A white paper without research is not much of a white paper. But how much research do you want in yours? What kind of research? Be sure your writer understands what you have in mind.
If your task is to create a white paper that:
- puts your company and technology in a particular quadrant
- surveys your industry and researches market trends
- estimates the number of units sold and to what kind of customer for the next few years
then your project is beyond the scope of the average marketing communications writer. You should be talking to industry analysts instead.
That is indeed a valid white paper, but few marketing writers are set up to conduct that kind of wide-ranging research and pull it into a single piece. If you have already conducted the research and can point your writers to it, it’s a better bet that their deliverable will meet your expectations.
Research and white papers go together
It gets back to the fact that “white paper” is about as specific a term as “women’s shoes:” what one person understands by it is rarely what another person understands by it. Platforms? Slingbacks? Open toe? Slides? Mules?
It also underscores the importance of examining samples when you’re shopping for a writer.
“That’s not a white paper,” you say.
“My client was pleased by it,” replies the prospective writer. “It explains their business and technology in a way that makes sense for this audience, it includes a discussion of market trends, it contains relevant diagrams that make it easy to read and understand, it allows readers to draw their own conclusions and it suggests ways they can follow up and find out more.”
“Yeah, but that’s not what I want in my white paper, and it’s different from what I’ve seen in other white papers.”
Your paper needs some kind of research or it will fall flat. So what do you consider research?
- industry surveys that validate your approach
- industry surveys that don’t validate your approach
- interviews with your engineers and product managers
- perspective from your customers
- schematics and technical diagrams
- citations from the press that support your arguments
- great thoughts from your execs
You can turn all of these into a white paper, but be sure you and your writer agree about the amount AND TYPE of research you have in mind.
Otherwise, you may end up with Mary Janes when you’re expecting pumps.
photo credit: bob walker