But before we start, let’s answer a few quick questions….
What is a white paper?
We need to know what a white paper is before we launch into how to write one! An in-depth report, these academic papers present an analysis or discussion of an issue and provide an in-depth solution to a particular problem. A type of business writing that highlights original research, it’s also used to outline an idea, concept, solution, or particular product you or your business may have. Typically, it includes external research and data gathered from reliable sources, analysis from field experts, thought leadership on the issue and public opinion. Its goal is to present research findings and provide helpful key takeaways and insights that will inform, educate, and enlighten your target readers.
Why is it called a white paper?
The term “white paper” originated with the British government, who would publish official reports on various topics that were printed on white paper to make them stand out. The colour was chosen to represent neutrality and impartiality. This practical naming convention quickly caught on in other industries and is now used to describe any comprehensive, authoritative report that provides solutions to complex problems or informs readers of an issue or technology. White papers are now commonly written by various individuals and organisations, from researchers and academics to businesses, governments, and non-profit organisations, as they are useful to generate leads, for content marketing strategy and business to business sales leads.
Why do companies write white white papers?
- To establish thought-leadership
- To provide in-depth research, analysis or discussion of an issue, concept, product, or solution
- To explain ideas or products in detail to convince readers to adopt their point of view
- To present facts behind their innovations and convince potential customers of their value
- To share key information with employees, board members and other stakeholders who might have less familiarity with a particular issue.
- As a lead generation tool- great for the sales team to engage with new customers!
- To add valuable content to their marketing collateral
How do you structure a white paper?
Your white paper format should include:
- Gather reliable data and research from external sources
- Create a compelling title, introduction, and background information
- Discuss the key issues of the topic using facts and figures
- Outline your solution to the problem discussed in the paper
- Include expert opinions that support your argument
- Offer thought leadership on how readers should approach the issue
- Present public opinion on what others think about it
- Summarise all of your points clearly at the end
- Conclude with a call-to-action for readers to take action
- Add visuals or graphics where appropriate.
How long should a white paper be?
A well-written white paper should be long enough to address the problem or issue at hand in sufficient detail and provide a comprehensive solution. Generally, this cannot be achieved in one page! The length of a white paper ranges from between 8-15 pages, depending on the complexity of the topic and the number of sources consulted. However, if you are writing a whitepaper that requires a deeper level of technical information or technical evaluation, it may be longer.
Now that you know what a white paper is and why it’s important, let’s dive into the 10 steps for writing an effective one. With a clear understanding of how to approach this task, you’ll soon have your own professionally written whitepaper ready to go!
Here are my 10 top tips on how to write a white paper
1. Understand your target audience
This is essential when writing a white paper, as it allows you to create content that meets the needs of your target readers, addressing their questions and providing thorough explanations for them. This knowledge helps you prepare effective content tailored to the level of understanding each individual reader has about the particular topic, ensuring that all your readers can comprehend and benefit from it. Moreover, understanding your target audience also ensures that any research presented in the paper is relevant to them and accurate and up-to-date. Ultimately, if you know who your audience is and what will interest them, you can write an informative, valuable and engaging white paper for everyone who reads it.
2. Research and select topics to write about
Researching and choosing a suitable white paper topic is integral to writing a successful and compelling document. By gathering relevant information and factual evidence from reliable sources, you can ensure that your white paper stands out with credibility and accuracy and your company is positioned as a thought leader. Taking the time to understand the needs of your target audience will help you create content that resonates with them and offers real value. Doing this research upfront helps save time in the long run as it prevents unnecessary revisions or corrections. Having well-researched topics provides a solid foundation for creating a quality white paper.
3. Outline the structure of the paper
Writing the structure is essential to ensure that the ideas you want to present are clearly and logically communicated. This is especially important when writing a white paper since it needs to be comprehensive enough to provide a thorough understanding of the topic at hand. Outlining the structure of the paper enables you to plan out what points you want to make, how you will back them up with evidence and the order in which these points should be presented. Taking the time to plan out your white paper makes it much easier and more efficient when it comes to actually writing it – so don’t skip this step!
4. Write an attention-grabbing title and introduction
An attention-grabbing title is essential for a white paper as it sets the tone for what is to come and helps draw the reader’s attention. A well-crafted description on your title page should be accurate, and informative. succinct and apt. Moreover, an attention-grabbing introduction will serve to present the main points of your white paper as well as engage and hook readers with an interesting story or thought-provoking argument.
Then, start with an opening that will engage and capture the reader’s curiosity, such as a strong problem statement. This is essential for any white paper (or blog post) as it sets the tone for the rest of your writing. An effective introduction will immediately interest readers and inspire them to want to learn more about what you have to say. It should also provide a brief overview of key points discussed throughout the paper. By crafting a compelling narrative, you can ensure that your audience wants to read on and remain interested until they reach the end of your content.
5. Present research findings, facts, arguments, and evidence clearly
When writing a white paper, it’s essential to make sure that facts, arguments and evidence are easy to understand. You can use charts, graphs or pictures to help explain the information and clearly present research findings related to the topic. Additionally, being persuasive is vital to gain the reader’s attention and convince them of your points.
6. Address potential objections or counterarguments thoroughly
This is important, or readers might think you’re hiding something or are not confident in your argument. By addressing potential objections head-on, you can show that you’re thoughtful and prepared and that you’re in no doubt about your position. It also allows readers to learn more about your topic and become better informed. To do this, you’ll need to think critically and ask yourself what questions or counterarguments a reader may have after reading your white paper. Once you’ve identified potential objections, provide thorough explanations in the text or footnotes to any sources you cite. Your readers will appreciate the effort and will be more likely to take your white paper seriously.
7. Draw logical conclusions based on evidence provided in the white paper
Communicating your main points effectively and succinctly is essential. Logic offers a pathway to understanding the implications of data, trends and patterns, and their relationships. Sound analysis requires the researcher to break down complex data or topics into manageable parts that can be examined closely and critically. The findings should be evaluated to identify a logical path to provide the best possible conclusion and proposed solution for your topic. This is an important step in writing a white paper, as it allows for a clear and concise presentation of your research, findings and implications. By drawing logical conclusions from the evidence provided, and providing key takeaways, you can communicate your points effectively and in a manner that is easy to understand.
8. Edit, proofread, and refine drafts of your work
These are all critical steps to producing a quality white paper. It ensures that all the information you are communicating is accurate and correct. Double-checking for grammar and spelling mistakes eliminates any distractions from the message you want to ensure it gets across. Plus, having a high-quality final product adds credibility to your work and enhances its overall impact. Ultimately, taking time to review and refine your paper thoroughly will help ensure its success!
9. Format white papers according to industry guidelines
An important step in producing a quality, professional document. The brand fonts, size, colour, bullet points and margins help create a clean and concise look that readers navigate easily. Fonts should be easy to read but not distracting from the presented information. Colours should be professional and not overwhelming, while margins should allow the text to flow without being cramped. You may want to use a standard document format or a white paper template. There are many free downloads online like this one – https://www.adobe.com/express/create/white-paper that will also provide you with some great white paper design tips.
10. Promote the published white paper online
What’s the point in spending hours on a great white paper when no one gets to reads it? Promoting a white paper online is an integral part of the publishing process. Doing so can help increase your work’s visibility and build awareness around it. You can reach a larger audience and share your message by utilising social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others. Additionally, digital marketing campaigns such as paid advertising and email blasts can also help to drive traffic to your document. By combining these strategies, you can ensure that your white paper reaches the maximum number of readers possible!
Writing a white paper is important for any business or individual looking to share their research and findings. From researching your topic thoroughly to editing and proofreading drafts of your work, these are all fundamental parts of creating quality content. Additionally, formatting according to industry guidelines and promoting it through digital marketing campaigns helps ensure your white paper reaches its intended audience.
For a white paper example, check out this one I recently wrote for Lim-Loges & Masters “Reviving Workplace Success Across Asia Pacific – Perspectives from CHROs”: https://limlogesmasters.com/whitepapers/reviving-workplace-success-in-asia-pacific-perspectives-from-chros/
You can also check out lots of other white paper examples with a good old internet search – there are tons out there to help you!
By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a successful document that will have the maximum impact on its readers.