A white paper abstract takes time to write and to read. Is it worth it? It is if it helps answer tough questions in a hurry.
Do you rely on an abstract at the beginning of a white paper to tell you what you’re about to read? Can the readers of your own papers rely on your abstracts? Do you wonder whether it’s worth it to create them?
Tempest in a teapot?
If you look for them, you can find debates on the topic of white paper abstracts in forums like marketingprofs.com. Some content marketing writers contend that an “executive summary” (I do not like that term) takes away from the persuasive essence of a white paper. Others believe that the abstract is necessary for packaging, SEO, article submittal, and other purposes not related to actually reading the paper.
I think an abstract should answer one question very quickly:
Is it worth my time to read this entire paper?
A broader context for the white paper abstract
Writer Mark McClure takes a step back.
He has worked in organizations in which “director-level decision makers were in the hot seat over project ‘x’ with their C-level bosses” and had to prepare a report or presentation for a meeting about the project. The goal of the report was to answer three questions about the project:
- Can we delay or cancel it?
- Can we get it cheaper or go elsewhere?
- What if the project is a failure?
Mark writes, “white papers that helped middle managers address the concerns and fears of the budget holders and influence wielders in such meetings were deemed ‘worth reading’ in preparation for the meeting.”
What if you could kill those three birds with one white paper abstract? Better yet, cut to the chase: Instead of opening with an “abstract,” call it your “Summary and Recommendation.” Catch your reader unaware by making your recommendation right off the bat; for example:
- “The translation/localization industry is not doing enough to help customers develop new pricing models.”
- “CEOs should refrain from corporate blogging because it dulls rather than sharpens their influence.”
- “Wireless carriers who resist offering personalization and discovery technology to subscribers will have their lunch eaten by new kids on the block.”
Think about it: Isn’t that the answer your readers are after? Give it to them early on, and use the body of the paper to support it.
Now, that’s putting real value in your marketing content.
photocredit: Marshall Astor