Continuing on the topic of white paper projects that didn’t go well, today I describe the second of two categories.
Didn’t Go Well and Resulted in a Bad White Paper (or None at All)
These situations are frustrating for everybody, and it’s hard to control the resulting damage. Warning signs:
- Wrong writer – Sometimes it’s a bad fit between your company and the writer you’ve hired. Good writers can write about a lot of different things, but it takes a good businessperson to say, “I can’t write that kind of paper,” and not all writers are good businesspeople. Maybe you made a bad pick, or the writer was foisted on you by somebody higher in the food chain. You should cut your losses and either start over with a new writer, or greatly limit the scope of the paper to the writer’s comfort zone just to get usable content. Otherwise, you end up with nothing usable.
- Review Loop Gone Astray – Ever have a paper land in an inbox and never come out? Say you send it to an exec and don’t get an answer; how often do you want to pester him/her before giving up? Still, you don’t want to be responsible for publishing it without sign-off, so after a while you interpret the lack of response as tacit disapproval of the draft. If you can’t get a straight answer out of the reviewer, take your licks, pay the writer for work done to date, and move on.
- The Writer is Driving – It’s not a good sign when the writer becomes the champion: the only force moving the project forward. You can pay writers to do that, but prepare for disappointment, because most of them don’t know how to do it, and few of them can reach into your company and pester people for interviews, meetings or review comments. Very small companies may need to go this route, but larger ones rightfully pay marketing managers to run these projects.
These projects don’t go well because the process is messed up. Beyond the process of writing the paper comes publishing the paper, which can also disappoint you for a variety of other reasons I’ll explain shortly.