Lessons From a Well-Crafted White Paper

    March 21, 2007

If you write white papers, you will want to take note of what I am about to say.

Every once and a while I come across a simply excellent white paper.

I found one that really is over the top.

I was working on a project for one of my clients, regarding word-of-mouth marketing.

The paper is titled Consumer-Generated Media (CGM) 101: Word-of-Mouth in the Age of the Web-Fortified Consumer and written by IntelliSeek (now Nielsen BuzzMetrics).

This is one of the best pieces I have seen for a number of reasons:

  • It is highly educational and informative
  • It establishes the sponsoring company as a thought leader
  • It very subtly inserts sales messages
  • It’s formatting and layout is simply incredible

I would like you pay close attention to the following items when examining this paper:

  • The first page: Note the very large text in the opening sentence and large type on the rest of the page. Also notice how the problems are clearly identified.
  • Writing style: The words are very easy to digest in this paper.
  • Creative use of columns: I am not a big fan of multiple columns, but these guys did it right. There is space on the left for call outs and hand written notes for those who print the piece. Note that page one has no columns (an important point to draw in the reader).
  • Exceptional use of sidebars: Nearly every page uses sidebars (extra information to bolster the story). Note the full page sidebar on page 6 AND the “Consumer-Generated Chicken Buzz?” on page 9.
  • A quiz: What a quiz you say?? Yes, there is a quiz on page 9, titled “A Marketer’s Quiz: Questions to Ask Yourself.” This is an excellent example of adding valuable content for the reader.
  • Use of photography: Nicely done to add to the story in a few places (including the cover).
  • Case studies: Page 14 has a few simple case studies.

Folks, I suggest you carefully study this white paper. Much can be learned. It is one of the best examples I have ever seen.

What are your thoughts about this piece? Do you apply any of these tactics?