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Writing a White Paper: The Definitive Guide

Writing a white paper is a quite similar but distinct form of writing any business report. To draft a successful white paper, you need to understand the difference and include all the necessary key elements. This article will provide you with descriptive guidance about drafting a perfect white paper; which means how to prepare and produce one.

What is a White Paper:

The white paper is an official report that shares a company’s message and informs its potential customers about a complicated issue in a brief but highly formal or professional format. Or you can say a white paper is an in-depth research report about a specific topic and the problems that surround it. White Paper is meant to educate readers and help them to understand and solve an issue.

In the marketing industry, a white paper is a long-form piece of content, kind of similar to an eBook. The difference between the two is that a white paper contains more technical information and they often include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data.

What is the right process for writing a white paper:

To start writing a white paper can be a daunting task. It contains so much information and research. The following few simple guidelines can help you to keep your white paper outstanding and engaging.

Pick the right topic

This might seem obvious, but it is the most vital and first step in writing a white paper. Without an attractive and popular topic that resonates with your audience, your white paper will not bring many audiences to read it. When choosing the right topic, you should care about the following three important criteria:

  • The chosen topic should come under the field that you are qualified to write about.
  • The topic should be the audience’s interest-centric.
  • It is better to choose a topic, about which little content has been written already and thus fill a “content gap.”

Finally, filling a “content gap” will help your white paper to get noticed and gain traffic. Writing about a topic that no one else has written about will fail to rank highly on search engines. You can also make a call to action asking your audience what they would like to see in your upcoming white paper. So that you can get ideas, make your topic more relevant, and you will generate buzz around your content even before it’s finished.

White papers are meant to be authoritative pieces of content, so it’s important to write a brief research note about what you know. But you must match this to the interests of your target audience to be engaged with. You can crowd-source information from or within your organization. If you are writing a white paper about the field of engineering, you can feature and include an interview with an engineer and the same process goes for other fields also.

Target your audience

Targeting your audience goes with choosing the right topic for writing a white paper. But if we consider those hidden factors beyond your audience’s interests, it’s important to think of the kinds of people who will be reading your white paper.

  • Is the topic relatable to their profession?
  • Right representation of the content.
  • Are they likely to be reading something they are relatively unfamiliar with?
  • A good professional format
  • A good call to action

These help you to establish the voice and you should care about whether industry-specific jargon is appropriate. Another important factor is to ensure all arguments are logically sound supported. All the statistics and information should be relevant to the specific audience you are targeting.

Another important part of defining an audience in the age of Google revolves around how people will find the white paper. It indicates which platforms’ specific personas are being used for research and what search terms the audience put in. This analysis will help you to get your white paper found by the right people. Optimization of keywords is important, but you need to remember to write for people, not for search engines. Google is getting its search engine updated every time by making it better all the time at understanding and matching search intent with relevant content.

Give it a great intro and outro

Like with all good content, drafting a white paper should contain an attractive introduction to captivate your audience, pique their curiosity, and entice them to read further. It is a good idea to provide a summary of what they are going to read in the white paper and to emphasize how exactly it is going to benefit them.
Your outro is equally important as an intro, especially if you are using your white paper to market your products or services. While drafting a white paper, you should avoid any self-promotion in the body of your white paper. You can certainly mention your relevant product offerings and how to obtain them perhaps using a compelling call-to-action section at the end.

Stuff it with value

White papers are not any advertising piece or any marketing pamphlet that is meant for the advertisements for your company. Instead, you should provide plenty of useful deep information that will be valuable for readers even if they are not your customers. Emphasizing the values and correct information is the key to drafting a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Keep it interesting

White papers are based on information; still, it must be a bit interesting piece. Otherwise, no one will show interest in reading it.  It should be more detailed and thorough than blog posts or eBooks. As we know people get connected easily when it comes to a story. So always try to portray your research and information through a story that will keep the interest factor up.

Things to avoid:

There are some pitfalls and common mistakes almost all while writing a white paper. To avoid mistakes when writing a perfect white paper the following things should be highlighted.

  • Sounding like a sales pitch
  • Lack of adequate research
  • Poor design
  • Not telling a story
  • Low readability
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