When you hire a writer to write a white paper, and the project goes well, what does that look like?
Here’s how I describe it, based on the last time I did this.
- Andrew was confident. Not brash – just confident. It came across in his phone manner, in the e-mail we exchanged before we signed the agreement, and in his assessments of what we were trying to accomplish with the paper. This helped me overcome any misgivings I might have had about the fact that he hadn’t written anything for our industry yet.
- He was punctual. He said he’d send samples by late Tuesday or early Wednesday, and he did. He called at appointed times, even if I was stuck in a meeting and had to phone him back.
- He had a method that made sense to me, and he explained it without rambling on about contingencies and fallbacks. It was obvious to me that he’d done this before.
- He wanted to know about the ideal reader for the paper, to be certain he could write for the audience. “I need to understand the reader’s profile and problems so I can be sure that the paper addresses them in the right tone,” he said.
- Andrew asked for (and actually read) materials and information about our product, which helped when he interviewed the subject matter experts.
- He sent me an outline first, and asked for phone time to go over it with me once I’d had time to read it.
- I circulated the outline to staff, fielded and vetted all of the comments, then forwarded a single revised outline back to him.
- Within a couple of weeks Andrew had sent me the first draft. Again, I reviewed it, made changes, circulated it for comments, vetted them, and sent the revised draft back to him.
- He sent a second draft, with graphics, text boxes, callouts and charts to make it more readable. It took us a long time to review it, so he followed up via e-mail after a week had gone by with no word from us.
- Most of all, he managed himself and his end of the project. In fact, he managed me to the extent that he could, helping me to keep my fingers on the pulse of the project all along.
- We did the design and layout of the piece ourselves, and Andrew reminded me to send him the final PDF before we posted it. He went through it, made comments in the PDF about some missing and changed text, and sent it back the next day.
- Andrew asked whether he might use the final version for his trophy wall. It wasn’t a proprietary white paper, so I gave him permission to use a copy on his Website. (More places for the search engines to find us.)
Of course, it doesn’t always go this well, as I’ll describe in an upcoming post. Still, this experience taught me a lot about what goes into a good white paper project, and I remember it every time I start a new project with Andrew.