How Dare You Call That Article a Whitepaper?

by Jennifer Beever

Articles masquerading as WhitepapersIf I see another online article masquerading as a whitepaper, I think I will scream! It is not OK to slap a few paragraphs together, upload the finished document, and invite visitors to your website to “Download Our Whitepaper.”

It happened a few years ago. Whitepapers were seen as successful online marketing tactics for technology and research companies. The buzz caught hold and all of a sudden a whitepaper on your website was the “new black.” Or, the “new white.”

But, think about what happens when the visitor to your website clicks on Whitepaper, envisions Whitepaper, and gets less than? Not good. Not credible. In fact, bad! You set an expectation, then you failed to deliver.

What does a real whitepaper look like? I attended a program by Michael Stelzner a few years ago. Michael is the author of Writing Whitepapers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged. According to Michael, some of the key elements of a great whitepaper are these:

  1. I.D. Who Should Read the Whitepaper – business owners? CIOs? Real estate agents? Other? You need to spell this out so that you don’t further damage your credibility by wasting people’s time.
  2. Cite Research – a great whitepaper has credible sources and statistics to back up its position
  3. Define the Problem – your whitepaper should include a detailed description of a problem  your product/service solves and perhaps the history of how and why the problem developed.
  4. What Generic Solutions are Available? What is an option now? What exists and why does it contribute to the problem? (Still no mention of your product.)
  5. What is Your Solution? Why is your solution better than the generic? (The last word – now you hit hard with your solution.)

For more details about writing whitepapers, buy Michael Stelzner’s book.

To vent on the subject of articles masquerading as whitepapers, please tell your story below!


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