Seven Tips to Keep White Paper Projects on Track

Seven Tips to Keep White Paper Projects on Track

The goal of this series of posts is to help you plan and execute white paper writing projects from start to finish. In the first post of our two-part series, we described the 11 questions to ask during the kickoff call for a white paper project. In this second post, we cover our 7 tips on how to keep the project on track. Follow these time-tested tips we have developed over many white paper projects, and you’ll set up your project for success.

1. Obtain up-front approval to proceed

Before beginning the white paper project, if the project is outsourced, secure all necessary permissions and signatures up front. Many writing firms prepare a work statement that explains the project scope and establishes deadlines for draft submissions and payment. Also, obtain a purchase order and specify a financial contact for the contractor, and obtain a signature from the contractor on a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), if required. Handling approvals before the kickoff call allows you to concentrate on the white paper, rather than on administrative details.

2. Secure high level buy-in

To ensure cooperation among project participants, try to obtain company executive “buy in” on the white paper project. This also serves to motivate participants to make the white paper a priority.

3. Invite key project participants to the kickoff call

Invite key participants involved in the white paper project to the kickoff meeting, including a marketing representative and a technical contact. The meeting provides an opportunity to establish participants’ roles and review the paper’s main points, scope, and purpose. During this call, introduce the writer and discuss expectations. See our previous post for more on the kickoff call.

4. Designate a single contact person and SME(s)

Establish a single point of contact in the client organization to coordinate the white paper review process. This person circulates white paper drafts for review within the organization and coordinates feedback for the writer. Also specify subject matter experts (SMEs). Provide this contact information to the writer.

5. Establish project timelines

During the kickoff call, establish dates and deadlines for upcoming interviews, as well as delivery of the outline, first draft, and final deliverable. Rules of thumb for typical white papers include delivery of an outline within 3-5 business days after the conference call, delivery of a complete first draft 1-2 weeks from receipt of comments on the outline, and paper finalization 2 weeks later. This assumes timely reviews and availability of client personnel for interviews. If the paper is needed by a certain date—perhaps for a product launch or trade show—establish this on the kickoff call. Also review travel schedules, vacation plans, or other time constraints to ensure timely review of drafts.

6. Address graphic needs up front

Discuss any required illustrations, drawings, and infographics at the kickoff call, if possible. Graphics can often be prepared in parallel with the writing process, saving time and avoiding delays down the road.

7. Require an outline

The outline ensures that project participants are on the same page regarding the target audience, objective, primary focus, tone, length, key points, and the paper’s overall purpose. The outline provides a framework for the paper and keeps the project focused to meet stated objectives. Encourage reviewers to review the outline carefully (rather than waiting to review the first draft). Capturing course corrections at the outline stage rather than the first draft stage avoids rewrites and saves time.

What do you think of our 7 tips for white paper projects? What would you add (or remove)? We’d love to hear from you!

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.