In the next few days, I’m featuring guest author Michael Stelzner of Writing White Papers blog to teach us about writing these important business marketing tools. I recently asked Mike questions in an email:
Hi, Mike. Some questions arose for me after reading your great posts on white papers. I was wondering if you could answer them and then I’ll post this short email interview as well?
1. Where does the name "white paper" come from?
The term takes its roots from Parliament in the UK. When they needed to get a bill to the floor quickly, they would wrap it in white paper rather than a formal binding.
2. How does a white paper differ from an article or a special report?
White papers have elements of persuasion which are typically absent from an article. Special reports and white papers are virtually the same. However, the white paper tends to have a sales angle where a special report may not.
3. Is there any special formatting, customary length, or frequency of publishing that makes a white paper a white paper? Do they have any special covers?
Typically a white paper has lots of "white space." It also has wider margins to allow folks to write notes on the piece when it is printed. Usually 6-12 pages in length. Covers are optional but not necessary. If you want to see examples, go here for samples.
4. How does a company distribute white papers?
Usually electronically as a PDF file. We surveyed 600 white paper writers and more than 90 percent said as PDF files. However a healthy percentage do print them and mail them still (or hand them out at an event).
5. Are white papers also used by individual consultants, service providers, and small businesses?
Absolutely. A new study by Rain Today showed that "74 percent of professional services companies ranked white papers as an excellent source of lead generation." See the full report here.
Want to learn more? Here are a few resources:
Best Regards, Mike