“You Want Research with that Paper?”

The last time you hired a writer for a white paper, did you have all of the information ready for her or not?

Think about three scenarios before you contact – let alone hire – the writer:

Ducks in a row

You already have available all of the relevant material the writer will need. It may be necessary for her to conduct a couple of interviews, but you’ll provide the subject-matter experts. In this case, the writer’s main job is to assemble what you have into a cohesive whole that tells your story.

The Rub: Be prepared for the writer to organize it in a different way from your way, and maybe even draw a conclusion you hadn’t seen. If that happens, will you be open to it?

Let the writer do the research

You know that you want a lot of data in the paper. It needs to go beyond telling a good story; it needs to convince the reader completely, and relevant data are necessary. But…you don’t know where to find them. “Somebody out there must have the information,” you muse, “so I’ll send the writer to do the research, because I don’t have the time.”

The Rub: No ordinary writer will do. You need to find somebody who both knows where to find research on your industry and is willing/able to write a paper for you. This will cost a lot. In technology, science and education, there are writers who can do this, but in many industries (e.g., transportation, construction) which are not known for extensive literature, you’ll do better to get the research from the expert, then have the writer work with it.

Find me a clairvoyant

You have the idea for the paper – typically because an immediate sales opportunity demands it – and you need it pretty soon, so you think you can find a writer who can pull it out of thin air, with no real research.

The Rub: You’re asking for disappointment. I’ve worked with sales managers who thought it was that easy, and I’ve always had to set them straight. The finished product is going to be only as good as what goes into it, and if all you give the writer is your inspiration, then you’re going to get a paper that makes little sense to the reader.

So, before you pick up the phone, ask yourself, “Do I want the writer to perform the research, or am I going to do it?”

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