Seven Simple Rules for Writing an Effective Whitepaper

Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

“Let’s just write a whitepaper.” It’s a common impulse for company executives and marketing professionals when they simply can’t figure out what’s needed in their marketing communications mix.

But using an ambiguously conceived whitepaper as a last resort or a catch-all for that information that simply won’t fit in your brochures or press releases is not a good idea.

Alternatively, whitepapers can be an effective component of your organization’s marketing efforts if they, in fact, do what they are supposed to do: Establish your organization or a company executive as a respected authority on an industry issue. By doing so, the media and prospective customers will come to see your company as a “go-to” source on the issue.  And, therefore, you ‘ll be in a better position to sell your products or services.

To get started, here are seven simple rules for writing effective white-papers:

1. Never use a whitepaper to simply introduce a product or service (that’s what sales briefs, brochures and a host of other materials are for).
2. Make sure you truly have something unique or novel to add to the discussion (the more provocative, the better!).
3. Don’t include everything you know about the topic (instead, create a narrative that will engage readers).
4. Don’t write a user’s manual (that’s a different animal).
5. Make sure your paper has a clearly defined thesis statement (remember what you learned in your college English 101 class!).
6. Include plenty of third-party references to support your thesis (the research should provide credibility but should not dictate what you have to say).
7. Use language that resonates with your audience. Remember whitepapers typically are about serious subjects but still have to compete for attention (so you don’t want the paper to read like a text-book nor do you want it to read like tabloid magazine article; shoot for something in the middle).

Interested in more writing advice from By McCormack Public Relations? Send an e-mail to and request our very own whitepaper: Reader Engagement: What Content Marketers Can Learn from Great Authors, Journalists and Scholars.

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