How to create a killer white paper

Share knowledge advice on blackboard

While white papers are never the crux of a content marketing campaign, in certain situations they can be highly effective. For instance, if you have expert knowledge on a niche subject and can discuss it in detail over the course of at least 8 pages, this could be a good reason to create a white paper. Naturally, your white paper must be on a subject that is interesting and helpful to people – if it pertains to a common problem that people are experiencing and you’re able to use your expertise to offer a solution, this is ideal. Here are some tips for creating a killer white paper.

Include strong evidence
You might be a thought leader in your field, but if you’re able to also draw information from other experts and scientific studies, this will make your white paper infinitely more authoritative. If you don’t have credible evidence to support your claims, this is likely to erode your trust and consequently, diminish your reputation as an expert. Always cite your sources and include an extensive set of footnotes in every white paper.

Write with a professional tone
When people write their first white paper, they often make the mistake of writing with a conversational, friendly tone – akin to blog posts. This is a mistake. For those reading a white paper, they expect something very professional and substantial – something they can really sink their teeth into and gain a significant amount of knowledge from. Your goal should always be to educate rather than entertain, so write a white paper in a style more like an academic essay rather than a blog post.

Begin with an outline
In a blog post, Michael Gerard, writing for Curata, covers many of the basics of white paper structure. He strongly advocates creating an outline before commencing the writing process: “Develop an outline prior to beginning the writing process; it will eventually take form as its shorter, more succinct cousin, the table of contents. The outline will provide a map and related trails to keep you on the correct path to meet your originally laid out objectives. It will ensure your messaging and content are on-target, and that information flows in an easy-to-follow manner for your readers.”

As a useful resource, Curata has produced their own white paper template which you can use to create your own white papers!

Don’t neglect design
While a white paper doesn’t need to be as flashy as an ebook in regards to design, you should still give a lot of dedication to the general layout and visual elements such as graphs and annotations. It’s a lot more professional to outsource the design work (after the writing is complete) than to do it yourself. After all, a white paper is an extension of your brand just like any other type of content marketing, so make sure your white paper looks aesthetically pleasing, professional and easy to read.

Promote, promote and promote some more!
No matter how informative and well written your white paper is, it won’t generate any engagement unless you make a concerted attempt to promote it. Create a specific web landing page for the white paper full of digestible information for what is contained within – this will make people more inclined to download it if they know the content will be valuable. Also, promote the white paper on social media and leverage any industry allies or influencers. If you can get a powerful influencer to share your white paper on social media, this can be more effective than all other promotional strategies combined. Best of luck!

Photo credit; marekuliasz

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