White papers are long-form, informative documents that cover a subject much more in-depth than a regular blog post or online article. They are useful in detailing a problem and presenting a company’s products as a solution to that problem, or in simply explaining technical subjects to laypersons. Usually, they include many facts and figures and can involve quite a bit of research in order to make a compelling case for any solutions being presented.
Here are some of the key characteristics shared by most white papers:
- Around three to five pages in length on the short side, but can be dozens of pages long.
- Include substantial technical information and cited facts with links to their sources.
- Less blatantly sales-y and more information-based than regular copy.
- Especially thorough white papers may include a “Works Cited” or similar section, showing where the research cited in the paper was derived from.
The challenge in writing white papers lies in the following areas:
- Communicating technical subjects so that an average person can understand them.
- Avoiding the overuse of jargon.
- Avoiding clear bias towards the sponsoring firm’s products, as this will make the credibility of the paper drop.
- Making dry subjects interesting so as not to bore the reader to death.
Here is a sample of a white paper I wrote (just the actual copy, no artwork or photos). The client wanted a heavy slant towards the product he sells, so I had to strike a balance between providing information and “vilifying the competition.” There is no way this much data could be presented in a 400-500 word article, so the white paper format fits perfectly here.
White papers should be part of any company’s marketing mix, along with items such as social networking, blogs, and video. They are powerful tools which are proven to provide leads when accompanied by a smart landing page strategy and follow up campaign.