Writing successful white papers

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Step-by-step guide to planning, completing and marketing a white paper to convince readers you know your stuff. Includes helpful links.


  • 2. WHAT IS A WHITE PAPER? Technical document that solves a problem for an audience Specific, quality information Reader-friendly design Thorough treatment of issue Intended to be educational
  • 3. WHITE PAPER JOBS Show you understand the readers conundrum Adequately address it Clear Specific Comprehensive Convince the reader of your worth through the quality of your work
  • 4. WHITEPAPER STYLE Tone is serious Appearance matters Professional Uses graphics/tables/charts well Visually harmonious with other communication Content is neutral and well-supported
  • 5. FIGURE OUT PURPOSE Write goals Ones that you say in the paper, like Teach you about Pinterest for business Ones that you dont, like Have you hire me to write a Pinterest plan for you Figure out your audience Who they are What they want What they need
  • 6. FIGURE OUT PROCESS What kinds of sources are appropriate Interviews Existing written sources Videos/infographics/etc How long each phase will take Information longer to watch a long video than to look at an infographic Organizing What is logical flow Layout where will you use text v. graphics, style guide Producing Reviewing
  • 7. FINDING INFORMATION Prepare Brainstorm with someone what do readers want to know Background research Subject matter experts Interviews preferable Writings possible (keep references for citation) Other competition What are they covering that you must include What arent they covering that you should include
  • 8. EVALUATING INFORMATION Consider each block of information for Use in satisfying audience needs Use in meeting your goals Relationships between chunks of information Consider a diagram to show how major chunks relate
  • 9. RELATIONSHIP EXAMPLES Purpose Information Presentation Distribution Available sources Information gathered Reader needs Communicator needs
  • 10. INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE Create an outline of major and minor points Determine which points should be text and which should be visual Order your major topics for logical flow Tell the story of the white paper to a friend to sanity check
  • 11. DESIGN Plan the overall look and feel (type, color, # columns, sidebars/pull quotes, etc.) Create the visual elements to harmonize Decide on page size If electronic delivery and print, 8 x 11 If just print, smaller works well If just electronic, horizontal orientation works well Layout pages, with attention to detail Cover and title page
  • 12. WRITE Budget all major sections Complete and edit major sections Consistent tone Logical flow through information Transitions Fact check Check for grammar/style
  • 13. ASSESSMENT Reviews by: Prospective audience Neutral party with knowledge (someone who can check you, but hasnt been involved in the project) Client, if appropriate Revisions as needed prior to final production
  • 14. PROMOTION Reach your own audience Social media contact Cross market in other efforts like e-mail campaigns, on your web site, in advertising Reach people who influence your audience Direct outreach Social media contact
  • 15. RESOURCES Tips on writing in general http://bit.ly/174gcU7 Presentation from iMedias own Cait V. Smith with strong audience focus: http://slidesha.re/1hnPC0w A lengthy, but very good, detailed guide to white papers http://bit.ly/1mm1ane