Writing A White Paper

written communciationWriting a white paper is extremely useful, both for marketing and for sharing information. If you’re considering transforming your knowledge into a white paper, read this article. We can help you decide if a white paper is the most suitable format. We also share some expert tips to help you prepare and create your white paper so that it creates the maximum impact with your target audience.

What is a White Paper?

A white paper is an authoritative document. It’s intended to provide your reader with all the information they need on a specific topic. White papers present expert knowledge and propose an ideal solution. When your reader finishes reading your white paper, the conclusion you propose feels obvious. The facts you present lead naturally to a specific solution, decision or course of action.

White papers are designed for an external audience to highlight your business’s valuable recommendations, but they aren’t a sales pitch. When you write your white paper, bear this in mind. The language you use in a white paper should be informative but not ‘salesy’. Your reader should feel convinced that the solution you provide is the right one, whilst not feeling like you’re bidding for their business.

How Does Writing a White Paper Differ from Writing Other Publications?

Differences Between White Papers and Brochures

Brochures are sales documents. They create interest in a product or service by pushing emotional buttons. These emotional buttons are designed to make the reader feel like they may miss out if they don’t buy from you. Human beings are motivated by emotions such as fear, desire, vanity, urgency and greed! This isn’t a negative reflection on us, it’s just how our brains work.

For example, a common format used in a brochure is something like this:

If you don’t buy this product – this negative thing happens” (Fear)

But if you do buy this product, this positive thing happens. Your company appears better than your competitors” (Desire and vanity)

But… you have to buy this product now as this half price offer expires tomorrow.” (Urgency)

And if you buy today, we’ll give you another product free.” (Greed).

Brochures are flashy and visually attractive, they use clever copywriting and sales techniques to convince.

White papers are persuasive essays. They have a more formal tone and persuade using facts, logic and statistics. A white paper may also contain quotes from key industry experts and opinion makers. They are not presented as flashy, but are substantial, factual documents written in plain English.

Differences Between Writing a White Paper and Writing Case Studies

Case studies are testimonials written about how a particular product or service helps a business achieve its aims. They may contain quotes from the customer and are usually around 1000 words in length. They are written specifically to reassure prospective customers.

White papers are normally much longer – 3000 words or more. They don’t contain direct quotes from satisfied customers or directly from your business. A white paper uses the problem/solution format to present an indisputable answer to an issue.

Differences Between Writing a White Paper and Writing Business Reports

A business report often presents the conclusion at the beginning of the document. However, a white paper is written in an order that increases the reader’s understanding as they progress. The conclusion is at the end of the document. This offers a solution that answers all the questions posed and solves the problems described.

Tips on Writing a White Paper

Choose a Good Title for Your White Paper

The title should be enticing and accurately describe what the reader learns from the document.

Writing a White Paper for Your Audience

Consider the audience you are writing a white paper for. Use language and tone that is familiar to that audience.

Be the Expert

Your white paper demonstrates your expertise of the topic. It includes a full demonstration of your research and findings.

State Problems – Provide Solutions

Your white paper demonstrates challenges. It provides achievable solutions that are obvious given your research and findings.

Preparing to Write a White Paper

1. Do comprehensive research. White papers are data-focused and supported by in-depth findings.

2. Read other white papers. Make sure you’re not presenting the same findings as your competitors. Look for any gaps in the information and fill them.

3. Plan and Map Your Content. A vital part of preparing to write a white paper is mapping out your content and keeping track of your sources. Consider using a Mind Map® tool that allows you to plan your white paper and use a visual map to connect your problems and solutions.

White Paper Format

A white paper layout is relatively standard. It reads naturally in the order that the reader desires the information. We suggest you use the following order and sections:

1. Abstract . A brief overview of the main points. This enables the reader to make sure your white paper is relevant to their knowledge requirements.

2. Problem Statement. A clear description of the problem and relevant issues.

3. History. The background of the problem/issues, including research and findings.

4. Solution. Your answer to the problems and questions posed.

5. Conclusion. A summary of findings and the solution.

6. References. Citation of your sources.

Final Thoughts on Writing a White Paper

A white paper takes preparation and a time investment. Follow our tips to help you to create a white paper that increases the credibility of your business. Written correctly, your white paper raises your credibility and may create more revenue. It’s also a future reference for both you and your colleagues.

Take a look at Illumine’s Professional Business Writing course here >

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