The internet has fundamentally changed the way we classify and consume content. In the spirit of brevity that the web so values, white papers have become the norm. White papers are high-level documents that outline a specific issue or concern and analyze data to provide a solution. They typically include charts, graphs and a solid background of research and documented references. In general, white papers average about ten pages. 

Who Writes White Papers? 

White papers are considered a form of inbound marketing and can be drafted and published by a multitude of companies or individuals. The most important factor of a white paper is that the information is vetted and well-researched. While it’s important that consumers view you and your organization as subject-matter experts in a field related to the white paper’s topic, if your documents are eloquently written and accurate, you can write on any topic and gain traction in the public eye. 

What Are White Papers Used For? 

In addition to being used as marketing pieces for companies or interest groups, white papers can also help organizations secure funds for research, drum up support for an issue or generate sales leads. 

Here are some additional tenets of a good white paper: 

1. Topic 

You want to select a topic that addresses a public or specific concern of your target audience. Aside from your own market research, spending some time on various social media sites can help you find pain points for your customers and give you inspiration for a white-paper topic. 

Other things to consider about your topic: 

  • Can you make a substantial case that will have an impact on those who read the document?
  • Do you have an interest in making a case for the topic? Readers will usually know if you’re simply aggregating data and repackaging it.
  • Can you write with authority on the topic? You want to offer convincing arguments with a fresh perspective.

2. Tone 

The key is to maintain a professional tone throughout the document. While a white paper is the modern equivalent of a research paper, you don’t need the tone to be overly formal, but you want to be sure your grammar, spelling and punctuation are perfect. It’s not necessary to follow a particular style guide, but adhering to either the AP Stylebook or Chicago Manual of Style is a good idea. 

3. Target Audience 

It is imperative that you write the white paper from a distinctive point of view that directly addresses the concerns of a specific target audience. The right combination of topic and tone will help you to directly address your audience. 

Additionally, by creating a well-crafted document with an outline that highlights the goals of the white paper, you can be sure that you are meeting the objectives you set out to accomplish and are adequately addressing the concerns of your audience.

White papers can be terrific external marketing tools that not only position you and your organization as thought leaders, but also as purveyors of workable solutions. Just keep in mind that a good white paper will take thought, planning and research in order to provide value to your readers, which will in turn provide value to you.