White papers, when done properly, are a powerful marketing tool. Whilst it's an authoritative report that will position your business as an expert in your chosen field, white papers will also help to drive customers and media interest to your business too.
It comes with the territory, but producing a white paper is a large undertaking. Actually writing the piece is the last step in the process but if you do it right, you’ll have a first class report that has longevity too.
In this blog, we’ll cover the basics of producing a white paper, which includes identifying your niche, conducting research and getting the customers and media interested too.
1. Your Niche and Angle
It might sound like common sense, but if you want your white paper – or any content for that matter – to have authority and be trusted, you need to recognise and stay in your niche. Writing what you know will also help later when it comes to reaching out to the media with your report.
The next step is deciding on the topic of your white paper. Ask yourself the following:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- Has your idea been done before?
- How will this help your customers – present and potential?
- Will anyone care?
You should have concrete answers to all of these questions before you proceed. Remember, your white paper won’t have a positive effect on your business if no one cares – this isn’t a sales pitch!
2. The Power of Data
Nothing gives a white paper more authority than data to back up your points. Depending on your subject matter and budget, why not commission a market research company to carry out a survey on your behalf? Again, the same rules apply as above. Decide what you want your survey to prove, do some research to check readers will care, and meet and brief your chosen market researcher too.
When it comes to surveys, the sample size is vital. To give your survey any real authority and to ensure the media will be interested, you should be looking at 1,000 participants as a minimum. Research companies like Ampersand will carry out your survey and also provide a detailed top-level report on the most important and surprising findings.
3. Don’t Neglect Design
5,000 words of block text won’t be interesting to anyone, no matter how groundbreaking the discoveries you’ve uncovered are. Make sure you use a great designer who can help visualise the points you’re making. Include graphs, pie charts and even micrographics to support your white paper. You could even include interactive infographics, GIFS and short videos to help you really stand out.
Either way, it’s vital you make your white paper easy to read. Avoid large blocks of text, use graphics to illustrate points and write in a friendly and conversational tone.
4. Think About Your Media Strategy From the Start
You should have the media in mind from the start of the process. Are you looking to gain backlinks or just brand awareness? Who is your target market? Will your white paper be aimed at a commercial or consumer audience?
Next, think about an angle. What is the main discovery or headline of your white paper? What will journalists and editors care about? Put together a highly targeted media list of contacts in your niche and write an enticing press release to accompany your white paper.
Finally, don’t call your white paper a white paper! This is especially important if you’re targeting a consumer readership and consumer media. A white paper has connotations of being very boring and dry, so make sure yours doesn’t fall into that category when pitching to the media.
5. The Bigger Picture
Your white paper shouldn’t be just a one-off, it can also form part of a much larger marketing strategy – online and offline!
This piece of content will no doubt be a large undertaking, so make it work as hard as it can. Repurpose the piece for guest blogs or other articles, or design an infographic that you can send out for further link building or brand awareness campaigns.
You might also want to present your findings. Invite current and potential customers and the media to a briefing and share your discoveries. This is a great way to establish yourself as a thought leader, impress customers and network with other businesses too.
Do you need help with producing a white paper and outreaching it to the media? Get in touch with our digital PR experts.