rare document that can be all things to all people Clearly none of these exotic definitions do the trick. For some better clues, look at the content and format of these documents: In a word, no. Anyone can call anything a white paper. White paper experts including Gordon Graham have identified these key characteristics for a white paper: White papers come in many different types, with no accepted system for labeling them precisely.

Given this, the majority of white papers fall into one of these three main flavors: Backgrounders describe the technical features and benefits of a product or service 2. Numbered lists provide a light and lively roundup of highlights about some issue 3. For the three main flavors of white papers: Application guide Cheat sheet Installation guide Manual?! White papers and blog posts are usually quite simple to tell apart. White papers are usually PDF downloads of 3, to 5, words.

White papers and brochures are almost complete opposites. Brochures are sales documents intended to create interest and desire. A B2B e-book can be just about any length on just about any topic. In any case, here are some scenarios when an e-book might work better than a white paper: Your audience is prone to distraction They may be young, or on the road.

The goal is the same. Today, press releases are available to anyone on the Web, without the need for any gatekeeper. White paper readers can play a number of different roles in business, such as: Corporate executives decision-makers Finance executives financial recommenders IT managers and staff technical recommenders Line-of-business managers managers User representatives users In-house supporters of the purchase "champions" In larger companies, all these people may sit together on a selection committee that makes a collective decision.

White papers are especially well-read by IT managers. White papers used to be aimed strictly at IT professionals. People tend to read white papers when they: Dream of a way around a pressing problem Wonder if anything could solve their problem Look for something to satisfy their wish-list Research a possible purchase Make up a short list of qualified vendors.

No one reads white papers for fun; they read them for work. This includes companies in sectors like these: Computer peripherals and user interfaces Medical, test, or communication equipment Technical or scientific services Consulting. According to one study, vendors publish white papers for all these reasons: Gather leads for the sales force Educate potential customers Influence a selection committee Educate the sales force or channel partners Educate the media Send to a trade publication or website Redefine a market space Build credibility or mind share Keep up with competitors that have white papers.

A white paper can serve this purpose remarkably well. After making a purchase, the buyer has little need for white papers. What is the purpose of this paper? When will this white paper be used? Early in the sales cycle, your white paper can be more high-level and general. Later on, your white paper should be more detailed and specific.

Who is the audience? What do they want? There are several costs related to producing a white paper: Research, writing and editing Illustration and design Translation, if applicable Printing, if applicable Promotion. Each of these costs can be outsourced, or handled in-house. Translating and promoting are further costs.

And then the promotions begin and run for many weeks or months. Simply writing a good white paper is not enough. Tucking it away on a website is not enough. To earn an acceptable ROI, a vendor must actively promote a white paper in many ways. The most popular ways to promote a white paper include: Post it to numerous websites Feature it prominently on home pages Send e-mails about it Mention it in e-mail sig lines Tweet about it on Twitter Extract ideas and create blog posts from them Create a press release about it Mention it in newsletters, e-zines and blogs Give it to prospects on sales calls Give it to prospects at trade shows Pay a third-party service to syndicate it In fact, the best way to promote a white paper is to handle it as a mini-product launch.

The more effort you invest in promoting a white paper, the more likely it will succeed. This includes companies in sectors like: Enterprise software Computer hardware and peripherals Medical, test, or communication equipment Technical or scientific services Consulting.

Most writers feel that the first white paper they ever wrote was quite difficult. And many writers who have done fewer than 10 white papers still find it difficult. The more experience a white paper writer has, the faster they tend to work. And freelancers tend to produce faster than in-house or non-professional writers. And the more white papers you have written, the more you can generally charge.

Among other problems, white paper writers often report difficulties with: Time management Lack of clear feedback Changes in direction Getting approvals. And an inexperienced designer can destroy the readability of an otherwise strong white paper. Successful white paper writers sooner or later devise ways to deal with these issues. Here are some quick tips: Round up approvals from all stakeholders early on.

And of course, you could always get my book, White Papers For Dummies. Create a persona of your ideal client. Expect to spend 40 hours a week either writing or working on your marketing.

Use the phone , not e-mail to contact prospects. Show your ideal client what you can do for them—and if you have to, do it for free the first time. Keep a swipe file of examples and use it to inspire you and your clients. Be passionate about what you do. Then create value for others.

This term "white paper" arose early in the 20th century in Great Britain. A few months after this was published, Britain apparently broke every promise in it. Just like today, not all white papers speak the truth?!

White papers were often used in science and medicine during WWII, the s and 60s. The number of white papers is growing exponentially. In , I ran a Google search for the phrase "white papers" that yielded 2. A decade later, in , the same search got The Web is awash in documents called "white papers.

Too many are nothing but thinly veiled sales pitches. For this reason, the term "white paper" is becoming devalued.

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Writing a White Paper The main purpose of a white paper is to help clients who are seeking solutions for certain issues make informed decisions in favor of a product or a service a company is offering.

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This means writing a summary of your white paper and including an organized list of topics. Emphasize the value you will create. Your white paper is not a billboard for your business—it is an opportunity to create an image of expertise and insight that will help your readers. In .

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I hope these Q&As help anyone just getting started in white papers. Or anyone who wants to understand them better. White Paper FAQ topics. If you understand the material and work well with others, writing a white paper can be smooth and enjoyable. If not quite the reverse. Are you concerned with a question who can help write my paper? Need high-quality texts for high grades? Find best experts and reasonable prices.