The White Paper Outline Buffet: The Transformation White Paper

This post was written by John White on Tue, 27 Jul 2010 07:58:45 +0000
Posted Under: outline,tell your story,white papers

Part 6 in a series of white paper outlines, each with a different structure and focus. Here, the outline for a white paper on your company’s complete transformation.

Have you been with an organization long enough to remember:

  • when things were a mess, and what everybody had to go through to make things run as smoothly as they do now?
  • how you used to be known for your parts, and how your customers came to know you as partners?
  • when the market associated you with low price, and how you got it to associate you with high quality?

take them through the kitchen of your restaurantThese represent Transformations, seismic shifts in the organization that set a new course. Almost every organization goes through these sooner or later, some more painfully than others.

Maybe you’re the last buggy whip company, and the sun is setting on your addressable market. Or maybe a management consultant has your CEO’s ear and puts in place a new direction and policy. Maybe you get hip to the fact that in five years nobody is going to pay you to do what you’re doing today.

Once you’re through the tunnel, you’re ready to tell the world about the crucible you’ve been through, and how much stronger you are as a result. You’re ready for a white paper outline that explains How We Rescued Ourselves.

Title and Summary

A Transformation white paper is a different kind of content.

You need to make readers feel as if they’re getting a peek in the kitchen at the best restaurant in town. If you pull this off, you’ll have a paper that makes for excellent social media content. Readers see past the façade of ordinary marketing and have the chance for a deeper conversation with you. Tip them off to this in the title and summary; for example:

  • What Goes Down Can Come Up – Amalgamated Fuzz Transforms Its Sales Process
  • How Acme Paper Took ISO 9001’s Benefits from Production to the C-Suite and Back
  • Customer Input Takes Over, and Skater Industries is the Better for It

The Landscape

Count on a varied audience for this paper: customers, prospects, investors, journalists, and certainly competitors will read it, so devote a few paragraphs to the state of the industry and the problems faced by most organizations in your position.

  • Tell this as a story, not as a datasheet or a newspaper article. Use conflict-driven business writing to draw readers in, and get to the conflict as soon as practical.
  • Avoid using terms like “challenges” and “pain points.” Everybody knows you’re talking about business problems, so call them as much.
  • Charts, diagrams, images and even quotations work well as complements to the main body of text.

Precipitating Event or Watershed

Who or what introduced the plan for changing things? Did somebody become fed up? Did somebody raise Cain at a shareholder meeting?

It’s important to describe this as economically yet smoothly as possible, because it’s the pivotal point in the story. Remember, your readers want to know what’s happening backstage, so give them what they want. (It may require some dancing to get this past your execs, but it really is important. Besides, any embarrassment is in the past, and you can anonymize anything too uncomfortable.)

How We Rescued Ourselves – The Transformation Process

How did you get this all done? What did it take? What processes did the organization put in place? Who had to be accommodated? What compromises were needed?

You spend this section telling readers, “Here’s how we did it. It wasn’t easy, but we got through it.” You may even give them enough information so that they too can do it.

Stay in story-telling mode.

Other End of the Tunnel

Here’s the point of the Transformation – indeed, of the entire paper: Yours is a new and improved organization now. List the reasons why.

Using as much subtlety as possible, you want readers to understand that you’re now a better company with which to do business. You’ve done the hard, internal work to purge inefficiencies and the things that separated you from your customers. You itemize the data points that support this:

  • 28% fewer customer support calls
  • 93% on-time arrivals
  • 7% annual growth for the last three years
  • a stock price that outperforms competitors by 4%
  • Malcolm Baldrige awards

Conclusion and Follow Us

Still resisting the temptation to pat yourself on the back, draw some conclusions about what comes next: More Transformation? Additional phases? New business units?

You’ve taken them through the kitchen in our restaurant. It’s easy to blow it here and efface your good story with nonsense about how great your organization is; keep in mind that nobody cares about your company or products, because they’re preoccupied with their business problems and how you can help solve them. Your well-told Transformation story leaves them no doubt.

Be sure to invite readers to follow your blog, newsletter, video and webinars. If you’ve done a good job, readers will want to keep an eye on you for more insight.

The result is a first-pass white paper outline you can circulate. Your reviewers will be able to see where you’re taking the readers of your Transformation white paper. Once you have their feedback, you can start on the draft.

Next, the Kitchen-Sink Outline.

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a marketing communications writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it. He also publishes a newsletter with more tips on working with your writers.

photo credit: Richard Moross CC2.0

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