The White Paper Process: The All-Important Kickoff Call

The White Paper Process: The All-Important Kickoff Call

In this post, we cover the first part of our two-part series of posts on the white paper process. The goal of this series of posts is to help you plan and execute white paper writing projects from start to finish. For more information on this topic, visit our second post in the series, Seven Tips to Keep White Paper Projects on Track.

Start the white paper process with the kickoff call

In this post, we cover the kickoff call. The kickoff call with the client’s marketing coordinator, the white paper writer, and potentially a subject matter expert or two, hits the high points of the white paper process. It also serves to plan the project and set up everyone for success. We use the key points in this post as a sort of white paper planning guide. We phrase these key points as 11 questions, which can be sent to the client to answer before the kickoff call. Or, the questions can be used as an agenda for the kickoff call. Answer these 11 questions up front, and you have a great plan for the white paper.

1. Who is the target audience for the white paper?
The first step in the white paper process on the kickoff call is to define the primary and secondary audience for the paper? What industry are you targeting? What job titles describe your readers?

2. What is the desired length of the paper?
Most Hoffman white papers are between six and ten pages in length. Some clients request a concise, six-page, white paper while others require 15 to 20 pages to explore a complex topic. Just make sure you include enough information to adequately cover your topic, but not so much that you bury your reader in unnecessary details. To learn more, see our post on white paper length.

3. What is the white paper’s objective?
Will the paper be used to create sales leads or as a reward to someone who emails for more information? Will you distribute the white paper to press and analysts to create buzz or use it to educate your salespeople about a new product? Define a clear objective to help guide the content you deliver.

4. What is the white paper’s primary topic?
What is the focus of this white paper project? What information will you provide to ensure your white paper delivers true value to your reader?

5. What tone will the paper adopt?
How do you want to address your readers? Will the paper be informational, using a credible third person tone (recommended) or a more familiar, “friendly” tone using first or second person?

6. What challenges will resonate with your reader?
What business or technical challenges do you want to address in the white paper? These are the problems that your products or solutions help solve. Do you have current statistics, relevant data, industry stories, or customer examples to underscore the difficulty of these challenges?

7. What primary messages will the white paper share?
What are the top three to five primary messages you want to leave with your reader? What memorable lessons can you share?

8. What supporting information can you provide to the white paper writer?
What supporting documents and illustrations can you provide for additional content? Assemble sales presentations, marketing collateral, videos, previously written papers, news articles—anything to quickly bring your writer up-to-speed.

9. What is the schedule for paper completion?
What is the deadline for completion? Do you need the white paper for a new product launch, trade show, or social media campaign? Establish important milestones during the kickoff call such as the dates for the outline, first draft, and revised drafts. Also, allow enough time for design, illustration, and layout.

10. What is the writer’s scope of work?
Will your writer provide writing services only or is design, illustration, and layout also included? If you are using different vendors for writing and design, make sure all parties are aware of the schedule.

11. Who are the key contacts at the client organization?
During your initial white planning meeting, provide your writer with the names, titles, email addresses, and phone numbers of their primary contact and subject matter expert(s).

What do you think of our 11-step white paper process?  Which steps do you use?  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.