I’ve found that planning a white paper is equally important as writing the piece itself, if not more so.
Why? Because not making a plan means risking last-minute scope changes, infighting among reviewers, and unraveling deadlines—just a few of the problems that can put your entire project at risk.
Taking the time to get everyone on the same page before starting a white paper is the single most important thing you can do to ensure your white paper’s success. Here are 7 crucial questions to answer as you put together your plan.
1. What’s the goal of the white paper?
Is it to generate new leads, or to help prospects further along in the buying process? Are you looking to support a specific product launch, or do you need a thought leadership piece? The answers to these questions determine the type of white paper you should write, and to make the right choice, everyone needs to agree on objectives from the beginning.
2. Who’s the audience?
It goes without saying that answering this question is central to any successful marketing effort. If your company has developed buyer personas, you should share them with your writer. Otherwise, you’ll need to outline some basic information about your target audience.
Aspects to consider:
- Job title
- Average income
- Challenges at work
- Daily routines, habits and processes
- Emotional drivers
- Pain points
- Common objections to your product or service
3. Who will review the white paper?
Choose reviewers carefully, as you’ll need to build consensus to keep the project on track. Anyone with a say on the final draft should be part of the project from day one. If someone new jumps in with sweeping changes at the last minute, the entire project could implode (I’ve seen it happen).
4. Which subject matter experts will you consult?
Subject matter experts (SMEs) are key sources, helping uncover the most important pieces of evidence. Possible subject matter experts include industry experts, company engineers, product developers, or members of your sales team. Your white paper writer should be comfortable interviewing and communicating with all of these people.
5. What kind of background material is needed?
Give your writer everything they need to get fully acquainted with your product or service, plus any other information to help support the white paper’s claims.
Items to include:
- Marketing collateral
- Test reports
- Informational websites
- Competitor information
6. Who will coordinate the project?
First, you need someone at your company to run point for the writer and designer. This person has a dual role: 1) Resolve any conflicting reviewer comments, and 2) Nudge the project along when necessary (i.e., send the writer requested documents, answer questions, prod team members for input and just generally advocate for the project).
Second, you need to decide who will be the white paper’s project manager. Would you rather communicate individually with the graphic designer and writer, or would it be easier for the writer to coordinate both copy and design?
7. What’s the deadline?
If you let a white paper drag on, chances go up you’ll never finish at all. Having a deadline, like an upcoming trade show or product launch, is a good way to avoid this.
As a writer who thrives on process and organization, I know the difference planning can make. It’s why I create a white paper plan for every white paper I write. You can skip it, and you may get an okay piece—but you won’t get the same end-result as when you do your homework on the front end.
Do you have questions about writing your next white paper? Email me at racheltracy [at] oncallcopywriter.com.