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Use White Papers to Establish Your Business as a Thought Leader

What, Who, Why and Hows of Position Papers & Pro Writing Tips With a name like “white papers,” it’s no wonder they don’t get the attention they deserve. But if you get past the bland, boring and colonial overtones, white papers can be a valuable

What, Who, Why and Hows of Position Papers & Pro Writing Tips

With a name like “white papers,” it’s no wonder they don’t get the attention they deserve. But if you get past the bland, boring and colonial overtones, white papers can be a valuable marketing tool for any business looking to establish itself as a thought leader in the industry. Plus, they’re great for curing insomnia. (Kidding…kinda.)

Even in this digital age, white papers are important. In fact, they may be more relevant than ever.

Not sure what they are or how they can help a business? Read on!

What are white papers?

White papers are authoritative, professional documents that provide information about a particular topic, issue or solution. Typically used in the business world, they educate and persuade readers about a specific product/service or technology. Longer than blogs, as well as more formal and structured, the papers’ sections may include an executive summary, an introduction, a discussion of the issue, research and analysis, and conclusions or recommendations.

Now to address the elephant in the room. The term “white papers” has its roots in the British government, specifically in the 19th century when the British government would produce short reports printed on white paper and distributed to Members of Parliament. The reports presented policy proposals or informed MPs on a specific issue or topic. Over time, the term has evolved to be used by other organizations and industries in reference to educational documents that present detailed information on a subject or concern. To avoid any connotations of exclusion or colonialism, organizations are starting to use terms such as “position paper,” “research report” or “policy brief” instead of white paper.

Why white papers matter

Even with the outdated name, white papers are relevant in today’s technological era because of the sheer amount of information available online. With so much content vying for our attention, the documents provide businesses an opportunity to cut through the noise and get their message heard. Following are some of the ways they can make a difference:

Depth of information – White papers provide in-depth information on a particular topic, issue or solution. This level of detail and analysis is not always available through a simple Google search.

Credibility and trust – They are typically written by subject matter experts (SMEs) and are often reviewed by peers or industry associations. This adds a level of credibility and trust that may not be present in other types of content found online.

Targeted information – White papers are often created with a specific target audience in mind, such as decision-makers or technical experts. This targeted information can be more relevant and useful than a broad internet search.

Thought leadership – The papers can establish a business or individual as a thought leader in their industry. By providing valuable insights and information, they help build a reputation for expertise and knowledge.

Structured information – White papers provide structured information that is easy to read and understand. They often include headings, subheadings and visual aids, such as charts and graphs, to help readers navigate and digest the content.

Additionally, white papers can be easily shared online, making them a powerful marketing tool that can reach a wide audience.

What businesses need white papers and why

While any business can benefit from a well-crafted white paper, certain niches are particularly suited to using them.

Tech companies often have complex products or services that require detailed explanations to educate potential customers. Professional services such as law, accounting or consulting often deal with intricate issues that demand in-depth analysis. Policy briefs can be used to highlight expertise and thought leadership in a particular area. Business-to-business (B2B) companies often need to educate potential clients about their products or services, especially if they’re specialized or technical. Likewise, startups frequently have to educate potential investors or partners about the benefits of their business model or technology by providing data and evidence and making a compelling case for their solution. And healthcare and life sciences companies often deal with complicated issues related to science and medicine that necessitate in-depth data and information.

In addition to educating customers and building credibility, white papers can be used as a marketing tool by offering them up as a free download in exchange for contact information, allowing businesses to capture leads and follow up with potential customers. White papers can also help businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors by highlighting their unique features and benefits.

Top tips for drafting a white paper and an outline

  • Before you start writing, you should identify your target audience and tailor your content to their needs and interests.
  • White papers should be well-researched and based on solid data and evidence. Conduct thorough research and gather credible sources to support your claims.
  • Your white paper should have a clear structure, including an introduction, body and conclusion. Headings and subheadings break up the text and make it easier to read.
  • Use clear and concise language. Write in a professional tone, using transparent language that is easy to understand.
  • White papers should provide actionable insights that readers can use to make informed decisions. Make sure to provide practical advice and tips.
  • Visual aids such as charts, graphs and images can help to illustrate your points and make your white paper more engaging.
  • Make sure to edit and proofread your white paper carefully to ensure that it is error-free and polished.

Following is an outline for a basic white paper:

I. Introduction

  1. Background information on the topic
  2. Problem statement or question to be addressed
  3. Purpose of the white paper
  4. Overview of the content

II. Context

  1. Current state of the industry or issue
  2. Relevant trends or data
  3. Overview of the key players and stakeholders

III. Analysis

  1. Detailed analysis of the problem or issue
  2. Identification of key challenges or obstacles
  3. Discussion of potential solutions or approaches

IV. Solution

  1. Description of the proposed solution or approach
  2. Discussion of the benefits and advantages
  3. Potential risks or limitations

V. Implementation

  1. Detailed plan for implementing the solution
  2. Discussion of potential challenges or obstacles
  3. Timeline and milestones

VI. Conclusion

  1. Recap of the problem and proposed solution
  2. Summary of key points
  3. Call to action or next steps

VII. References

  1. List of sources cited in the white paper
  2. Additional resources for further reading

Of course, specific sections and content will vary depending on the topic and purpose of the white paper.

The takeaway

Yes, white papers may be considered an old-fashioned and not particularly glamorous form of business communication, but they remain a valuable tool for companies looking to establish thought leadership, generate leads, educate prospects and support sales efforts. By offering valuable insights and addressing common pain points or challenges, white papers can help businesses build credibility and trust with potential customers, ultimately driving business growth and success.

Worried your recent papers fall into the “sleep aid” category? Hire a professional to add verve and vigour. We can ensure your policy briefs become a key component of your company’s marketing and communication strategy.

At Rock.Paper.Copy, our professionals work with you to create high-impact, effective copy and turn browsers into buyers.

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