Check out our list of “don’ts” to help you avoid common pitfalls and instead create a highly readable, valuable white paper:
1. Don’t fail to define your audience.
What industry are you appealing to and which clients will find the paper interesting? Decide who you are talking to before you write the paper. Understanding your audience up front will keep the paper focused and help the paper flow.
2. Don’t sound too promotional.
Unlike marketing collateral that is supposed to sound “salesy,” white papers are subtle. The white paper’s goal is to inform, educate, and share information about a product or service. If a paper is well-written, it creates sales leads. But a white paper’s primary goal is to share valuable information, and then (hopefully) incentivize the reader to inquire into the company, product, or service being described. People expect a brochure to contain a sales pitch and they expect thought leadership from a white paper. To communicate product features and benefits, consider a brochure or sales sheet instead of a white paper.
3. Don’t write a paper that is too long or too short.
The ideal white paper is 8 to 10 pages in length, including interesting graphics to illustrate points covered in the paper. A paper over 10 pages can overwhelm the reader. Shorter papers often lack enough valuable information. Most white papers require at least eight pages of copy and graphics to fully explore a topic and to incorporate all the typical elements—title page, executive summary, introduction, body, conclusion, and end notes.
4. Don’t create a paper that looks unprofessional.
Nothing is more disappointing than discovering typos, poor grammar, and spelling errors in a finished white paper. When this occurs, the paper instantly loses credibility. To appear believable, a white paper must demonstrate superior writing skills with the correct capitalization, punctuation and spelling. Sloppy formatting, passive writing style, incorrect tense and poor sentence structure are red flags. Hire a professional writing firm to manage white paper development and share your style guide. Make sure several people proof-read the paper, including representatives from marketing, product teams, and possibly your legal department.
5. Don’t let your paper languish.
Creating a well-written white paper is worthwhile …unless you let the paper sit on your hard drive. Many companies spend time and resources creating the perfect paper, show it off around the office…and then the paper sits. Promote your white paper so all your hard work pays off. For ideas about promoting your white paper, view our last blog post about how to promote a white paper.
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