What Is a White Paper—and Why Should I Write One?

PUBLISHED: April 26, 2018

Remember those nights when you stayed up until 3AM, quarantined in your university dorm room, writing 15-page research papers about books you barely understood? In those moments, you likely wondered: What is it all for? How can this possibly help me in the real world?

Well, if you’re tasked with writing a white paper, then penning that college research paper may prove more beneficial than you first suspected.

What is a white paper?
The definition varies slightly depending on the business you’re in—government, tech, health care—but in the marketing world, a white paper is an authoritative and detailed report on a particular topic. Academic in nature, these professional documents often depict a familiar problem in your industry and then introduce a potential solution.

Why should you write one?
Unlike e-books or brochures, which typically require far less research, the intention behind a white paper is, first and foremost, to educate; in doing so, you (the company distributing the white paper) build credibility with your readers.

In terms of tone, you’ll find that white papers are more informational than promotional. More “business formal” than conversational. A white paper is not a product launch or a sales pitch or an unabashed advertisement. Rather, it is a means of promoting your expertise in a given subject.

A history of well-written white papers also prompts your audience to check back to your website for new content – you can capitalize on this resource by requiring an email address inorder to download which organically builds your SEO and your e-marketing lists with qualified leads.

So, how do I write a winning white paper?

  1. First, pinpoint your audience. Who’s going to read this in-depth problem-solving guide, and what topics are most fascinating to them? You will be writing with this audience in mind.
  2. Don’t be brief. If you’re looking for something you can write overnight, then a product brief or press release is more up your alley. White papers require ample research and references; as such, these documents can take several weeks to craft. And, of course, don’t omit the images, charts and graphs that support your data and make the information more captivating.
  3. Be valuable, not promotional. Remember: This is not an ad. If you’re going to promote your brand, service or product, it must be integrated seamlessly into the material. If a reader detects that your white paper is in fact a 10-page commercial, you’ll lose them. Focus instead on being an authority that they can trust—that in itself is invaluable.
  4. Edit, proofread, perfect. Readers can forgive grammatical errors and careless formatting in a blog post; in the world of digital content, a blog post is fast food. A white paper, on the other hand, requires care and precision. It’s a 5-course meal that’s going to be reviewed and scrutinized. So edit, edit again, and seek out input from your team. Your efforts in this stage can turn a respectable article into a polished manuscript.

If your readers dig the information that you’ve cooked up for them and find value in your proposed solution, then they’ll trust that you’re an authority in the field. Consequently, they’ll be more likely to purchase your product or service in the future. White papers may not result in immediate sales, but when executed properly, they can generate leads and build a sizeable network of prospective customers.


Article originally published in Community News.

About Brand Poets

Founded by Tana M. Llinas, Brand Poets is a collective of strategists, visual storytellers, and digital artisans crafting smart, poignant campaigns that command attention. www.brandpoets.com


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