Tips on how to write a better White Paper

White papers are marketing tools for showcasing thought leadership and generating leads. Read more at What Is a White Paper? We have invited White Paper Experts to shed light on the following question: If you could give our readers one tip on how to write a better white paper, what would that be? Read on to get their insights.

Michael Stelzner

Blog WritingWhitePapers Twitter Mike_Stelzner

Michael Stelzner’s Bio

Michael Stelzner is one of the leading authorities on the topic of writing and marketing white papers. Michael is also the author of the bestselling book, Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged.

Michael Stelzner’s Tip

Put yourself in the shoes of your reader. Understand his or her pains, time constraints and interests. Then turn around and write something that will appeal to the reader without ANY overt sales messages. If there were only one thing to suggest, it would be this: Abandon any and all traditional product marketing that you may have learned in school. Instead think about how you can educate rather than sell.

Michael Stelzner Recommends

Jonathan Kantor

Blog WhitePaperPundit Twitter Jonathan_Kantor

Jonathan Kantor’s Bio

Jonathan Kantor is the principal and founder of The Appum Group, “The White Paper Company“, and has been producing enterprise white papers for the past 11 years. He is also the author of the “White Paper Pundit” blog.

Jonathan Kantor’s Tip

Don’t Assume your Reader Knows What You Know. I read a lot of white papers, and this issue is a common problem that I see very quite frequently. The problem of assuming the reader’s level of knowledge with a white paper topic is apparent when:
1. The writer uses industry/technical/complex terminology without a thorough explanation or description of that terminology and its reference to the white paper content.
2. When the size of the white paper is purposely downsized (to save costs) and the remaining (but limited) number of pages are solely focused on the solution and its attributes or advantages.
3. When there is an insufficient number of pages devoted to background information, common business problems, or industry issues that could bring the reader up to speed on the white paper topic. Including this information is especially important for a high-level decision maker that may not be fully informed with regard to the topic but may need that additional information to make an appropriate business decision (such as a highly technical subject and a non-technical business professional).

Jonathan Kantor Recommends

  • WritingWhitePapers Blog
  • WhitePaperSource online forum
  • Scribd for reference and distribution of white papers
  • Google Alerts set to keywords such as “white paper” or “white papers” for news, articles, stories, or examples of white papers

Jim Lodico

Blog WhitePaperSolution Twitter Jlcommunication

Jim Lodico’s Bio

Jim Lodico is a white paper specialist who combines more then 20 years experience in writing and editing with a background in journalism and education.

Jim Lodico’s Tip

Focus on the process as opposed to product features. A good white paper helps the reader solve a problem. Demonstrate the proposed solution and its benefits. The idea is to inform and educate which in turn, leads the reader to your product.

Too many white papers read like extended sales brochures because they focus on product and fail to provide objective information. Help the client solve a problem and they will be inclined to return the favor (especially if you’ve got a good call to action but that’s a different tip).

I would also suggest that those interested in writing white papers or ebooks also explore research methods and effective interviewing techniques.

Jim Lodico Recommends

Phil Dunn

Blog QualityWriter Twitter PhilDunn

Phil Dunn’s Bio

Phil Dunn helps companies sell more and communicate more effectively with clear, compelling marketing and advertising writing. He’s also co-author of The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing

Phil Dunn’s Tip

Put yourself in the white paper reader’s shoes, and ask one simple question: “Do I have a problem/issue/pain/challenge?” If you flesh this out on page one of any white paper, you’ve overcome your biggest hurdle.

Too many white papers start by

  • trumpeting their solution first
  • assuming they know the reader’s problem and they don’t [do your research before you hit the keyboard]
  • crafting lofty, academic prose around grandiose, complicated or overly layered concepts

My advice is to paint that challenge/issue/problem/need picture first – use examples and anecdotes where possible – then transition into the solution or a higher level discussion of approach/theory. When the reader picks up the paper, he needs to answer those questions… “Is this my problem?” “Do I identify with this?” “Are they talking about me here?” If you can connect on that level, your solution positioning will be that much more effective.

Phil Dunn Recommends

Bob Bly

Blog CopyWriting



Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant with more than 25 years of experience in B2B, high-tech, industrial, and direct marketing. He is the author of “The White Paper Marketing Handbook” and numerous articles, books on direct marketing.


Ask your client: what do you want the reader to do, think, or believe after reading your white paper?

Have you adopted Content Marketing?

Management Guru Peter Drucker wrote about Information Revolutions (invention of writing, invention of the written book, invention of Gutenberg printing press) in his book ‘Management challenges for the 21st century’. According to him, the first printers of the Gutenberg Press were 15th-century technologists similar to the digital technologists of today. Once the technology of printing had leveled, the wealth shifted from the technologists to the content providers – just like the power is shifting to content providers today. Drucker also rightly predicted that the questions in the next information revolution would be “What is the meaning of information, and what is its purpose?”

The Content Era

Let us race forward to today….We find ourselves yet again at the crossroads of an information revolution. Change has come. The Content Revolution is here. And yes, the rules of marketing have changed forever, once again.

Content, whether it is produced by enterprises or individuals, whatever form it is in, is being published and distributed to multiple platforms like never before. The flood gates have been opened and publishing and distribution have been democratized. Distribution of content has become very fragmented thanks in part to the unforeseen growth of channels and forums and new media outlets. Haven’t eBooks changed the face of the book publishing industry in just a few years?

What does this Content Era mean to you?

Every digital marketer is being told to develop blogs, wikis, podcasts, webcasts, youtube videos (and the list goes on..) to market their content. You are under high pressure to develop and publish content quickly in order to reach customer and prospects. Have you stopped to ask:

  • Why? What purpose do these contents serve?
  • How does this content fit in with my overall marketing strategy?
  • How does marketing change with social media?
  • What can content marketing do for my business?
  • How do I reach prospects and customers by providing valuable content?

What is Content Marketing?

Wikipedia defines Content marketing as an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases. In contrast to traditional marketing methods that aim to increase sales or awareness through interruption techniques, content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action.

How is the new digital world content marketing different from traditional content provided up until recently? In the new digital world, content creation and distribution have the following attributes:

  • 2-way interaction rather than a 1-way “push out” content mode of traditional media
  • Many more vehicles to transmit content
  • Increased user interaction & instant feedback
  • Rapid spread of information

High quality, compelling content is the one of the important routes to finding potential customers. Content is any piece of information used to inform, educate or entertain. Examples: video, blog post, white paper, podcast, webinar etc. More and more marketers are moving away from traditional marketing materials like ads towards an integrated content marketing strategy to get their message across.

Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data

Developing content, either for white papers, thesis, the web or any other platforms, is not an easy task. Everyday we are confronted to increasing amounts of information that we need to process and make sense of – thousand of blogs keep popping up each day while Twitter’s incessant feed adds noise to the mix. More than ever before, having an efficient content strategy is crucial to produce relevant and significant information.

Razorfish has been producing quality white papers for years. InContent Strategy: The Philosophy of Data, author Rachel Lovinger explains why content strategy needs to be considered:

Perhaps the problem is that, because content is so pervasive, everyone thinks they know all there is to know about it. If you can read and write, you can make content, right? (Nearly 60 million blogs may prove that.) But the fact is, as interactive experiences become more complex, so does the nature of content. A superficial understanding of content isn’t going to cut it anymore. Content strategists in the digital age need to become data philosophers and explore the metaphysics of content, starting with the question “What is content?”

Developing Content Is Like Building a Relationship

Content goes beyond literary and semantics. There are relationships between pieces of text, text and images, images and images, text and links, links and structure – the list goes on. According to Lovinger, building meaningful content means you have to build relationships between all elements that constitute your content. For instance, if you’re writing a white paper, you need to consider other writings on a similar subject as well as the relationship between your text, graphics, images and layout. Creating content means that you’re setting the table for interactive experiences.

The Razorfish white paper makes for a great introduction to content strategy and how strategists can help you construct meaningful relationships. You may also want to have a look at this article by Jeffrey MacIntyre and this one called The Discipline of Content Strategy by A List Apart.

Have you used content strategies to write and market your white papers? Please tell us about your experiences! We’re always eager to learn about your practice.

The Content Marketers – List of “How To” Blog Posts

Why do we love lists? Lists help us remember things and make abstract ideas concrete. In the spirit of list-making, every Monday of this month I will compile and publish lists of the many exceptional blog posts from thought leaders on the topics of content marketing and white papers. For this first week in May, I have compiled a list of how to’s for Content Marketing that are relevant if you are creating, marketing whitepapers and eBooks or for that matter any type of content.

Blog posts on Content Marketing

How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy

What are the questions to consider when creating any type of content? Rohit Bhargava gives a useful checklist of questions you should ask yourself in his blog post How To Create A Content Marketing Strategy


  • What is the problem you will try to solve?
  • Who’s going to care to read your content and share it?
  • What’s the best platform and format to use for your content?
  • How will you promote your content?

How to master Better Business Blog Writing

Patsi Krakoff in her blog post Content Marketing on Your Blog: How to master Better Business Blog Writing shares her insights on what it means to do content marketing on your business blog.


  • Connect and build relationships with readers
  • Tell personal stories and share experiences
  • Relate to the problems and experiences of readers
  • Provide solutions generously

How to Sell Successfully Online by Understanding and Engaging with Your Buyer Personas

One of the important goals of creating content is to attract customers and prospects. It is important to understand buyers’ concerns and how you can help them. Newt Barrett in his blog post How to Sell Successfully Online by Understanding and Engaging with Your Buyer Personas points out that understanding your buyer’s conerns will lead you to tell stories that are very powerful . You can use this key lesson to engage your ideal target reader by creating compelling content for their most important informational needs.


  • If you really understand your buyers’ concerns and how you can help them, you can tell stories that are powerful
  • How can you engage the buyer personas of your ideal target audience with compelling content that addresses their most important needs?
  • Provide strong visual elements that illustrate buyer personas and their individual challenges and concerns

How to Use Content to Find Customers

In her blog post How to Use Content to Find Customers, Sonia Simone recommends that you make your content like a birthday cake – content that’s exciting, that feels special and that tastes good.


  • Mention your customer’s pain points and give solutions
  • Tell stories that resolve possible objections

How to Create the All-Important Elevator Speech For Your Presentations and for Your Content Marketing

What should be the goal when creating any content? Yes, focus should always be on the audience. Newt Barrett’s blog post on How To Create the All-Important Elevator Speech For Your Presentations and for Your Content Marketing is on the applicability of the elevator speech to marketing and focusing on the audience.


The following key components of an excellent elevator pitch will also make a great white paper or eBook.

  • It must contain a benefit for the potential member of the audience
  • It must contain the word you, meaning the audience
  • It must contain some reference to emotion, because emotion is more engaging and memorable than intellectual information

How to Plan for, Create and Publish Online Content for Maximum ROI

Gretel Going’s post on creating online content is very applicable to creating any other type of content as well. She says that content is all about your customer. It is not what a marketer thinks is important i.e., to talk about their product or services. Content should always be about the reader’s informational need. Gretel Going outlines a brief content strategy and recommends that you map content creation to specific goals in her blog post Live from OMS: How to Plan for, Create and Publish Online Content for Maximum ROI


  • Content is always about what the reader needs or wants, not about the company
  • Content strategy isn’t just deciding what you’re going to include; it’s deciding what you’re going to leave out
  • Identify who is responsible for providing, reviewing, and approving the content before writing begins

How to Integrate Social Media into Product Marketing

If you are wondering how to promote your whitepaper or eBook checkout Hutch Carpenter’s list on how to use social media tools for promoting any type of content. How to Integrate Social Media into Product Marketing


  • Promote your content by leveraging social media

Blog posts on writing creative, great content

How to Write Remarkably Creative Content

One of the important goals of creating content is to attract customers and prospects. How do you create good, compelling content? The next set of blog posts share views on writing creative, great content. Are you creating a white paper that seems too bland and too abstract? Stop – think creatively about how to present the material in such a way that is engaging to the reader. Look at it from the reader’s perspective. Brian Clark says that writing creatively is an adaptive process by looking at things differently. How to Write Remarkably Creative Content

How to Create Better Content With Constraints

Brian Clark recommends you to use constraints when writing rather than start with a “blank page” approach. How to Create Better Content With Constraints. How does this advise apply to writing a white paper? Use a framework. Start with a template. First write the title and then come up with an outline.

How to Create Remarkable Content When There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

James Chartrand recommends using ‘your own voice to write’ in his blog post How to Create Remarkable Content When There’s Nothing New Under the Sun. Another tip – give lots of examples in your white papers.

How to Be Interesting

Jonathan Morrow has 21 great tips on how to write interestingly in his blog post How to Be Interesting. My favorite is this – Put your readers first.

How to Rewrite Content for Reuse

When creating different types of white papers (user guides, brochures, FAQ) of documents how do you reuse content. Pamela Kostur has a great post on how to do modular writing in her blog postHow to Rewrite Content for Reuse
Key takeaways –

  • Modular writing requires defining what your modules are, describing how they are structured and how to write them.
  • Determining where content will be reused and thinking about how it will be structured for reuse is the beginning of your information architecture.
  • Before writing, plan ahead for reusing content

How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer

Jennifer Blanchard gives 3 reasons that tweeting make you a better writer in her blog post How Twitter Makes You A Better Writer. Use twitter and learn to:

  • Write Concisely
  • Exercise your vocabulary
  • Improve your editing skills

I hope you have found this list useful. No list is by any means exhaustive. Please add to this list.