Well folks, it’s been an interesting year. Thank you for your comments this year on a number of white paper-related topics. Based on your comments, here are the top posts of 2007:
Thin Slicing the White Paper – How white papers support branding, presentations, and enhance customer reaction to your organization.
DoÂ Case Studies Outperfom White Papers?Â - The never-ending comparison between the effectiveness of case studies and white papers on sales performance.
Short White Papers Can Crimp Your Message – Why creating white papers that are less than six pages in length are a waste of your time and resources.
Sorry but Blogs aren’t White Papers – Dispelling the myth that blogs will replace white papers in the future.
Executive Summaries: Only the Blogger is Mistaken Here – My response to another blogger that Executive Summaries disincent the reading of white paper content.
Are White Papers Better Today than in the Past? – Comparing today’s white papers with previous generations vis-a’-vis lead generation.
Defending the Word “Solution” – My on-going diatribe against those that seek to distinguish the word “solution” from today’s white paper lexicon.
A Blog with a White Paper on Blogs – The symbiotic relationship betweenÂ white papers and blogs.
When a White Paper Project Downsizes – When your client asks for a smaller white paper than your original contract agreement.
Pigeonholing White Paper Terminology – My response to the absurdity of the “10 most ambitious white paper buzzwords of all time”.
Well it’s been a fun year. I look forward to your comments in 2008. Happy New Year everyone!
The White Paper Pundit
Author, designer, and blogger Roger C. Parker has suggested that Microsoft Publisher may be a better application than Microsoft Word for “formatted” document such as graphic publications, newsletters, tip sheets, and white papers. The reasons he gives for this line of thought include:
While this concept may make senseÂ for a designer, it doesn’t work for a white paper writer. Prior to the layout and design stage, the process of sharing white paper drafts between the writer and client requires Microsoft Word, the standard productivity application in the enterprise office environment.Â In most cases, Microsoft Publisher is not included with most enterprise site licenses, therefore the probability thatÂ the majority of office workers will have the application on their hard drives is remote. Therefore, sharing a Publisher-formatted document becomes difficult.
Even if Publisher is used for the final design layout, the application is severely lackingÂ with the kind of reviewing and editing tools that are part of Adobe Acrobat Professional.Â Let face facts. Word is the standard format for text drafts. Acrobat PDF has now the standard format for graphic layouts and design.Â Unless Publisher can usurp the funcationality of these applications and create a widely accpeted and shared file format, it will continue to hold the small share of the application market in the future as it does today.
To all subscribers of the White Paper Pundit blog:
Have a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!
The White Paper Pundit
Earlier this year, I started a program on this blog called the “White Light Series“. It was intended to provide a comprehensive review and evaluation of publicly distributed commercial white papers, and the various elements that contributed to their excellence. My lofty goal at the time was to post these reviews on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately, the time commitment involvedÂ in finding, screening, reviewing and posting these reviews on aÂ weekly basisÂ ultimately had a significant impact on my ability to also conduct my small business marketing activities.Â Posting blog updates on a regular basis is one thing. Providing a regular, highly detailed reviewÂ of a multi-paged white paper was quite another. Lesson learned.
Over the course of the months that I conducted this review, I did notice a few interesting things. The truly “great” white papers were few and far between, and the aspects that resulted in their greatness involved a combination of good writing, well-constructed organization, logical flow of information, and most importantly, good design. The ability for an organization to combine these four elementsÂ into the development of a great white papers was rare. Most took the shortcut approach to putting something simple out on their websites. But like everything in life and business, this often separated the “wheat from the chaffe“. My guess is that those whoÂ made the time and cost investment in producing a great white paper typically saw a higher return on that investment in the form of higher readership, a greater number of downloads,Â and improved word of mouth brand building.
Out of a total of 12 white papers that were reviewed over the course of three months, here is my list of the best white papers for 2007:
Bronze Award Winner – Rating 8.5 out of 10 -Â ElasticpathÂ Software – â€œBlogging for Retailers: Why Blogging Matters and How to Get Startedâ€œ
This white paper is an excellent example of quality, creative information on how blogs can improve retail marketingÂ in an appealing and attractive package. The paperâ€™s design and presentation draws reader attention, while clearly articulating and informing their target audience on the topic. White paper writers can learn many new tricks and techniques in this paper to enhance their writing and design skills.
Silver Award Winner – RatingÂ 9.4 out of 10 – Intelliseek, Inc.Â - Consumer-Generated Media 101: Word-of-Mouth in the Age of the Web-Fortified Consumer
This white paper tackles the issue of word of mouth advertising on the web, a topic that has as much buzz in advertising circles as the medium itself. The paper uses a comfortable â€œconversationalâ€ style, a healthy dose of well illustrated and captioned graphics, analogies, and professional formatting to deliver their message. This white paper combines several elements that draw the reader into its content, and make its readingÂ highly pleasurable. This is an excellent example that any professional marketing writer should use as a model in crafting their white papers.
Gold Award Winner – International Data Corp. (IDC) – Rating of 9.8 out of 10 -Â â€œThe Expanding Digital Universe: A Forecast of Worldwide Information Growth through 2010â€
This white paper is an industry analysis of the information industry and its worldwide growth prospects over the next several years. Since IDC is a household word in the information industry for their in-depth analysis, the white paper does an excellent job of reinforcing IDCâ€™s role in this area by producing a white paper that appeal to a wide audience. The abundant use of simple but clear graphics, analogies, and explanation of terms makes this the perfect white paper for both a business executive and a student of research to use for an in-depth analysis of the information industry as a whole.
The use of graphics is the best part of this paper. There is a concept graphic or chart on just about every page. If a reader just read the graphics alone, they would have a very good idea of what the paper is all about. This allows the reader to assimilate information very quickly. Plus, these charts are some of the best examples that I have seen for their use of color, style and quick grasp of information. My favorite is on page 3, where the use of a small and big circle along with stats dramatizes the growth of information. Excellent!
I’m always interested in reviewing truly great white papers out in cyberspace. If you see one that has peaked your interest, please let me know about it and why you feel it is an example of aÂ great white paper.
By now, TEC’s Sherry Fox and herÂ Top 10 Most Ambitious White Paper Buzzwords has worked it’s way across the blogosphere quoted in a number of marketing-oriented blogs. And in an all too familiarÂ lemming-like way that is often seen in the blogosphere,Â that list has beenÂ repeated over and over again with gospel-like acceptance.
Since that list was posted last week, this blog has been the only source to challenge the #1 word on that list, “solution“. In my post, I challenged Sherry to come up a one-word replacement for the word she seems to so vehemently despise.
What was her replacement word?
Tools. Tools? Yes Tools. Now there’s a creative replacement. (Did you hear the pin drop?)
My response to Sherry was quite simple. The word “Tools” has a special meaning to software developers, many of whom read white papers with frequent regularity. To a developer, a tool is a program or application that software developers use to create, debug, maintain, or otherwise support other programs and applications. The term usually refers to relatively simple programs that can be combined together to accomplish a task, much as one might use multiple hand tools to fix a physical object. Therefore things such asÂ APIs are tools. COM or Corba objects are tools. Java is a tool.
Since the tech industry is the largest consumer of white papers, the issue of liberally replacing the word “tool” for “solution” in across a wide spectrum creates some inherent problems. For example, a business executive might see the words “network security solution” and “network security tool” as mutually synonomous. But a technical professional (such as an IT Director or CIO) that reads the very same paper will see the wordsÂ ”network security tool” asÂ a meansÂ to develop or debug network security functionality.
There’s an old expression that seems to fit here. “When you attempt to run headlong into making change for changes’ sake, make sure you don’t trip along the way and scrapÂ both of yourÂ knees.” (Pundit’s third law of motion).
When you attempt to change a very valid and useful word for the sake of being fashionably unique, you need to make sure that the replacement you selectÂ satisfies that same need without creating additional confusion. God knows there’s far too much of that already within technical marketing circles.
P.S. – I’m still waiting for a valid one-word replacement for “solution“. Anyone care to offer one?
Like it or not, one of the advantages of the Internet has been its free and open nature. The medium that provides you with a wealth of quality business information also provides you with false and inaccurate business information based.on personal conjecture. Any attempt that has been made to regulate the Internet has brought waves of protests from the general public.
The blogosphere is no exception. Now an attempt is being made to provide business blogging standards via a group called the Blog Council, a forum where business professionals that run large corporate blogs can share their best practices, new ideas, guidelines about blogging practices, and discuss issues related to maintaing a corporate blog and having employees that blog.
Not everyone is keen on this idea. According to blogger Paul O’Flaherty in a post entitled, “Who the Hell do you think you Are?“, he has a problem with the concept and name of this blog council:
“Iâ€™m reasonably sure that an organization that intends to teach ethical corporate best practices and produce a standardized blog terminology glossary, will produce white papers and guidelines for their members to follow. These guidelines will be filtered down through the corporations to their bloggers and make their way out onto the blogosphere. They will be seen as “best practice” by many regardless of their merit solely because they come from a corporate community called “The Blog Council”, a name that reminds me of a “Jedi Council” for bloggers.
Do you agree with O’Flaherty’s assessment? Should there be a blog council that attempts to set blog standards for coporate blogs, or should the blogosphere be kept as an open medium that allows companies to set their own standards based on the marketplace? Do you think that once a coproate blog standard is set, they will filter down to the the small business or independent owner business blog?
I have always believed that the marketplace is the best arbiter of the blogosphere. If a blog provides quality, useful information it will succeed and grow. If not it will fail. That holds as true for a business plan as it does for a blog.
What’s your opinion?
Sometimes I think bloggers can get so anal with their perspectives on white papers that they miss the ‘forest for the trees’, and discount certainÂ words that have been proven to work in the marketplace.
The latest salvo comes from a blog called the Technology Evaluation Center (TEC), a white paper library website. Their post entitled “White Papers – Not so Black and White“, lists the top 10 most ambitious white paper buzzwords of all time. I’ll get to this point later.
For a website that specializes in promoting white papers, the blog post takesÂ a somewhat condesending view of the medium:
“However informative it may be, ultimately a white paper is a cleverly written sales pitchâ€”a pitch containing certain buzzwords that gloss over the practical realities of their solution.”
Here we see yet another naive perspective that correlates selling to a “dirty word”. What TEC hasn’t realized (which strikes me as odd for a white paper library website), is that white papersÂ ARE considered oneÂ form ofÂ selling and that this process is actually welcomed, not shunned,Â by business readers that depend on them.
If a reader is truly interested in solving a particular business problem, the process of presenting factual information that shows why the solution is best at solving that problem is what a white paper does best. This is the essence of selling. What business executives have determined is that this passive approach isÂ just asÂ viable as more conventional selling techniques such as personal visits, webinars, telemarketing, tradeshows, or advertising.
Oh yes, and what is their view of the #1 most ambitious white paper buzzword? Why “solution” of course! Funny that they should pick this word since they used the word in their quote above. Sometimes I think the word “solution” has become the Rodney Dangerfield of marketing. It gets no respect.
I’ve already discussed my perspective of this flawed view of the word “solution“. You can re-read my perspectives by following this link.
So rather than being picayune and finding faults with particular words, let’s work on how businesses can use the medium to promote their products and bolster it as a key part of the overall selling and marketing process.
Just when you thought you had a handle on all the latest Internet buzz words, along comes a new one called “splogging”.
What is splogging? According to Janine Popick of the VerticalResponse marketing blog, splog is spam on your blog. As she points out, you can tell that your blog has been splogged when:
1. You visit a blog about healthy diets and you see a blog post from an email marketing company that is completely unrelated and clearly not written by the writer.
2. You just simply click on the about us on the blog and the default text comes up “Here’s where you write about yourself.”
3. Each post you see has pretty much the exact same copy with a line or two written just a bit differently.
She also advises her subscribers to be cautious about organizations that post information on your blog. Some might increase your splog:
“For a while we hired someone to post our white papers on sites and try to get our articles in ezines but it was turning out that they may have splogged a bit. I just think it’s unethical. Some even outsource this task overseas for cheaper rates.”
I’ve been noticing some unusual spam on this blog that may qualify as “splog”. These are comments use certain portions of a blog post, which are then re-formatted using brackets and quotes. When you attempt to click on the link and to see its origin, you are forwarded to an advertising website that is not a blog.
The strange thing is that any attempt to mark these comments as “spam” using existing blog spam tools always hangs the system, preventing future posts from being automatically caught. The only recourse is to manually delete each of these comments. Fortunately, these posts don’t happen very often.
Any suggestions on how to eradicate this splog stuff?