Part 3 in a series of white paper outlines, each with a different structure and focus. Here, an outline for a white paper when you need to set the record straight.
Sometimes you’ve just got to tell them that they’re wrong and you’re right. With the right structure, you can vindicate yourself in a well-crafted white paper.
Are you doing something that your competitors are positioning as controversial or, worse yet, wrong? Has your brand sustained “collateral damage” from one of your partners, customers or vendors? Is somebody calling you names and saying bad things about you on the playground?
When you sit down with the team and begin talking about damage control and ways to salvage your reputation, think in terms of seven myths that you’d like to refute. If you don’t have seven, pick four or five. These form the backbone of a solid white paper outline.
Your title – or at least your subtitle – should mention the number of myths and the subject matter; e.g.:
- The Seven Myths of Highly Effective Plaintiffs’ Lawyers
- 10 Myths about Network Video
- The Five Myths of Generic Competition
(Search results suggest that 10/ten is the most popular number of myths to debunk, but you may not have that many.)
Keep your summary brief. Your readers know that the myths are just ahead, so don’t slow them down unnecessarily.
Whether it’s ping-pong diplomacy, deep-water drilling or winning Middle Eastern hearts and minds, keep in mind that part of your audience needs a bit of education first.
Set the stage by describing what you do and how you came to do it. Include a section on measurable progress and results.
State each myth, then refute it. Your goal is to refute the myths with statements that are memorable and defensible.
If your childhood literacy program affected 125,000 students – and you can prove it – emphasize that with a comparison to the population of Topeka. Or if 15,000 commuters are using your alternative-energy vehicles in a year, describe it in terms of sparing the country’s dependence on foreign oil for two entire days.
If applicable, refer to your detractors by citing articles or presentations in which they’ve cast doubts on your work. Take the high road in mentioning them, even if they’ve been less than honorable when they’ve mentioned you.
Conclusion and Follow Us
Recap the common thread among the myths and among your counterarguments. Be sure to invite readers to follow your blog, newsletter, podcasts and webinars; if they’ve moved closer to accepting your side of the story, you want to build relationships with them as well.
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 seven myths white paper and add or modify myths. Once you have their feedback, you can start on the draft.
Next, The Innovation White Paper: the Buckshot-in-the-Air Outline
photo credit: believekevin