White Paper Audiences: More Than You Thought
Last week, we covered the four primary white paper applications. In this post, we’ll cover one of these applications in more depth: use of white papers to inform a wide variety of potential audiences (besides customers).
Organizations typically target white papers to a defined external audience, such as business decision makers in a particular vertical, or technical decision makers that face a particular type of problem or need. However, organizations can also use white papers to educate and inform a broad array of secondary audiences. Even though the white papers are not primarily targeted to these additional groups, the papers remain an effective vehicle for conveying useful information to them.
Topics to Inform a Wide Range of White Paper Audiences
Crafted properly, white papers synthesize information from internal subject matter experts, analyst information, research results, objective product/service information, and other useful knowledge into a single, well organized document. As a result, the white paper that emerges from this process can be the single best source of information about such topics as the following:
- Business issues that the organization addresses
- Ways the organization addresses these issues
- Best practices for addressing these business issues
- How the organization’s solutions work, and the benefits they provide customers
- Solutions that compete with the organization’s offerings
- Third-party information on business issues and solutions
- Information on the marketplace or practice areas in which the organization is involved
Think about it. When you go to a company’s website and really want to learn about them, what do you read? If they have a good white paper, that may be your best bet.
This means that the value of developing white papers extends beyond simply educating targeted external audiences. Organizations can use white papers to educate and inform a broad range of employees, contractors, and many others.
White Paper Audience: Employees
White papers can help employees function more effectively in the organization by providing them information on the topics listed above. For example, human resources personnel can use white papers to complement other information they provide to new hires as a form of orientation. Recruiters can entice highly-sought-after employees by providing a well written white paper that demonstrates the organization’s thought leadership. Personnel in the legal department can better understand the business issues and solutions the organization offers by reviewing white papers, adding context to their activities.
Many high level executives in organizations are disconnected from the technical aspects of the solutions that their organizations offer; a careful review of technical white papers can improve such awareness. Conversely, many technical personnel in organizations are unfamiliar with the business drivers, markets, and vertical applications of their solutions; white paper review can improve this awareness as well. In these roles, white papers fill in the gaps in knowledge of different types of employees in the organization.
While sales forces are often provided various forms of information to aid their activities, a review of the outward facing white papers aimed at their customers is crucial; they need to understand how the company is characterizing business issues and solutions to provide a consistent message to prospects. This benefit also extends to the channel, including value-added resellers. And when a company decides to issue an initial public offering (IPO), white papers can inform relevant players as well.
White Paper Audience: Non-Employees with Close Ties to the Organization
These benefits are not limited to employees. Key contractors of the company need to understand what issues the organization addresses, what markets it serves, and what the organization offers. On the marketing side, these contractors include a public relations firm, an ad agency, a marcom firm, website designers and content developers, and others. More generally, these include recruiters, suppliers, and other third parties. If suppliers, for example, are better educated about the organization’s markets and end products, they may be better able to meet supply chain needs. White papers provide a fast way for each of these important service providers to quickly learn about the organization.
Other stakeholders that can benefit from a white paper review include partners of the organization; existing investors, potential investors, or venture capital firms; and ultimately, decision makers at firms that are considering acquiring the company. Hence, the white paper can assume a supporting role in corporate communications, with a focus on the company, rather than its offerings.
External stakeholders that do not have close ties to the organization, but still seek to learn about what they do, can benefit from reading the company’s white papers. These include the media, analysts, regulatory personnel, and perhaps even savvy consumers.
Reaching These Broader White Paper Audiences
So when planning development of white papers, keep in mind the broader range of readers that they can influence, educate, and inform about core business issues, markets, and solutions. This broader perspective affects the ways organizations disseminate the paper (beyond typically posting it on customer-facing websites, etc.), including the following:
- Place it on the company intranet to educate employees
- Post it in the partner, channel, and value-added reseller (VAR) area of the website
- Include it in sales force and media packets
- Issue news releases as new papers are available
- Incorporate it into new employee orientation programs
- Email links to it to key partners, analysts, and investors
- Include hard copies in lobby and cafeteria kiosks
What do you think of this approach? What audiences have you informed with white papers? Can you envision other potential white paper audiences? Let us know what you think!
For the last 30 years, Hoffman Marketing Communications has created white papers, collateral, and more recently multimedia, on complex business issues and technologies. Sign up here to get your free copy of our White Paper on White Papers to learn the ten best practices for creating effective white papers.