How to Write White Papers?

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The Churchill White Paper of 1922 is cited as the earliest example of a white paper. British explorer and diplomat Gertrude Bell was the first to write a white paper.

A whitepaper essentially refers to a deeply researched report on a specific topic. What sets it apart from other kinds of collateral is that it presents a solution to a specific problem within an industry domain.

Why Write a White Paper?

Written by industry experts

A white paper is a powerful way for a company to illustrate its knowledge and expertise through facts and evidence without sounding salesy. It demonstrates the expertise a person or company has in their respective domain/industry. A white paper essentially needs to persuade readers, through in-depth analysis of evidence and information, that a particular solution to a problem is the best approach.

It is important to note that a white paper should not specifically mention, advertise, or endorse a product or service. The objective is to exhibit a level of expertise that impresses readers with its depth.

Target Audience for a White paper

Whitepapers are written for audiences that are both inside and outside the industry. The target readers may be familiar with the topic or want to learn more about the industry challenges to eventually select a product or service. A white paper must strive to provide trusted expertise and guidance through credible reasoning and research.

What Does a White Paper Look Like?

White papers use graphics for impact

Depending on your industry and domain, a white paper can go beyond 10 pages in length. Graphics and images should be used to supplement the content,  providing additional depth. The key differentiator between a white paper and other business documents is the level of detail. The facts, evidence and information provided need thorough explanation and analysis to add greater depth.

White papers include visuals such as tables, graphs, charts and images, to clarify and strengthen their main ideas. Consider adding infographics to convey your point in a visually impactful manner. The goal of a white paper is to demonstrate a high level of expertise in a particular domain. The tone of the writing must be professional and the writing authoritative.

Different Types of White Papers and How to Write Them

There are six different types of white papers. The first step before you begin writing a white paper is deciding what type it needs to be. You need to understand:

Decide what kind of white paper you need

  • Who you’re writing for
  • What you want them to know
  • What you want them to do

Asking these questions at an early stage is the best approach as white papers are all about covering a subject comprehensively – depth is the key differentiator. Your white paper needs to be well-structured, authoritative and credible without having sales messages or fluff. The structure will vary based on the final intent and it is a good idea to decide that before you start.

1. Thought leadership

Thought leadership

These white papers are meant to make you look authoritative and visionary. They can be used as the cornerstone for a variety of campaigns – from social media activities to webinars.

Thought leadership white papers select an issue that is currently being discussed in your industry. This topic must resonate with your audience and give your perspectives.
The most compelling thought leadership white papers come from a real person – a thought leader.

Ask someone who is an expert on the subject in your company to co-author the whitepaper. The content should excite people to look at an issue from a different, unique perspective. The objective is to encourage them to believe in your way of doing something. The tone needs to be visionary and authoritative.

2. Educational

Educational white paperThis kind of white paper teaches your readers about a subject, approach, or solution they aren’t aware of. Educational white papers are quite useful for readers as they can be referred to later as a guide. They are a good means of inbound marketing. When someone is looking for answers to a particular challenge, they may find your white paper and download it.

Consider using descriptive headings, boxes and bullet points to draw readers to key points. In addition, use diagrams or graphs where appropriate, to explain things to visual learners. Finally, create a bibliography. Adding credible references and citing reliable sources will give additional weight to what you’re saying.

3. Market Research

Market research

When you use your research, it demonstrates your thought leadership abilities. This works great for PR purposes and its release can be announced as news too.

The key feature of market research reports is lots of data and analysis. This typically happens in the long executive summary. While data on its own is not that interesting, the interpretation of the data may be newsworthy and impactful. These kinds of white papers are lengthy. Most of this can be attributed to data, often expressed as graphs or infographics.

There are two ways to compose this kind of paper. You can use a pure presentation format, highlighting your findings and key trends. The other way is by using data-backed arguments.

4. The Technical or Solution Paper

What keeps your audience awake at night? By addressing the pain points of your target audience with a solution you can help readers alleviate a pressing challenge. The great thing about solution papers is that when the problem is pervasive, your original insights may appeal to a broader audience.

Technical paper

A solution paper is one of the best ways to present your innovative approach to solving a specific problem. It is important to present useful information in these types of papers. A solution paper usually describes a step-by-step approach that demonstrates a typical solution to a problem at hand, comprehensively. The biggest advantage of solution papers is that they can subtly push your company’s products and services.

The key attribute of a solution paper is depth and persuasion. They encourage readers to think outside the box with an approach they haven’t seen before. You will need the help of subject matter and technical experts. You need to be authoritative and believable, demonstrating credibility to show that you know what you’re talking about.

Get Started with your White Paper

White papers are all about valuable information presented in a persuasive and authoritative format. If your white paper lacks the necessary depth, it will fail to make an impact on your readers. Having an expert in your business domain is a must to ensure the authenticity of your white paper.

Plan writing the white paper with all your main stakeholders, as it could go through multiple rounds of edits and reviews. Schedule regular reviews and make sure you send it to a professional proof-reader before you publish it.

Now that you know all about white papers and how to write them, it is time you got started.

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