If you’ve ever been involved in producing white papers, either as a writer, editor, project manager or the marketeer ordering one, then the chances are you’ll relate to analogies of ‘pulling teeth’. You see writing a quality white paper is a ‘production’; it’s not a one man show; it involves input from various stakeholders including its target audience, client, research team, writer, editor, designer, and publisher.
Getting the white paper ‘across the finishing line’ with all parties still talking to one another is invariably one of fine balance, persistence and oodles of patience, attention to detail and diplomacy. So before you embark on your new white paper project, consider the following questions to ask of yourself and your team.
1. Are you sure you want a white paper?
We all know that white papers help people make decisions and can be a powerful marketing weapon when put to good use. But don’t be conned into thinking it’s like writing a long blog. Done well, it will involve a lot more effort but the rewards are likely to make it substantially more worthwhile. Remember if you create a poor quality white paper, you’ll do more damage than good to your organisation’s reputation. So, by all means add these assets to your arsenal, but make sure you address points 2-5 thoroughly before starting. There is no short cut to producing a quality white paper. Period.
2. Who are your ideal readers?
This is crucial. To really pin this down, you should be referring to the buyer persona that you have developed. Don’t even think about starting your project without this being crystal clear. Ideally have a primary and secondary audience in mind. The buyer persona(s) will give you deep insight into the the buyers’ priority initiatives, success factors, perceived barriers and decision criteria. Don’t be misled with the term ‘buyers’. This could very well be the CxO who authorises the final purchase order, not just the person initially tasked with researching solutions (that you provide) to the pain points they have.
3. What is the specific topic?
The benefit of an insightful buyer persona is that the topics that your ideal readers care about (not necessarily the same as those you think they care about) will be evident. With these in hand you and your team can decide what to focus on and ensure that the paper will have real value and relevance to your readers.
4. What are your expectations for your white paper?
Is it lead generation, thought leadership, or something as a ‘leave-behind’ at client meetings to help close existing prospects? Are you wishing to educate, sell, inform or differentiate? Make sure you know what your content goals are. Figure out your endgame early.
5. Have you got the team to execute?
Once you’ve addressed points 1-4, you may be ready to start developing a written content brief that will be agreed by all parties before writing commences. But more often than not, with internal marketing departments stretched, the missing part of the jigsaw is a lack of internal resources. If you can relate to this consider using niche specialists who focus on white paper creation. You could choose to outsource all parts of the process or find a team that are capable of collaborating closely with your team, filling in any gaps, for example that of project manager, researcher, writer, editor, proof reader, designer or even post-publication promoter & syndication.
I’ll be covering a series of blogs over the summer of 2015 on the subject of white papers, so keep an eye out or sign-up for our newsletter to keep posted.