21 Hacks to Write Ridiculously Good White Paper
Step-by-Step Guide for writing White Paper
This is a complete guide to enable technical writers to write a white paper that serves its purpose completely. it can be used by the content writer, freelancer, businesses and entrepreneurs to develop a whitepaper to exhibit their authority and persuade readers in favor of their sale goals.
This is a go-to- resource for the white paper. In this post, we have covered
- Introduction and goal to write the white paper
- Who should publish the white paper
- How to write the white paper
- Steps for writing the white papThe myth
- Myths about the white paper
and downloadable resources.
Introduction and goal to write the white paper:
A white paper is a report with authority that gives information about any complex issue concisely. The real motive of the white paper is to inform the reader about the issue, help them solve a problem and make a decision.
Some more goals for a white paper are:
- Selling a product or service
- Promoting a technology
- Funding a project
- Establishing a reputation for expertise
An educative and well-illustrated whitepaper is capable to influence the readers.
One thing which I personally like about writing the white paper is it brings a lot of well-paying clients to me :-). Learn more about freelancing.
History of white paper:
The history of white paper goes back to 1922 when the first white paper was issued in the British Government called Churchill white paper. You may wonder, why this is called a white paper?
The term white paper was derived from the color of the cover of the document.
Who uses white paper:
White papers are used both by Government and business to business marketing.
Let’s explore how: -
The government uses whitepapers to present their policies to the public and officials inviting their opinions simultaneously. White paper becomes a medium to predict the possible impact of its policies on the general public before turning it legit.
It also helps government discover probable controversies that can arise through a proposed policy.
B 2 B marketing:
Initially, the white paper was considered as a medium of marketing in business.
White papers are used as a promotional content of a product or services with the motive to expand business and attract investors.
They are also used to influence partners, journalists, stakeholders, customers, and analysts. They are also used as a tool to generate sales lead and making business cases.
White papers are a form of content marketing to promote sponsor and increase web traffic. They can influence the decision-making process by pointing out the problems or the discussing the possible solution of a problem.
How to write a white paper?
A white paper is a document that can have one to five pages describing the problem and the possible solution of a case.
Its composition should include alternatives to meet the client’s marketing need, handling municipal issues, suggesting the use of certain tools for any technical or business processes depending upon the issuing authority whether it is governmental or business.
Before drafting a white paper, things we should keep in mind that is mandatory for creating an ultimate white paper are listed below.
Basic groundwork to be done before writing-
The first requirement is to know who your audience is. The educational background, professional needs, the position they hold etc gives you a more relevant picture of what your document should look like. Understanding of audience helps to create a relevant, relatable paper. The convincing method for the suggested solutions would be more understandable to your audience if you have clarity about their needs. Your arguments in favor of a possible solution would be more relatable to them.
It is very necessary to know how expert is your audience about a subject. It will affect the level of complexity of your white paper. The terms you refer to or the situation of example will be highly influenced by the kind of expertise your audience holds.
Writing for the government will be about the policies, for corporate it would be about the budget, profit etc and for technical experts, it can have a lot of technical terms.
Now the writing part-
- What is the first thing one notice in a document?
How to write the headline of the white paper
You can give it a headline ‘white paper’ but it will definitely attract the attention if it has some title that can hold the eye of the reader.
An old proverb is ‘the first impression is the last impression’. Your title is the magnet that can compel a reader to dive deep into your content and think about it. Form your title that is relevant and eye-grabbing.
- Introduce your content to the reader briefly in the opening para. It will give them an idea of why is the problem existing why there is a need to implement different solutions suggested. An illustration of the basic cause of the problem can influence their decision in case of any prior solution is running in the mind of the reader.
- Spot the problem and illustrate why it is a problem, how did it arise. Give a background reference about the problem.
Steps to write a White Paper
Find out WHO your audience is. When we know to whom we are going to address, half work is done. The tone, the language, terminology, supported facts everything becomes clear and the path ahead becomes easy.
The next mandatory thing to consider is WHY we need to write it. An explanation of the problem should be written to make it easy to identify and understand.
A brief of the history, HOW the problem arose should be described. It creates relevance among the audience.
WHAT is the measures to be taken should be defined. The solution the company has to offer should be proposed. It would be good if the glossary of terms is provided.
Now you have a basic idea of drafting a white paper. To write an excellent whitepaper follow the flowchart that describes the phases involved.
The whitepaper development process has nine phases. THese phase look similar to the documentation development life cycle.
Note down the objectives you want the white paper to accomplish. There may be more than a single goal that has not been documented by the management. Define all the defined and undefined goals in your white paper.
For example, our undefined goal may be of selling the product but we don’t mention it, because a sale-oriented whitepaper can decrease the interest of the reader. An educative whitepaper will automatically generate the need of sale among the audience.
We can also create a doubt about the competitors with our content indirectly.
A defined goal may include the problem-solving ability of the product. We can educate the audience of the technology and base behind it to establish our expertise and credibility.
In other words, we can say that we have to take care of overt goals and covert goals in a white paper.
As stated earlier define and analyze your audience for a better content delivery.
The parameters while analyzing the audience should be as follows:
- Training, experience, and skills
- Technical awareness
Another important factor is to describe the subject matter.
Subject matter should be described at a high level. Mention all key concept and the important points.
After we are done with the initial framework of description, it’s time to develop strategies.
Developing strategies need to rewind a little what we have done.
- Review the goal
- Review the audience analysis to find-
Probable difficulties in understanding
Lack of interest in the subject
Reluctance to acceptance of the conclusion of the white paper.
While developing strategies make a list of content and presentation strategies both. A need assessment worksheet makes the flow of writing easier. Take views on it with the commissioned person and discuss the worksheet before writing the final white paper.
You can modify it according to the need.
Planning involves identifying the sales processes and related marketing publications, finding ways to reach the audience, and picking up the right delivery media. You can publish it as a print document, an electronic document, web pages etc.
Here you choose the perfect tools for writing, illustrating and publishing the white paper. If necessary this is the phase to assemble resources and make a team to create the whitepaper.
The need for personnel arise because of these crucial causes:
- In-depth knowledge of the subject matter is mandatory.
- Excellent knowledge of the technical aspect is needed to communicate the subject to an audience who is not having an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.
- An expert is needed to communicate ideas to make the whitepaper enjoyable to read through designs and graphics page layouts.
- A writer having marketing and technical writing skill can write easily understandable and saleable white paper.
- A subject matter expert should be there to clarify all the doubts and explain it.
The next part of the plan is to get the white paper reviewed by reviewers. They will review the need assessments, project plan, content outline, storyboard, and final drafts. Learn more about the review process.
Choose desktop publishing tools to better illustrate and output the whitepaper to deliver media without additional work.
Again, one important factor of whitepaper planning is estimating the cost. The cost includes labor, tools, and publications.
Labor cost is the cost incurred on personnel who will develop the white paper.
Tools you need to develop the whitepaper also contribute to the budget.
Publication cost is the cost of printing, compact disk distribution etc. To minimize the publication budget one needs to talk to the printer about the page size, layout, design, fonts etc.
To finish the work on time, you need to manage your schedule. Prepare a schedule with time assigned to every phase; it will help you to finish your work on time with dedication. Some phases may overlap but they can help the development process going on the estimated time.
The output you get after planning is documented strategies, sales process and related marketing publication, delivery media, team members, reviewers, production tools, costs, and schedules.
After planning we get a defined route to develop whitepaper.
Now gear up to acquire information from different sources to feed your content in an organized manner.
Gathering information can be done through interviews, brainstorming sessions and research.
Before putting the information into your content analyze the information through general analysis, function analysis, process analysis and content mapping.
The analysis is done to find out how the information collected supports the goal of the whitepaper.
The function of the tools, technologies, product, and services are analyzed.
Through concept mapping, you can structure the ideas you have collected through various means.
Phase four of the development process is about organizing the content.
4) Organize content
The first step needed in organizing the content is outlining the content.
It includes choosing the major groups and subgroups of information and balancing their length.
Create a storyboard to persuade your audience to accomplish your goals.
Choose a starting point to create interest in the reader with the help of previous audience analysis.
Order your major topics to create a compelling story. Put these topics on the storyboard.
Use of graphics, headings, subheadings, chart highlighted quotation and sidebars are used to hold the attention of the readers.
Review and get reviewed your storyboard after its done.
Design the look and feel
A white paper page layout should be such that it is easy to convey its message. Designing the look and feel creates a great impact on the reader.
The title page and cover enhances the look and feel of the white paper.
A page layout helps to tell the story.
While designing keep your audience quality in mind.
Choose a page size depending on the delivery media chosen.
Choose the colors but don’t make a background pattern, it can make reading difficult.
In the basic page layout, take care of the headers, footers, and the magazines. The readability should be good and the page should be educative.
In a white paper take care of the line lengths, typefaces, font sizes and leading. People generally tend to read down rather than reading across. Long line length can make reading exhausting.
For printed text a line length of 40 to 80 characters is acceptable but in the computer, it should not exceed 60 characters for a better readability.
Typefaces should have individuality; avoid the ubiquitous Times New Roman and Arial typefaces.
Font size should not be too small, because in the low-resolution computer it will be hard to read.
Leading is the space between lines of text. It should be 2 to 3 points more than the font size.
The design elements such as heading, caption, highlighted quotations, tables, and sidebars help hold the attention of the reader.
Design the title page separately with a subtitle if required and the organization name and logo.
A cover adds elegance and authority. Add company basic information on the back cover such as website, email, contact, address, name, and logo.
Now as you are done with look and feel, create a desktop publishing template. It should be capable of incorporating the page and design layout created by you.
Produce a mock-up to know how the whitepaper will look like. It will give you the opportunity to find where the illustrations are required.
A review draft is what we get after writing. We illustrate the writing simultaneously.
Start with telling a story that we had sketched in the whitepaper’s storyboard.
Iterative writing builds a relationship in your ideas in a whitepaper. Writing and reviewing each draft will let you analyze and organize new information and illustrate the material.
Educate your audience even if your prime motive is marketing. Persuade your audience through educating them. There is no place for blatant marketing techniques in a white paper.
A clear and direct writing style is needed for a whitepaper. But the prime focus should be on the strong content not the writing style.
Explain concepts clearly keeping in view the knowledge level of your audience.
Define each concept. Each concept should be defined by the same term to avoid confusion.
If using any acronyms spell it when using it for the first time.
Explain to let the audience understand.
Provide examples to support explanations.
Show important processes through graphics.
Demonstrate the business value by analyzing and quantifying the benefits. Show the return on investments and prepare case studies.
Highlight key points and summarize your content.
At the end add the appendix, glossary, and bibliography if needed.
A strong conclusion at the end boosts the quality of the whitepaper.
Illustrating is passing important information visually.
Use the right resolution for the graphics. It depends on the computer display, laser printing and offset printing.
Tell the story visually to grab attention. Show data through charts.
Document the source for your data such as charts and graphics.
Use diagrams and flowchart to show processes. Show sample screens and reports.
Review, revise and approve
Review the first draft and then revise it. Now, prepare the final draft. Check if the text and illustrations match.
Review the final draft. Revise it to check the accuracy. Test the content and links.
Take legal and financial approval. Now take approval for publishing it.
Publish the white paper in your preferred delivery media depending upon the type you choose- be it a print document, electronic document or web pages.
Check the output and save your files.
Hurray! Your white paper is ready now.
5 Myths about the White Paper.
Don’t be disappointed by the myths about white paper such as
- Business executives don’t read long white papers.
- The audience should read the entire whitepaper.
- Do not make assumptions about the audience’s knowledge.
- Emphasize value rather than features.
- Everything on a whitepaper should support goals.
A white paper should be intended to achieve the goals mentioned and hidden in the white paper. Its primary role is to educate the audience to persuade them to accomplish the motive of a whitepaper. Some excellent white paper examples are given in these clickable links.
Follow all the necessary steps to develop a whitepaper that fulfills your organizational goals.
Do you write a white paper? Please share your experience and journey of writing.
If you are looking anything specific and able to find please let us know.