Images as Bricks, Text as Mortar – A New Model for White Papers?

White papers are meant to persuade and inform. What if you did all of your persuading with images and all of your informing with text?

Last week a freelance writer turning her attention to the world of white papers asked:

How important are graphics and diagrams to a white paper? I’m not very good at creating these. Do you think I should check out a few online tutorials on MS Word to learn how to use all those tables and charts?

I think about this a lot. A white paper without diagrams is silly, bordering on the oppressive.

It’s like children’s literature without pictures. In fact, it is children’s literature without pictures, because you run the risk of losing your readers to the demon of the abbreviated attention span.

I suppose that a real genius could tell the entire story with diagrams and use the text as filler. Most of us are not that good, but we realize that diagrams break up the text and make it easy on the reader, and we’re all in the business of making it easy on the reader.

Turning the White Paper Model on Its Head

Whether you’re a marketing manager responsible for providing images to your writer, or a writer responsible for delivering a decent read, diagrams count.

In fact, given that the intent of a white paper is to persuade and inform, consider using images to persuade and narrative text to inform. If writing a white paper is like building a wall, the prevailing wisdom is to use the text as the bricks and to use diagrams as mortar, holding the text together and supporting it.

On your next paper, make the diagrams work as the bricks. See how much of the story you can tell with images:

  • applications of your technology
  • quantified results from your customers in a chart
  • photos of your product in action
  • maps with statistics
  • flowcharts before and after your product is in place

Then use text as the mortar that binds each image to the next in transition.

You could turn the white paper model on its head, yet still persuade and inform readers.

Have you seen examples of this? Do you think you could pull it off?

John White of venTAJA Marketing posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it.

photocredit: Elsie esq.


Author: John White

John White of venTAJA Marketing is a content marketing writer for technology companies. He posts about technology writing from the perspective of the marketing manager. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. Download his eBook, “10 Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Content Marketing Writer.”