In B2B public relations, we, and our clients, are often drawn to the idea of writing a White Paper; they are an ideal way to establish credibility and/or increase recognition around a certain issue that’s important to a business. Often, it can fuel a thought leadership strategy, and provide fodder for sales meetings, client communications and website collateral. And, its “shelf life” can be extended, by repurposing the content for podcasts, bylined articles, tweets, blog posts and media pitches. For example, companies like MetLife and Towers Watson frequently pen White Papers to establish credibility and a point of view on various topics of interest to their customers, and then funnel their content through a variety of channels.
So how should you decide if writing a White Paper makes sense as part of your thought leadership strategy? The best White Papers are written when there is a clear need for information in the marketplace, and can either serve as a way to:
- Unveil proprietary research, which could include either in-house research or a deeper analysis of publicly available data, or
- Provide a definition/explanation for an issue when there is market confusion
Ok, so you’ve decided on a topic and want to write the White Paper. What are the key tenets of a White Paper (i.e., what will distinguish it from a college-style research report)? The goal should be to provide the reader with:
- Information – The most important feature of any White Paper is that it comes across as informational and not promotional.
- Unique point of view – Your firm has a unique point of view about the topic, and can provide something (whether it be research, insight or expertise) that few in the marketplace can offer.
As with anything, there are a few best practices that writers should keep in mind when putting pen to paper:
In general, a White Paper should:
- Be authoritative and educational, but “agenda” free
- Provide clear & objective information
- Speak to a specific audience
A White Paper should not:
- Speak from the first person (i.e. “we believe,” “in our opinion”) – It is implied by writing the whitepaper that you are experts, so it’s unnecessary to justify
- Mention the company – This can be perceived as “chest pumping,” which can invalidate all the good resources in the paper. Any discussion of the company should be saved for a “How We Fit In” section at the end of the White Paper. This can serve as the company’s “bio” and talk about what the company has done with regards to this issue, detail expertise, etc.
- Talk about competitors
What other best practices do you suggest when writing a White Paper? What did I miss?
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