Write Your White Paper the Way Perry Mason Would

This post was written by John White on Thu, 10 May 2012 12:02:22 +0000
Posted Under: process of writing,white papers

In every organization there are competing forces shaping your content. Beware of trying to make too many of them happy at the same time.

Perry-Mason-kind-of-white-paperI can’t stand “The Good Wife.” There’s too much skulduggery and backstabbing, but what’s worse is that there are always about four different plots and subplots competing for my attention span.

“NCIS” isn’t much better in this regard, but the characters are so much more engaging that I tend to forgive banal plot diversions into Tony’s fractured love life, or Ziva’s dysfunctional Mossad family.

I’m not 22 anymore. Maybe I never was.

I’m more of a “Perry Mason” kind of guy: one plot taking up the same number of minutes in every show, making it easy for me to figure out where it’s taking me. No red herrings about Della’s home life or Paul’s drinking problem. Perry and Mr. Berger always faced off near the end, and that was the point of the whole thing.

Everything but the kitchen sink in your white paper

Now, what about that white paper you’re writing? Is it all over the map? Have you pushed everything into it but the proverbial kitchen sink?

Are you dragging in subplots that muddy the water and make things hard for your readers, just because people all over the company sent you material and research that they said absolutely had to go into the paper?

Dianna Huff posted recently on instilling some quiet in your work life; how about instilling some in your white paper?

If you have too many stories to tell in one paper – say, technology, business, regulatory, social – don’t be afraid to plan for four papers. It’s easier to write them that way, and it’s easier on your readers.

Your three-part main message

What if you put a Main Messages box like this at the beginning of your white paper?

white-paper-main-messages-box

If you regard these bullets as the line in the sand that defines what the reader is going to learn from the paper and stick to them, it becomes easy to see what does and does not need to be in the paper.

Perry, Della and Paul would like it that way. So will your audience.

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. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Marketing Communications Writer.”

photo credit: Wonderlane via photopin cc

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