White papers


Even the words ‘white paper’ trigger a yawn, and yet it should be one of the most exciting and entertaining pieces of marketing your company produces.

Traditionally, they are viewed as being dense, technical documents that bore the pants off the reader. That’s why once sent out, the generally gather dust in the recipient’s “will look at later when I can be bothered this week of never” pile.

It’s such a waste, not only of your time and expense but also of the fantastic information you put together.

So, if you want your white papers to be read and enjoyed, it’s time to look at them differently.

It’s time to be different

I won’t go into what your white paper should do, because I’ve already covered that in an earlier post.

Instead, I want to look at how you should write your white paper in terms of voice and style.

Going back a step, usually, the writing of the white paper rests with the subject matter expert (SME) within your company. After all, there is no one else better qualified to talk about the subject in question.

The main problem with that is the SME, although a mine of information, is not a talented writer. That’s why the result usually ends up as uber technical, dry, boring – basically as dull as dishwater.

As a result, the white paper disappears into that unread pile I mentioned earlier—a complete waste of time.

However, if you cleverly hire a copywriter to write them for you, the result will be completely different.

What a copywriter can do that an SME can’t

Of course, your copywriter is not an expert in the subject you want to cover. But that doesn’t mean they can’t write about it.

This is how it works.

The copywriter, for the sake of this article we’ll call her Sally (oh look, she’s got the same name as me), arranges a telephone interview with your SME.

During the course of that call, she discusses the topic with the SME, the implications for customers, the optimum resolution (which, spookily, happens to coincide with the product or service you offer), and the impact that solution will have on their business. Sally will also gather facts, figures, and statistics to back up the meat of the white paper.

Working with you, she will then discuss the style and format (especially if you already have a white paper template that you use) before going away and creating the initial draft of the document.

The main difference is that, because Sally’s not an expert in your business, she approaches the writing from a completely different angle.

As a result, the writing is natural (she avoids all jargon and marketing-speak) and confident. It follows a logical structure. It’s written using language anyone can understand and, as a result, gives an entertaining finished product – something your recipients will want to read.

The cost outsourcing vs in-house

The thought of paying someone outside of your company to write a white paper will probably make your finance person break out in a cold sweat. However, when you look at the response you get, it’s worth it.

Writing a white paper is not a cheap endeavour, but then again, nothing worthwhile ever is.

Don’t think of it as an additional cost; it’s an investment in your company’s reputation. After all, if you produce outstanding white papers (and articles, web copy, case studies, etc.) people are more likely to trust you with their business.

Let me write your white papers for you

Luckily for you, Sally is available for hire to write all your white papers and reports. Not only will she save you and your SMEs valuable time, but she’ll also create knock-out content that your customers will want to read.

You know it makes sense.


Author: Sally Ormond, freelance copywriter