White papers and insight papers establish your company and you as a subject matter expert.
A white paper usually summarizes current industry ideas or solutions with a view to clearing up misinformation and improving a reader’s understanding. An insight paper, on the other hand, offers a unique perspective on an industry problem, presenting alternatives to current industry thinking. The two types of papers have a few elements in common.
- The white paper or insight paper should deliver what it promises. The introduction should always be written last and the conclusion should always summarize the content–all ideas in the introduction and conclusion should be covered in the body of the paper.
- The big insights should be easy to find, preferably in subheadings or bullet points. Your readers won’t go hunting for the main points in your white paper or insight paper. .
- The connection to the reader should be clear (“you”) and positive. Most companies know if they have a problem; they are looking for solutions.
- Examples should be real world and based on actual experience. Interviews are a great way to establish real world expertise.
- Links to other research and background data are excellent–but the links should actually work. Make sure readers can access the papers or articles you cite and be careful about linking to so many outside sites that readers lose the thread of your own argument.
- The paper should end with a call-to-action. The call could consist of a summary of the services the company offers or a form for requesting more data or a give-away in exchange for contact information.
As a professional writer and editor, I have decades of experience researching and writing white papers and insight papers for a broad range of industries. Let me know how I can help you can establish yourself or your company as a subject matter expert.
When I am asked to edit a white paper or long report, especially one to which several writers have contributed, I often detect the following problems:
- A gap between what the introduction or executive summary promises and what the actual white paper delivers. Usually, this is caused by someone writing the executive summary first, so that it reflects wishes and intentions rather than the actual content. Or the executive summary includes information that didn’t quite fit in the white paper. Executive summaries should always be written last and should always summarize the white paper–not introduce new content.
- Inconsistent ways of organizing data. Headings, subheadings, bullets and other graphic devices are guidelines to the logic of the report. If you say that data fits into three categories (say, past, present and future voting patterns) but then present the data up in three entirely different categories (location, age of informant and political beliefs), you lose your readers. They’re busy wondering what happened to the past, present and future.
- Conclusions buried in the text. Your readers won’t go hunting for the main points in your white paper or report. You are familiar with the points you want to make and may not even realize that you have reduced them to a brief aside. Before you start writing, list your goals, your main conclusions and the data that supports those conclusions. Then before you publish, make sure the conclusions are easy to find.
- Grammatical and spelling inconsistencies. What style are you following: US, U.S., United States, USA? Are you using a serial comma (comma before “and” in a series)? Are headings bolded or italicized? Working with a style guide should prevent and help you fix those inconsistencies.
- Cross-references that go nowhere. Multiple writers are a key cause of this problem. The writer of chapter 3 assumes a diagram appears in chapter 4 but the writer in chapter 4 places it in an appendix; the reader following the cross-reference in chapter 3 searches chapter 4 in vain. Electronic links are especially likely to go nowhere or to the wrong place.
Whenever multiple writers contribute to a white paper or report, it is wise to have an editor examine the entire report for problems before it goes to the intended audience. As a professional editor and writer, I know what to look for and am prepared to solve the problems that I find. Contact me today.