Monday, August 26, 2013

White Papers Suck but They Don't Have To

Write your white papers, make them worth reading, not boring old professor articles.

Have fun in them, make them topically relevant if product specific or connect them to a long standing service or profession. They should be like reading the best album inserts, sorry, CD covers, that bring out the personality of the band or their music.

Perhaps stop making white papers and start producing videos of real people discussing your product. Wait, you probably do that.

Blog the white paper information over the course of a few days or weeks to grow some interest. You probably do that too.(Bet most of you do not)

Do a podcast about your company or solution that people can listen to and hear your excitement come alive. You probably do this too.

So why do you insist on writing white papers no one reads?

Because either you were told to and could not argue yourself out of a paper bag or are an old time marketer or company that just knows executives love to read these. I admit, I have been asked at times about a white paper or details from a vendor but I have never given them to a client. Sales people who have worked with me know I am against white papers on many levels.

Why would a perfectly sane and capable person want to have me go and find something they could do? Because they want you or me out of the way. No sale until you bring me proof in a white paper. No, bad salesman, no cookie.

What will an executive glean from the document that will sway them to buy from you over the other people who sent him their white papers? Nothing, bingo.

Maybe there is something to these documents that really speaks to executives. This is what you and I are for, we present information tailored to you, our clients, in a way that no white paper will ever do. When was the last time you read a white paper that explained social media using golf analogies? (If you know of any, please comment with links)

Stop wasting your time, please, I beseech you, put your excellent editing to usage and write more blog posts. Transform your glossies and pdf files into working, active living documents. You have the power, it was just sucked out of you to write that last 35 page white paper.

Someone has a course on writing White Papers called "No More Boring White Papers" really, here is the link. I found this link because a few days ago, this blog post was published by Rachel Foster. I do not know Rachel but hope she appreciates me sending her some link love.

In a similar vein but possibly where all of this leads, I found this old posting.Written in 2003, with the title, oddly enough, How Win an Award for Your White Paper. Yes, you can not make this up, that is the real title. One of the three criteria is editorial quality, not sure you want them as judges.

What if you do write such an awesome paper that people actually read it and recommend it to other people? Congratulations and please let me get a link to it.

At the end of this blog post, White Paper Worst Practices by  Lauren Moody and Randall Cronk they state:
A great white paper can be a powerful tool in your campaign, while a terrible one will do a lot of damage to both your brand and your online social presence. And while the shock treatment can be an effective writing strategy, writing badly is not the best way to implement it. That is, of course, unless you don’t want to be a writer in the first place, and would rather someone else take that role. If that’s the case, please try our free marketing copy edit before you hurt yourself!
Need help, and who doesn't these days, give them a try but read their blog post, it was well done.