The interest in e-books has largely increased in previous years, and modern reading devices with energy-saving ‘e-ink’ display technology have now made the once niche product a mainstream contender. In our multi-part series, we give you tips on creating your own e-book. Welcome to part one: things to consider regarding planning, structure, and publishing.
The term white paper refers to a text style that has its historical origin in the UK. Originally, white papers were used in British government policy during the 1920s. At that time, a distinction was made between governmental papers with white envelopes and longer legal texts with blue envelopes. The documents purpose was to explain political situations to the government, with its’ content being limited to facts and arguments. Eventually, the term “white paper” has been adapted to commerce and industry, where it is used to explain theories about new technologies or products.
The first commercial use of white papers took place in the technology sector. They have been used in the modern computer industry since the 1980s. Meanwhile, the term “white paper” is also used in commercial marketing, mostly in the technology sector. As a rule, white paper provides information and media to convince decision makers of a technical solution and to make an investment. The language style is clearly different from traditional marketing or advertising, as the investors need to be convinced using neutral arguments and collected facts.
White paper marketing: what are white papers used for?
Ideally, white papers have a positive impact on the image of a company, as an extensive white paper is the guarantor of scientific credibility. The documents can also be used well for PR purposes. For search engine marketing, the extensive documents often also bring advantages. For example, Google evaluates long, specialised texts better than concentrated, short advertising messages. Thus, white papers published online have a positive effect on the ranking of your company website.
In marketing, a white paper is therefore conceived as an alternative advertising format, which does not use the conventional, rhetorical, stylistic means of advertising. Unlike conventional advertising, a white paper does not want to appeal to a mass market and stimulate purchasing, but as a rule seeks to influence individual decision makers in their actions.
Types of white papers
Marketing must be target oriented – this generally applicable rule is also valid for white papers in the commercial sector. The most effective white papers are carefully designed in terms of formula and content, for a very specific group of addressees. Before you begin creating a concept and researching surveys, you should consider three different types of white papers. Then you should decide on the type of white paper that best suits your needs and design the document accordingly.
Technical white papers
In this version of a white paper, you should focus on detailed technical information. The close target group comprises engineers and technical staff. In terms of content, you should not simply be dealing with the basics, but you should present new information on current research topics in detail. If you are not well versed in the topic, ask an expert. You can also get professional PR staff when creating a white paper.
Solution oriented white papers
This type of white paper is directly aimed at a concrete facts or improving a real situation. In opposition to a technically, detail-oriented white paper, this form of white paper is often about presenting solutions to the boardroom of a company. The target group are decision-makers – i.e., members of senior management, middle managers and project managers.
The purpose of this kind of white paper is to influence decision making. In addition to convincing facts, you should also integrate visual material like relevant statistics into the text to create a more appealing flow. This kind of white paper is growing more and more popular.
Strategic white papers
Strategic white papers also aim to change a status quo within a particular area, but have a different target group. Strategic white papers are addressed to larger groups such as parties and interest groups, politicians, or more general public bodies. In this form of the white papers, you can formulate your concerns extensively so that the addressees can get a comprehensive picture of the situation and your solution strategy.
The boundaries between different forms of white papers are blurring more and more. There is an overlap particularly between technical and strategically oriented papers, since complex technical issues are often necessary to influence the strategy of a company in a lasting way.
Why white papers are so effective
White papers are synonymous with expertise and quality. As the author of a convincing white paper, you can expect to be perceived as an expert in the relevant field, as you let the facts speak for themselves – this show trust in your product and makes you particularly credible.
White papers can be used in many ways: whether for specific surveys or PR communication – they should always be build on a factual basis. Relevant information from a white paper is often shared, which increases the level of name recognition for the author or the company. It is therefore advisable to draw up a white paper template for future projects after completing the first document.
Tips for writing a white paper
How do you write a white paper? The following section will outline what you need to consider when you create a white paper. The basic prerequisite is having done comprehensive research in order to obtain a well-founded overview of the topic. If you are not already well-versed in the subject, invest time to read literature, journals and blogs as well as consulting an expert on the topic. While this can be expensive, it is essential in creating a convincing white paper.
The preparation of appropriate content is important for the success of your white paper. If you want to convince experienced experts, then your content must be formulated and comprehensible down to the last technical detail. If you are trying to convince a member of the management board then a shorter, more concise structure is recommended. As a starting point, all types of white paper deal with a specific problem that has a specific solution. This also makes it possible to precisely address the needs of the addressees. It is important to conduct previous analysis in order to address these specifications.
The structure of your white paper should look as follows:
- Cover sheet with title
- Summary of content/abstract
- Presentation of a problem to solve it, or a thesis that must either be solved or refuted
- Further explanation of the problem/presentation of the case
- Solving the problem with the involvement of your own product where possible, otherwise proof or refutation of the thesis.
- Appendix (company description, contact options)
You should present the problem concisely and objectively. At the beginning, you can also refer to why you are qualified to solve or improve the actual situation – without drifting into advertising, of course. To substantiate the self-promotion, content from other studies, surveys, blog entries and testimonials are helpful.
You should pay attention to the demonstrability of your content. All arguments must be based on facts which are correlated to a corresponding sources. Form and writing style should correspond to the scientific guidelines of the particular subject area. A professional appearance is just as important to a white paper as well-prepared content. You should format the document in accordance with the corporate design of your company, and provide it in PDF format. Approximately 10 to 30 pages are recommended in length.
Provision and benefits
The finished white paper should be available for free download on the homepage as a PDF. This way, anyone can benefit from your expertise, and you can generate additional traffic for your site. Depending on the target group, you can also share the document via social media channels and newsletters.
The production and distribution costs for white papers are low, but the design, planning and implementation can take a lot of time and effort. Unfortunately, the success of a white paper – as with various other PR and marketing measures – is not immediately quantifiable. However, a distinction should be made between regular advertising expenditure and the compilation of a white paper, as a substantiated document creates long-term value for the company, who can then benefit from it in several ways.
In general, white papers are more effective than conventional advertising messages. The combined facts and arguments they provide mean that interested parties can consult these documents for a long time. Graphic elements can also be integrated into related subject articles and used for internal presentations.
Content seeding: essential for proliferating your white papers
After you have finished the white paper and set up your homepage, you should start the process of content seeding. This way, you can distribute relevant information about your document in order to gain attention for your solution or product. To be able to achieve this, it is important to research thematically relevant blogs, forums and other websites that are focused on related topics. Their goal is to create links with the right online presence. Be sure to in mind that website operators get many similar queries. It is therefore advisable to have an individual argument as to why your white paper is the most relevant to their site.
You can also use cross-marketing strategies. In doing so, you can use thematically related content to create awareness of your white paper. Likewise, you can discreetly point out other offers your company provides that are similar to the document in terms of content.