Staring at the ‘White Paper’

I think White Papers are aptly named because many of us spend far too much time with a blank page as we try to write the definitive paper on X topic.

White papers are really not that difficult though if you start with a plan. For some, this is a detailed outline; for others (like me) a more general idea, or a list, of what will be covered and, potentially, to what extent.

Whether you are writing the paper to generate sales leads, to make a business case, establish thought leadership or simply to educate customers, the first order of business is defining the audience, and determining what they likely know about your topic, what you want them learn, and why it would be beneficial for them to acquire this knowledge. Then, go over the basic ideas that you want to present, do the research to fill in any holes, think through and acquire any graphics that will help explain the topic, and start writing.

Remember the following:

  • Good white papers are not promotional in any way, so don’t even go there!

  • Write in a clear, consistent business style, putting special time and effort into your title and opening paragraph. (I opt for this.) Or, create an executive summary that gives a concise overview of what’s at-hand.

  • As much as possible, pepper your report with sub-heads, sidebars, meaningful graphics, case studies, references and quotes.

  • Create keyword links within the water paper which take the reader to corroborating information within other areas of your web site.

  • Always have a strong conclusion.


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