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So, What Are White Papers, Exactly?

❶How long does it take to write a white paper?

7 Examples of Actual White Papers

When I first started writing white papers more than 20 years ago, I looked all over for a FAQ.
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You might need to make it a bit longer or more detailed, though, to avoid getting lost in your thoughts partway through. This is all about knowing what you want to say before you try to say it. Good white papers are fact-based and research-driven. Industry research reports can provide an excellent data-backed foundation for your content.

Seek out research groups such as Forrester or professional organizations that produce original research. Then, cite relevant stats and findings where appropriate. Depending on your industry, there are several government websites that might be helpful. This is the most difficult option, but it can provide the most valuable results.

If you have access to publically-available information, so does your competition. Original research you produced yourself, however, is uniquely powerful.

If you have the time and resources to do your own research study, Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios has a f antastic guide to get you started. Some of it even involved a little bit of writing. Your headline is the first thing that will sell your white paper to your audience. You want to write something that conveys clear value up front and gets them to click. However, you also want to avoid anything that could be perceived as click bait, or overly casual.

Commit to quality or stay home. Your intro should quickly hook your audience while covering the main points the rest of your document will cover. So, make sure each section delivers on the promises you made in your introduction. With thorough research and a strong outline in hand, you can make the actual writing exponentially easier. Following this order will ensure your writing flows well from one point to the next in a logical order.

If your organization has another writer or editor on staff, then work together to polish your draft. Know who your editor will be ahead of time and develop a set process. This entails asking the following questions:. Next, follow the instructions included in the template to fill in each content section:. Now, you might want to adjust the appearance of your fonts and headers. This is easy to do with Microsoft Word. All you have to do is edit your styles.

Unless you happen to be a skilled designer, it will be best to have a designer create graphics for your white paper. Make notes in your doc that include the following information:.

If your white paper is lengthy, you might want to consider a two-column layout. If your designer is good, though, you can get even more creative. Now, how do you get people to actually read it?

The answer is with a comprehensive promotion plan. Do you host it on your website? There are pros and cons to each. It might be possible to combine approaches, too. For example, you could create a landing page for your white paper, link to it in a blog post, and then include the actual document in your resource library. Since white papers are professional documents, think hard whether or not Facebook a network focused on family and friends is a good place to share it.

Create a campaign on your calendar and use Social Helpers to set up promotional graphics and post copy. Then, set it and forget it. If your email list is comprised primarily of professionals interested in the kind of research in your white paper, then send it to them. Keep these thoughts in mind:.

Quality white papers take a lot of work to produce. So, make the most of it by repurposing its contents elsewhere. Here are a few ways to do this. You can likely write an entire blog post based on each section of your white paper.

This gives you the opportunity to drill deeper into each specific point. Plus, if you link back to your white paper in each post, you can direct more attention toward it. You probably dug up tons of interesting stats and pieces of information while doing your research. Use that information in other content you write. For example, you could easily:. With the information in this post, plus the included template, you should have everything you need to do the job right. Drop us a line below, and as always, thanks for reading.

This post was originally written on May 18, It was updated and republished on July 23, Ben is the Blog Manager at CoSchedule. Today, many less technical people are involved in big buying decisions. These people are seeking plain-language explanations with clear business benefits, backed up by convincing facts and arguments.

Executives at the IT portal KnowledgeStorm encourage clients to think of a technology sale in four phases. At that point, a high-level white paper focused on business benefits can help them visualize the possibilities of using a certain offering.

That's when a more detailed, technical white paper can help them understand how a given solution would work in their environment. The need for white papers has pretty much passed.

An Evaluator's Guide for a complex product might be helpful at this point. But more often, prospects want the reassurance of seeing case studies from other customers. They may need added information to help them do so, but it's more accurate to call this "documentation" rather than a white paper.

After all, the white paper has already played its role and the sale has already been made. Everything from this point on is after-sales support. Almost everyone working today has more to read, more to remember and more to do than they can possibly get to. For example, one study showed that the typical manager has more than 50 hours of work sitting on their desk at any point. They're not exactly waiting for another document to add to the pile?!

So most people who read white papers do not read the same way they might read a novel, paying attention to every sentence. Instead, they tend to skim, scan and skip This means that white papers must be carefully written and designed for business readers with limited time and attention.

A wall of gray text is not likely to engage today's white paper reader. White papers need to use visual breakers like sidebars, callouts, headings, lines, boxes, bullets and graphics to direct the attention of scanners and skimmers. These visuals need to point out the key messages of the document in a way that's easy for today's busy readers to follow. There's a whole book devoted to this subject. Jonathan Kantor has written an excellent guide called Crafting White Paper 2.

Here is my mini-review of this book. Here's where to find more details or order your own copy. White papers abound in the technology sector, where they are commonly used to explain software and hardware products. Any B2B vendor selling anything relatively new, relatively complex or relatively expensive could likely benefit from a white paper. This adds up to perhaps half a million potential vendors in the English-speaking world that could benefit from white papers.

Vendors of any relatively familiar, simple and inexpensive B2C products don't often publish white papers, since there is little need for them. There may be exceptions—especially in energy and health care—where consumers may have to make significant decisions. For a longer discussion, see my article " Who needs a white paper? In general, vendors publish white papers for two main reasons: On a strategic level, white papers fit into the widespread trend of " content marketing.

This model acknowledges that skeptical prospects are hungry for a vendor who will serve as a trusted advisor, not just a peddler of their wares. Remember, the most effective white papers provide useful information to help a reader understand an issue or solve a problem The longer the sales cycle--aka the customer journey--the more likely white papers are part of it.

White papers are used early in the sales cycle, before the prospect makes a purchase. These can be called the "Vision" or "Planning" stages of the buying process, or the "Research" or "Selection" tasks of the Universal Tasks. At this point, the customer needs documentation, training and technical support, not white papers. If you are creating a white paper, but aren't sure which flavor is best, you can narrow down the list with three straightforward questions.

In general, the best flavor to attract attention, cast Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt FUD on competitors, or nurture a prospect through a complex sale is a numbered list. The best flavor to influence a selection committee at the bottom of the funnel is a backgrounder.

IT people generally want to see technical details. They will tolerate longer papers with modest production values. In fact, a slick and colorful format tends to make them suspicious. Executives want to see bottom-line benefits summed up in a page or two. They want to hear about lower costs, better sales, higher profits or improved customer service.

Executives expect polished production, with clear graphics they can understand at a glance. Managers want to hear about streamlined workflow and labor savings.

They are keen to see how a new system would affect their area and their people. User reps want to hear about ease-of-use, training and support. They can be more or less technical, but they will likely be detail-oriented. Users are not often a significant audience for white papers.

But if a user rep is involved in a selection committee, you need to address their concerns at some point. A mixed audience or selection committee may want to hear everything touched on above.

In this case, you may need several white papers, each with a different flavor and each with content geared to a somewhat different audience. And there are "soft costs" in terms of the time it takes your subject matter experts to answer interview questions and e-mails and to review drafts. All this to say, a white paper is a significant project in any marketing budget.

Trying to do a white paper on a tiny budget will not yield best results. After working on white papers, in my experience it takes 6 to 8 weeks to get from the first planning interview to an approved white paper draft.

And it can take longer if people travel a lot or take their time with reviews. Illustration and design take an additional week or two. Translations, if required, take more time. The good news is that a vendor can often continue to use the same white paper for years. This long life helps to achieve a very positive return on the investment in a white paper. In fact, the best way to promote a white paper is to handle it as a mini-product launch.

Do everything you would do to launch a new product, and your white paper will be on the road to success. See my article on the 18 must-do tactics to promote any white paper. Remember, a white paper is a pre-sales document intended to attract prospects or explain an offering.

Any B2B vendor selling anything relatively new, relatively complex or relatively costly could likely benefit from a white paper. Writing your very first white paper for a company you don't know well, in an industry you've never written about, can be quite a challenge. Writing your fifth white paper for a long-term client in an industry you know is not so difficult.

If you understand the material and work well with others, writing a white paper can be smooth and enjoyable. All in all, writing a white paper is no harder than writing a major magazine article of several thousand words. That means one to two weeks full-time should be enough to complete a white paper 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. You're welcome to explore them all. 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? I crammed 15 years' worth of tips and tactics into it. 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. I've tracked back the earliest ancestors of the white paper to UK government reports from the late 19th century.

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. And in the 90s, the Web provided an inexpensive distribution channel that sparked today's ongoing explosion of white papers.

That's because truly effective white papers are highly read and passed on from person to person. 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. And it's not useful to call these "white papers" since they are not delivered as text on paper.

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? If you have any questions about white papers not answered here, or you find an answer isn't clear, please e-mail Gordon ThatWhitePaperGuy. Are there any industry standards for these?

Aren't there at least some conventions? What different types of white papers exist? When is each type of white paper most useful? What's NOT a white paper? 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? Ask any 10 people this question, and you'll likely get 12 different answers.

Here is the best short definition I've ever found, after years of looking: Beyond that, I've heard a white paper described as: 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: A document containing narrative text At least pages long Oriented in portrait format landscape format tends to be for B2B e-books Educational, practical and useful, not a sales pitch Used before a sale, not after a sale Provides facts, not just opinion Includes an introduction or executive summary If a document has all these characteristics, it's probably 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.

It's very difficult to do both in the same piece. Competitive review Evaluator's guide Executive briefing Market overview Position paper Product briefing Special report But all these descriptive terms fit under one or another of the three main types, so they're not as helpful.

For the three main flavors of white papers: There are many other types of useful information, but I don't consider them white papers. Application guide Cheat sheet Installation guide Manual?! Those may be useful, but they're not white papers. White papers and blog posts are usually quite simple to tell apart.

White papers are usually PDF downloads of 3, to 5, words. That's why most blog posts are relevant for only a few months.

What is a 'White Paper'

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Writers: Get tips on writing white papers You can find scores of articles on how to write a white paper plus a White Paper FAQ that answers dozens of the most common questions. For more tips and tactics, subscribe to this site or .

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What is a white paper? As a white paper writer, I’m happy to say that white papers have grown up from the boring, highly technical documents they once were. At its core, the modern white paper clearly identifies a business problem and provides the reader with a succinct solution in an engaging easy to read format.

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Writing a white paper isn’t easy, but it can be an awesome way to stand out as an expert in your field. Although crafting a white paper is more of an art than a science, there are general guidelines you can follow to help you out along the way. Have a . A white paper is a document which includes an outline of a problem that the project is looking to solve, the solution to that problem as well as a detailed description of their product, its architecture and its interaction with users.

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