A white paper can be an invaluable piece of content for nearly any business organization. Its application opportunities are boundless, and offering a complimentary copy of the paper can generate highly qualified sales leads. But to enjoy long term success with a white paper strategy, you must create content that’s credible and compelling.
There’s no replacing the expertise and efficiency that a professional PR writer offers, especially when creating an easy-to-read yet seriously thorough piece of content like a white paper. However, there is a formula you can use to ensure your topic ideas are on par and your organization is prepared to contribute toward an authentic guide to help your target audiences solve a problem or make an important decision.
Here’s a checklist to help you understand how to proactively prepare for the development of a white paper:
- Define the target market and audience(s) and the titles and roles of decision makers and influencers
- Define the general topic; research how this topic has been covered in the market and by your competitors
- Define the problem your white paper will address
- Define the solution for that problem and how your organization provides the solution
- Brainstorm the target keywords for the paper; they should be words and phrases your target audience would use to search for ideas and solutions on this topic
- Draft a preliminary title for the paper; explain in 10 words or less how your paper will clue-in the reader
- Prepare the content outline; don’t become overwhelmed by this step — simply pull together your research on the topic (primary and/or secondary), the solutions your organization offers, the case studies of how your business has solved this issue for customers and other objective statements that make your content case
- Write a one to two sentence description for the white paper; for example, “This report, written for […], guides readers toward a better understanding of […], the impact on and the types of solutions that can solve these issues.”
- Describe the product or service emphasis that relates to the solution(s) your guide illustrates
- List the categories and keywords that directly relate to your products or services; these should match exactly the keywords used in your catalog or website; list links to the related categories or pages on your website
- Define the secondary messages for the paper; these proof points will relate to your organization’s expertise, authority, reputation and performance as a solution provider for the problem posed
- Gather visual assets that will support the paper’s content; application and product images, photos of your product/service in use, customer supplied photos, graphics or illustrations
- Consider all of the subject matter experts that can contribute to the content development process; list their names, titles and contact information (including bios or LinkedIn profiles) for quick reference
- Track all of the sources that back the validity of this white paper topic; collect the titles, authors, publish dates and links to research papers, survey reports, articles and case studies
Once this content outline is complete, you’ll be completely prepared to work with a professional PR writer to craft your white paper. The writer will work closely with you to understand the scope and objectives of your paper, and how you intend to use and publish the content. Next he/she will likely prepare for and interview your subject matter experts (and customers, if possible). He/she will help you identify ways to enhance the piece with imagery and/or graphics.
Once your white paper is complete, it will need to be designed to look intriguing and authoritative. It should not look like a brochure or sales piece. The support of a professional designer is invaluable to complete the white paper.
Now, you’re ready to publish and place your white paper and make it available to your target audience!
Need a bit of inspiration? I’m happy to share a couple of white papers we recently created and published as part of a client’s content marketing program. Request your PDF copies of these white paper samples.