A white paper is the perfect format to compile and share your business’s deep knowledge of the industry. It’s a useful product that can highlight your company’s expertise, and it’s also a valuable marketing tool. But how exactly do you transform your knowledge into a cohesive white paper?
White papers and business reports are similar, yet still distinct from one another. To write a successful white paper, it’s necessary to understand the difference and cover various key elements. This article will help you determine whether a white paper is for you, as well as how to prepare and produce one.
What Is a White Paper?
A white paper is an authoritative document. It’s meant to fully inform the reader on a specific topic by combining expert knowledge and research into one document, which argues for a specific recommendation or solution. White papers allow the reader to either understand an issue, make a decision, or solve a problem.
White papers are focused on data, and they’re very text-heavy business documents. Because of their large amount of data and research, they are deep reads with a generally formal tone.
Use and Value
There are two main reasons that businesses write white papers: to market themselves and to record expertise. Usually, white papers are written for an audience outside of the business, so they’re a tool to attract readers to the company with their top-quality industry knowledge.
A white paper is not a sales pitch, however. It doesn’t bid for business; instead, it sells the company by highlighting valuable recommendations and internal expertise.
Sales Pitch: 10 Ways XYZ Marketing Will Save Money in Your Advertising Budget
White Paper: Advertising: Matching Marketing Platforms and Needs
How to Select a Topic for Your White Paper
If you want people to read your white paper, then you have to choose the right topic. There are three major factors to remember:
The audience should always be your first consideration. Every white paper needs to be written with your target reader in mind. The audience could be prospective buyers that are new to the field, or it could be long-time customers who have familiarity with the industry.
Focus on the reader’s major questions or pain points. Look for topics within these that haven’t yet been fully investigated, or for which the available information would benefit from an update.
A white paper should highlight and match your company’s expertise, providing a complete investigation with both internal knowledge and external research. The content included and the way it’s put together is informed by your business’s own know-how.
3. Problem-Based and Solution-Focused
White papers identify and address specific problems. The particular problem you choose for your white paper should be timely and relevant in your field. It may focus on issues like new trends, changing techniques, industry comparison, and common dilemmas. Your white paper should have a proposed recommendation or solution that answers the problem. This solution is formulated through a thorough examination of the problem and its possible solutions.
White Paper Preparation
You always need to do comprehensive research on your selected topic before writing your white paper. Use information from internal documents, industry resources, and online references. Remember that white papers are data-focused, so they need to be supported by a significant amount of research.
Although there’s no exact rule regarding the number of required citations, you’ll need to cite any information that isn’t public knowledge and that you weren’t aware of before conducting your research. Still, you should be aware of the fact that your reader’s confidence in your white paper is likely to increase the more cited references you have. All resources must come from authoritative sites if you want to write a valuable document. Look for research materials that have credible and reliable sources.
Read Other White Papers
If there are already white papers that cover your area or topic, read them so you can identify the knowledge gaps and opportunities to build on content that already exists. This also ensures that your white paper isn’t redundant and introduces new ideas.
Use a Mind Map
There are many ideas, sources, and content involved in preparing a white paper, and it can be a challenge to keep track of everything. A mind map is a helpful organizational tool that helps the writer catalog and connect all of the pieces into one visual overview. The free tool FreeMind is a great way to organise your content, and it’s simple to use.
Related: Learn about better organising your ideas to serve your audience needs: How thinking small can improve your writing
White Paper Format
There is a standard document format that white papers generally follow. The order of the content is similar to other business reports, but the major difference is that the conclusion is placed at the end of the white paper. Often, you’ll see business communications like proposals and technical reports put the main conclusion at the beginning of the document. This is a way to cater to readers’ desires and their preference to receive the information as quickly as possible.
The content and research in a white paper inform the reader and continue to increase their understanding of the issue throughout the entire document. In the final section, the reader receives the solution, which is supported by all of the evidence put forth in the document.
The journey and preferences of the reader are different for white papers and business reports. The major findings follow suit. But regardless of the journey, the white paper must include informative headings and be easy to understand.
Choose an Accurate Title
A good title is crucial. The title should be enticing and indicate exactly what the reader will learn from reading the white paper.
Bland Title Example:
White paper on Law 567.8 Referencing Environmental Impact Assessments
Enticing Title Example:
The Rules Are Changing: White Paper on the Environmental Impact Assessment Legislation Proposals in 2021
It’s not necessary to include the phrase “white paper” in the title. While some audiences are looking for that type of authoritative indicator, others may shy away from valuable content simply due to the use of the term. Always consider what your audience would prefer.
The abstract is the first portion of the white paper. It offers readers a short overview of the white paper’s main points and shows the reader whether the document is relevant for them. After reading the abstract, the reader should know whether they’re “in the right place.”
Next, the problem statement identifies the issue that will be addressed within the white paper. The problem should be well-defined and contextualized so that it is understood by the reader.
The background section of a white paper provides the background information that’s needed for the audience to understand the problem and the solution. Depending on your topic and audience, the content could be technical and detailed, or it could be broad and high-level. If you complete original research for the white paper, be sure to communicate the methods.
The solution is the “ta-da” moment of the white paper, and it’s based on the preceding information. This solution is developed and argued through the use of the gathered evidence, as well as the author’s and company’s expertise.
The conclusion of a white paper summarizes its major findings. Recommendations based on the solution are also presented here.
Within the references section, you’ll need to collect and cite all of the sources that were used to develop the white paper. This adds validity to your document while also providing the reader with further research materials. Depending on the industry, you’ll need to follow either MLA or APA citation formatting rules.
It’s not a simple task to write a white paper. But if you put in sufficient time and skill, you can produce a valuable document that shares your company’s knowledge and expertise. It can contribute to the overall education and progress in your industry. Finally, a good white paper can also increase your business opportunities.
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