There are significant other benefits, as well. It builds authority, it raises awareness, it encourages inbound links, and it increases your chances of becoming the go-to company if your industry is ever in the press, among other things.
Of course, these things only work if it’s a good, useful piece of content. So could you write a readable white paper? How do you choose a subject?
Choose Something Unique
There’s no point in publishing a white paper that covers old ground. Just as a lot of companies benefit from having a unique selling point, a USP for your white paper will help it gain traction, particularly in industry areas where a lot of publications already exist.
For example, you might not want to produce yet another report based on house prices or general housing market conditions, but something specific, like how to get your desired asking price or selling a house in an undesirable location, might be something that hasn’t been covered in as much detail before.
Nobody knows your chosen market as well as you do, so figure out what niche you fill, and choose your topic accordingly. Remember, a white paper should solve a problem, not just give general information.
Do the Groundwork
While you’re researching what has already been published in your chosen field, do a bit of general research around your desired topic, too. Statistics and hard facts help give your white paper context and structure, and they let your readers know that your writing is based on reality and not just opinion.
It’s worth sketching out a plan for your white paper’s structure before you begin writing. Put together a contents list, and decide whether you think there’s a clear and logical progression from one section to the next. If not, consider adding a bridging section to tie the two together, or change the order to one that works better.
Write for the Layman
You can’t be certain how much your readers will already know. Even if they’re in the same general industry as you, they might not know all of the technical terms that you use on a daily basis.
Avoid jargon, and keep your sentences relatively short. In a document that’s supposed to convey information clearly and accurately, it’s not patronising to use fairly simple English; it’s just common sense.
That being said, some technical topics are best tackled using the technical terms that apply to them. In these circumstances, you can cater to a non-technical audience by adding a glossary at the end of your white paper. This is also a good way to make your document look more professional and add an extra page or two without much effort.
If you’re writing a white paper as a marketing tool, then make sure you milk it for all of its marketing worth. That means using a clear company logo, putting a name on the front cover, and including contact details at the end.
You might want to write a foreword that conveys your company’s opinion on your chosen subject, as well. That’s a good way to be one-sided without compromising the integrity of the rest of the document.
Once your white paper is published, whether it’s in hardcopy or PDF form, make sure you spread the word. Tell your mailing list, mention it up and down your supply chain, and maybe even try to get some trade press coverage.
Deal with the Fallout
With any publication, even one that isn’t intended to be opinionated, there’s always a chance that somebody will disagree with you (probably a competitor). Be ready to engage in a debate about your chosen topic area, and back up your claims with facts and figures.
A bit of lively debate can be great PR, particularly if you come out on top and make your points really well. If you don’t think you’re up to the challenge, you might want to reconsider whether to write your white paper at all.