Q. My company has asked me to write a white paper to help market our services to prospects and clients. I’ve never done this and have no idea where to start. What’s the best approach?
A. First, determine who your audience will be. Your white paper will be more effective if you do not cast an overly broad net, but instead focus on prospects and clients who are interested in a specific aspect of your services or products. Ask yourself what questions these people most want to have answered. Those are the topics to cover.
Think of your white paper as a conversation. When you sit down at the computer, don’t think of Writing as a high-
falutin’ task with a capital W. Write as you would talk. It will be more natural and clear than if you strive for overly formal language.
Set a page limit and approach the task in “chunks.” No matter what your topic or expertise, no one wants to read dozens of pages about your business. Five to six pages is plenty.
It can help to assign one page to each topic and think of each page as a separate writing task. This will make the writing more manageable (especially for beginners) and will allow you to feel the satisfaction of completing each section as you proceed.
Particular sections may be easier to write, or more interesting to you, so write them first to gain some momentum. When you finish all of the sections, place them in order of importance to the reader. Many people find it easier to write the introduction last.
If at any point you feel blocked at how to start a section, think of yourself answering a phone call from a friend or client asking you about the topic. Write down the first thing you would say on the call. In most cases, it will be what’s most important or interesting, because your subconscious mind has already figured that out.
Did you know?
Though it’s now widely used in business, the term “white paper” originated in government. Many cite British leader Winston Churchill’s White Paper of 1922 as the first document to go by the name. That document proved to be historic: It clarified Britain’s intent to support the “establishment … of a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine — the area that now includes the nation of Israel.
Need help with writing or editing content for social media or your website, blog, email newsletter or print collateral? Email Kim Landry or call 484.829.0021.