I'm working on a white paper for one of my long term clients. I had a flash back: it reminded me of my first journalism assignment when I was a cub reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. That was 50 years ago! I feel like I've come full circle back to my first job and first love: writing about people.
If you don't have a white paper you can use for your marketing, think about doing this. My client has plenty of web pages up and does a superb e-newsletter (I know this because I help him with his!)
But as he says, "My clients are CEOs and high-level directors of companies. They don't spend much time online. I need something tangible, printed, that I can leave behind after a meeting, or send to them before."
He's an executive coach who needs to impress the top leaders who give the go-ahead to corporate coaching programs.
Maybe you're in a field where the smart people are doing research online, but could be if they hire or buy your programs, there will be a face-to-face meeting. This is why it's essential to have something printed like a white paper to leave behind, that can get passed around to other influential stakeholders.
A couple of years ago I did a teleseminar on how to write a white paper. (In a minute, I'll give you the link to download the transcript). There's a lot to it. It's like a combination of interviews, background research in your industry, and persuasive stories and is a key piece of your content marketing.
The key is to find a good writer to do the work, preferably one with experience and knowledge in your industry. Fortunately, I was working as an executive coach at one point in my career and my background in psychology helps.
The first thing I did was to do a Google search for white papers about executive coaching. Find out what others have written about the field. In this field, there are a lot of published papers already, many of them seriously covering the topic from soup to nuts. Very few of them were easy to read, or written in a way that was interesting. This inspired me to not write like that.
The problem with writing a paper designed to persuade is that you don't have specific knowledge of who your reading audience is, just a vague assumption that they're in the field and are very busy professionals. Using that assumption, you must make your writing concise and to the point. Don't waste anybody's time.
Most white papers about executive coaching have been written by academics: they're full of research and references to the "literature." They go way into the background, the who, what and why the coaching field has developed. While they may be full of facts, there is little to appeal to emotions.
Busy executives want the bottom line. They don't care about the research literature as much as they care about stories from real people who experience coaching and companies who get bottom line profitable results.
I followed this outline:
- Grab the readers' attention using a negative story of a typical problem
- Stimulate desire using positive stories of really good results
- Reinforce with reasons: facts, statistics, and logic
- Close with an appeal to heart as well as head
I used stories from my client's own experiences to illustrate clearly what it is they do, and what kinds of results they get. There are plenty of quotes from their clients. I wrote it in a neutral tone, much like a newspaper interview so that it does not read like marketing hype.
In white papers I've read in other fields there is often too much "marketing speak," too much that is complimentary, which destroys credibility. There's not enough appeal to "what's in it for the reader," and nothing to address possible objections that readers' will be thinking.
Maybe companies should hire more journalists to write their white papers, rather than give the task to their marketing people.
What do you think? Do you see a white paper as being an important content marketing piece to have? What do you send or leave behind?
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