“You want research with that white paper?”

Doing white paper research in San Francisco

White paper research covers everything from a few web searches to hours of poring through reports from Gartner and IDG. Your white paper project falls somewhere on that spectrum, but you may not even have thought about the research involved.

“You want fries with your burger?”

Your waitress asks whether you want a salad with your steak and potatoes.

The clerk at the drive-thru asks whether you want fries with your burger.

“I wish they wouldn’t bug me about that,” you mutter. “I don’t like being upsold.”

But maybe the waitress isn’t thinking about upselling you. Maybe she’s tired of setting meals in front of customers and then hearing, “Oh, could you also bring me a salad?”

And maybe the drive-thru clerk is tired of handing bags of food through the window and then hearing, “Oh, and could you add an order of fries to that?”

Maybe your writer isn’t upselling you when she asks, “You want white paper research with that project?” Maybe she’s tired of submitting outlines and then hearing, “Oh, could you do some research for this paper?”

Do you have all of the research and information ready for her, or not?

Think about three scenarios before you contact the writer.

1. Ducks are in a row.

You’ve already done the research and have available all of the relevant material the writer will need. It may be necessary for her to conduct a couple of interviews, but you’ll provide the subject-matter experts. You want the writer to assemble what you have into a cohesive whole that tells your story.

The Rub: Be prepared for the writer to organize it in a different way from your way, and maybe even draw a conclusion you hadn’t seen. If that happens, will you be open to it?

2. Let the writer do the white paper research.

You know that you want a lot of data in the paper. It needs to go beyond telling a good story; it needs to convince the reader completely, so data is necessary. But you don’t know where to find it all.

“Somebody out there must have the information,” you muse. “I’ll have the writer do the white paper research, because I don’t have the time.”

The Rub: No ordinary writer will do. You’ll have to find somebody who knows where to find research on your industry and is able to write a good paper for you. That will cost a lot. In technology, science and education, there are writers who can do it. But industries like transportation and construction are not known for extensive literature. You’ll do better to get the research from the expert, then have the writer work with it.

3. Find a clairvoyant.

You have the idea for the paper — usually because an immediate sales opportunity demands it — and you need it pretty soon. Can you find a writer who can write it out of thin air, with no real research?

The Rub: You’re asking for disappointment. I’ve worked with sales managers who thought that publishing content was not very difficult, and I’ve always had to set them straight. The finished product is going to be only as good as what goes into it, and if all you give the writer is your inspiration, then you’re going to get a paper that makes little sense to the reader.

So, before you pick up the phone, ask yourself, “Do I want the writer to perform the research, or am I going to provide it?”

photo credit: telmo32


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.”