The Low-Level Educational White Paper

May 18, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: White Paper Types 

drawing_board1.gifYesterday I discussed the high-level educational white paper. Today, I’ll address the second of the five different types of white papers, specifically the “Low-Level Educational White Paper”.

Description – Low-Level educational white papers provide a greater amount of detail than high-level educational white papers and are the second most common type of paper found on the Internet. These white papers explore an issue by presenting the functionality, components, feature attributes, and benefits/advantages pertaining to the solution topic. Low-level educational white papers are useful when the functionality of a product or solution is unclear or confusing to a an audience, or when a new or innovative solution is announced and a more detailed explanation is required.  

Purpose/Approach – The purpose of a low-level educational white paper is help a more technical decision maker understand how the solution will function, what attributes and/or capabilities the solution has, or how the solution solves a specific list of business or technical needs. The content within a low-level educational white paper is often presented in a “step-by-step” format, which can also be accompanied by detailed diagrams or graphics that help the reader visualize how the components of the solution contribute to solution functionality.

Examples – Examples of low-level educational white papers include: Performance studies, workflow, economic or ROI analysis studies, how-to-guides, preventative measures (i.e. online security or virus prevention), and software development white papers.

Next time, I’ll discuss the third type of white paper, the Competitive White Paper.

The High-Level Educational White Paper

May 17, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: White Paper Types 

graduate-hat.jpgMany people think that there is only one type of white paper, but if you analyze how white papers are used throughout the business and technical landscape, you find that there are actually five different types:

- The High-Level Educational White Paper

- The Low-Level Educational White Paper

- The Competitive White Paper

- The Testimonial White Paper

- The Visionary White Paper

Over the next few days, I’ll be taking a look at each one. Today, I’ll discuss the the “High-Level Educational White Paper”.

Description – Educational white papers are the most common type of white papers on the Internet. These white papers will usually discuss a topic from an industry, marketplace, or solution category perspective, outlining all of the relevant issues relating to the topic from a high-level perspective. Since these white papers do not provide any technical depth, they usually have a very short length, around 6 to 8 pages.

Purpose/Approach – A high level educational-style white paper is useful when an organization needs to discuss all of their solution offerings in the same category as a single, descriptive item. Industry analysts will often use this technique when they discuss a solution category from a global perspective. If your organization has never offered a white paper before to your customer base, this type of white paper is typically the first type that you should start with. Subsequent white papers can build off of the content contained within the initial high level educational paper, by going into greater depth with the issues presented in the first paper.

Examples – An Executive Overview of a solution category when there are multiple offerings (discussing solution commonality with several different CRM solutions), an analyst perspective on an entire industry or solution category (such as Gartner, Forrester, IDC, discusses blogging), or a technical overview of a particular technology solution (how a security solution stops a spam attack).

The next type of white paper that I’ll discuss is the Low-Level Educational White Paper.

New White Paper: An Example of Health Sciences Policy Positioning

May 16, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Industry Insights 

stethoscope.jpgA new white paper published by CASA, the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse shows how the health sciences industry is using the medium to promote positions on public policy.

The white paper entitled “‘You’ve Got Drugs!’ IV: Prescription Drug Pushers on the Internet,” shows how the medium is now going beyond research findings to include clarifications and recommendations on changing current laws and policies.  In this case the policy statement pertains to the sale of prescription drugs on the Internet which have now become easily accessible to minors.

The white paper also includes statements from Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA’s chair and president and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare:

“The easy availability of addictive opioids, depressants and stimulants has, for many children, made the Internet a greater threat than the illegal street drug dealer. It has become a pharmaceutical candy store stocked with addictive drugs, available at the click of a mouse to any kid with a credit card number.”

Just as white papers are changing the way that many traditional industries such as real estate, legal, construction, and retail are disseminating critical marketing messages, this white paper provides another example of how it is evolving and changing within the health sciences industry.

A copy of the paper can be found at the www.casacolumbia.org website.

Can an Article be a White Paper?


perplexed.JPGI ran into a marketing blog site while Googling called, the “Alan Weinkrantz PR Blog“. In his post, Alan provides a free “white paper” about establishing a blog and how it ties into an overall media relations strategy.

First, let me say that the document contains some interesting perspectives on the importance of blogs. As most online marketers are realizing, blogs have become a “must have” medium on a corporate website as a way to engage current and prospective customers.

But when you open the “white paper” you find some interesting things. First, the paper is only two pages. Second, the document (in MS Word format) use the word “article” in the file name.

As an article, it is very good. As a white paper, unfortunately it is not.

What distinguishes an article from a white paper? One word — size.

The title “white paper” establishes a expectation for the reader. Specifically that there will be a number of pages devoted to educating the reader about background/industry perspectives, existing challenges associated with the topic, perhaps a brief history, and certainly recommendations to establish a successful strategy. To fulfill most of these goals requires a certain number of pages. In most cases this translates to no less than six and no more than twelve pages.

Now Alan could have turned this article into a white paper very easily but added a few additional pages:

1. Create an Introduction (One Page) – Discuss the growth of corporate blogs using industry statistics for validation. Add some perspectives and examples of the importance of blogs for media and PR relations. Cite a brief success story.

2. Present Challenges (One to Two Pages) – Discuss why this isn’t happening today? What are the roadblocks or hurdles that companies face that ultimately limit their ability to add blogs to their websites? Create a bullet list and discuss each one.

3. Present Your Solution – (Two Pages) – Discuss your vision for what steps companies should take to establish a blog. How can they gain exposure for that blog? What resources are involved? Provide some examples. Discuss the benefits they will achieve.

4. Add a Case Study – (One Page) – Show your prospective customers how another company incorporated a blog and the successes they acheived.

5. Provide a Concluding Summary (Half Page) – Make sure you close it out with a summary and bottom line advantage points for the short attention span reader. If your reader doesn’t read the paper in its entirety, they will certainly read the conclusion.

By adding a few of these important attributes, that two-page article can be a lot closer to becoming an authentic white paper, while benefiting your audience with much richer information as well.

Conflict of Interest with IDC White Papers?

May 14, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Industry Insights, WP Opinions 

magnifying-glass.jpgIf you work in the tech sector, reading white papers from well-known industry analysts such as IDC, Gartner, Forrester Research, and others have become almost commonplace.

But one blogger finally stated what many of us have been wondering for some time: Are many of these white papers bought and paid for by other companies? If they are, does that skew their research findings to make the sponsor’s solutions appear better than if the white paper had been written by an unbiased research group?

That’s the bottom line to a blog post from Computerworld’s Management blog, entitled “A Question for You“. In it, blogger Don Tenant states:

I have a question for IT professionals, and I know no better way to get a response than to pose it here: How much credence do you place in white papers that are written by independent research firms like Computerworld’s sister company, IDC, when those white papers are sponsored by the very companies whose products or services are being evaluated?

An example is IDC’s April 2007 white paper Achieving Business Value and Gaining ROI With CA’s EITM Software for Optimizing IT Infrastructures. As you might have guessed, this one was sponsored by CA, as IDC clearly noted just below the title. Again, IDC’s conclusion should be weighed accordingly:

“Based on the results from in-depth surveys of 12 companies, the use of CA EITM software has resulted in average total benefits of $85,333 per 100 users on a normalized basis. The payback period averaged a short 8.6 months, and the ROI averaged 398%. These results clearly demonstrate the direct benefits realized by the CA Capability Solutions in five functional areas, based on the responses provided by users interviewed for this study.”

Obviously, there’s no doubt that readers and subscribers to IDC’s white papers find value in them because many are downloaded from their and other Websites every day. The question that everyone should be asking is whether or not these vendor-sponsored IDC white papers carry some premium of neutrality in spite of the vendor sponsorship?

If the answer is yes, then that doesn’t bode well for IDC. Verification of this by the tech industry will ultimately hurt IDC’s credibility, lower their preeminent standing, and reduce the readership as well as the referencing of their white papers in other industry articles, documents, and white papers.

Merchandising the White Paper Download

May 13, 2007 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: WP Marketing 

download_button.jpgAs last Thursday’s post indicated, MarketingSherpa has verified something that a lot of online marketers already know: white papers are a great tool for lead generation or as a means for registering prospective customers for online events such as a webinar or product rollout.

According to blogger Chad Horenfeldt on his Anything Goes Marketing blog, Chad highlights one of the statistics provided by the MarketingSherpa survey about white papers and the registration process. His blog features the following quote:

72% of users said that a detailed summary of the white paper will encourage registration. What does this mean? Don’t just put the title of the webinar on your landing page with a “Download now!” link beside it. Web visitors want a sneak peak at the white paper to ensure that it’s worth their time to go through the registration process.

Besides providing a helpful tip for the online registration process, this statistic also sheds some valuable advice when featuring your white paper in a dedicated white paper library section of your website.

All too often on many corporate websites, I see either a simple title to the white paper listed without any description of the white paper or merely a one line summary. I would suggest taking it a step further for even greater viewer responsiveness. I call it white paper “merchandising”.

If you’ve ever shopped for a book on Amazon.com, you’ll notice that in many situations they will “tease” you into buying the book by providing the first couple of pages. The idea is that once you’ve read the pages and become engrossed, you’ll buy the book just to finish what you’ve started.

The same principle applies with posting white papers on your website.

Instead of posting a simple text description, post the cover, executive summary, introduction page, and back cover of the PDF file for your white paper. This will give your prospect a good idea of what to expect from the rest of the white paper and create an incentive to download it. It should also improve the number of downloads from your library and/or increase the number of registrations for your online event.

If you have a well-designed white paper, viewing a preview along with a professional design and business or concept graphic will also create a much nicer impression and increase the probability of it being downloaded or obtaining the viewer’s contact information as a lead.

After all, if it works so well for Amazon, why shouldn’t it with your white papers?

Is it Carmel or Caramel?

May 11, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: White Paper Writing 

caramel.jpgThe other day I was Googling to find the name given to words that have two different spellings and pronunciations like Carmel and Caramel. Along the way, I learned some interesting things about word names.

We all learned in grade school about homonyms, antonyms, etc. But did you also know that each of these have additional derivatives? Let’s review:

Homonym – A homonym is one of a group of words that share the same spelling or pronunciation (or both) but have different meanings: Classic examples are to, two, and too. Derivatives of homonyms include:

Homograph – A homograph is a homonym in which two or more meanings share the same spelling. An example would bark (the sound of a dog or the skin of a tree).

Homophone – A homophone is a homonym in which two or more meanings share the same pronunciation. An example would be desert (to abandon) and desert (a thing deserved).

Heteronym – A heteronym is a homonym with a single spelling but different meanings and pronunciations. An similar example to the word above would also be desert (to abandon) and desert (arid region), because they are pronounced differently.

Polyseme – A polyseme is a single word with two distinct but related meanings. An example would be words such as “mouth”, meaning either the orifice on one’s face, or the opening of a cave or river.

Captionym – A capitonym is a homonym that shares a similar spelling but has different meanings when capitalized (and may or may not have different pronunciations). Such words would include polish (to make shiny) and Polish (a person from Poland).

Heterologue – A heterologue is a homonym comprised of words from different languages that have same spelling, but different meanings. Sorry, no example that I could find here.

And of course, last but not least are:

Antonyms – Antonyms are word pairs that are opposite in meaning, such as hot and cold, obese and skinny, and up and down.

So while I’ve increase my knowledge of -nym, -graph and -phone related words, I’m still Googling for the word that is used when a similar word is spelled and pronounced two different ways, like Carmel and Caramel.

Anyone have any suggestions?

White Papers Best at Encouraging Online User Registration

May 10, 2007 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Industry Insights, WP Marketing 

hand_ticket.jpgA new research study that will be published very soon shows that white papers are the most effective way of attracting user registration for an online event such as a webinar, webcast, or product announcement.

The survey was conducted by Marketing Sherpa and KnowledgeStorm in April 2007, which surveyed 427 marketers and 2,394 content users registered in KnowledgeStorm’s database questions about how they distribute and access content online, as well as what factors influence their decision to register to get it.

The complete survey results will be available at KnowledgeStorm’s website in two weeks. But here’s an early look at some insights into vendors’ and end users’ opinions on key issues related to the online content registration process:

Ranking Among Users:

#1 – White Papers – 79%

#2 – Case Studies – 62%

#3 – Analyst Reports – 56%

#4 – Product Literature – 45%

#5 – Demos – 38%

Ranking Among Vendors:

#1 – White Papers – 82%

#2 – Webcasts – 77%

#3 – Demos – 64%

#4 – Analyst Reports – 59%

#5 – Case Studies – 44%

The interesting aspect to these survey results is the disparity between white papers and case studies among marketing vendors. White papers ranked first in the group, while case studies ranked last. In many blogs, the argument comparing the viability of white papers and case studies has become fierce. Many believe that case studies are a more effective marketing tool, while others such as myself, believe that white papers are superior.

Certainly the number of participants that were surveyed is small, but the results are yet another example that white papers continue to be accepted as a proven means of attracting new customers. White papers continue to demonstrate its effectiveness whether that is applied to a traditional marketing campaign such as direct mail, or with a new media campaign, in this case, with an online webinar.

It will be very interesting to read the entire report when it is published in two weeks.

An Example of a Good White Paper Library

May 9, 2007 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: WP Examples, WP Marketing 

book_shelf.gifIf you’re an organization that produces a lot of white papers, having a dedicated white paper section on your corporate web site is a great way to showcase your offerings.

I recently ran across a good example of a white paper library on the website of Construx, a software tools developer. What are some of the elements on their library that you should consider if you’re going to dedicate a section of your site to white papers? Here’s my short list:

1. Easy Navigation – the section name “White Papers” is easy to identify and navigate to from their main “Resources Section” in the website sidebar.

2. Accurate Titles - the titles of all their white papers are simple and accurately reflect the white paper content.

3. Detailed Descriptions - a summary section is adjacent to each title and provides a two line description of what the reader can expect from the white paper. This is an important element that will determine whether your white paper will be frequently downloaded. Think of this as your sales pitch. Make sure this section isn’t too big, but creates viewer interest in your white paper.

4. Hotlinks – each paper is hotlinked for easy downloading as soon as the user clicks on the link.

I’m sure some of you may notice that the link does not force the viewer to enter their contact information before downloading and lead generation purposes. I view this as a good thing.  A well written and designed white paper will do more to sell your company and solution than some telemarketer contacting a prospect based on the personal information that they entered.

The easier that you make it for your prospective customer to obtain information, the easier it will be for them to read it and consider your solution. Too many sites today have made the process of downloading a white paper an arduous task, not only by asking for contact information, but also asking for demographics and responses to a series of survey questions. In doing so, they turn off a large number of potential readers who simply navigate off the site.

You created that white paper to get read. Don’t put roadblocks in place which prevent that from happening.

Sorry, but Blogs aren’t White Papers

May 8, 2007 by · 6 Comments
Filed under: WP Opinions 

stop_sign.JPGOne of the most frustrating parts about being a white paper writer is when I see others attach the words “white paper” to something that isn’t one.

What’s more frustrating is when that confused person goes on to taint white papers based on their misplaced logic.

Such was the case when I came across one blogsite called “Craig’s Mostly Search Blog“. The first mistake Craig makes is to assign the name “white paper” to his blog post by stating:

To be fair, white papers can provide valuable information on the ABC’s of an industry. However, it is the D-Z that is highly suspect and the subject of this WHITE PAPER.

Let’s be clear on something. A blog post IS NOT a white paper.

A white paper is a multi-paged document (usually between 6 to 12 pages) that educates a reader on a particular topic by walking them through a logical progression of information. A white paper starts by presenting industry issues and dynamics, business challenges, and proposed solutions surrounding the topic. A white paper provides a reader with strategically placed elements such as an Executive and Concluding Summary, bullet points, charts and concept graphics, to help them assimilate key pieces of information quickly.

Craig’s blog post does none of this.

To add insult to injury, Craig goes on with another ridiculous point demonstrating his lack of knowledge about white papers:

The intended audience of white papers is prospective clients, which is why one must think of these papers as ads dressed to look like articles.

Again, a white paper is also NOT an article. It is a multi-paged document.

Sadly, Craig’s mistaken perspectives about white papers, and the negativity that is laced throughout his blog post are the result of seeing far too many businesses distribute articles and blog posts and simple documents with the words “white paper” on them. While creating a law to go after people who incorrectly use the moniker “white paper” would certainly be overkill, nonetheless there should be some penalty for those who do.

It is those that abuse the name “white paper” who make it harder all those of us who truly understand the medium and put out a quality product to clean up after the mess they make, and people like Craig are the unfortunate by-product of that mess.

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