One of the keys to writing a great white paper is to include lots of quality content — especially by referencing stats and figures, which will make it more interesting and add credibility. As the writer, it’s your job to find this quality content. So before getting started, you’ll need to spend a few hours gathering the information you’ll need and modifying it to suit your purposes.
The tips below will help guide you in your pursuit:
Ask the experts
Many people make the mistake of jumping straight into researching the content by themselves and then conducting the interviews. But the first thing you should do is speak to some experts to help guide your research efforts.
Ask the marketing experts, product developers, and subject matter experts what resources they recommend you review. Find out about their competitors, ask them to send you the marketing materials they’re using at the moment, ask them about the most popular and most trusted news resources on the subject, etc. Collecting all this information will make it easy to identify opportunities to provide new ideas and meet unmet needs in your white paper content.
After you read everything you can, interview your experts again. This will help you clarify any questions you still have, or give you more specific information that can help you dig deeper into the subject.
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Head to a white paper distribution service
This is one of the first things I do after reading the content I’ve gathered from my expert advisors. Popular white paper distribution services like CNET, Trade Pub, and others can help you widen the field of your research, and learn more about the market, the topics, the audience, the competition, etc. I would also recommend going through all the citations in the white papers you read and list resources that might also be a good fit for the white paper you are working on. A well-researched white paper with lots of citations can be a gold mine of information.
Find the best of what’s available on these services
Many of these services have lots and lots of white papers, which makes it difficult to find the best content without having to read through a lot of the garbage, as well.
These three tips will help you track down the “needles” of quality in the haystack:
- Look for the most popular papers: On some white paper distribution services such as Trade Pub, you have the option to look at papers by popularity. Using this option, look for papers that are relevant to your subject and download them for review. There’s a strong chance that these papers achieved their popularity because they are the ones that are well written and feature the most useful information available on the service.
- Download the best-rated papers: On some services, such as White Paper Depot, users can rate the white papers in terms of how useful they found them to be. By reviewing their ratings, it will be easier to find examples of what your potential readers look for in a quality white paper, and what makes them rate a paper as poor quality.
- Check who created the white paper: Check the name of the company that created the popular or highly rated papers, and look into their reputation to see if they are regarded as a credible source. If there’s a specific author(s) name on the white paper, look into their reputation, as well.
Use Google Scholar
Google Scholar is a service that helps you conduct broad topic searches across multiple sources for relevant scholarly literature. It then ranks the results, just as it does for regular searches. Scholar is a fantastic resource — particularly for finding facts and stats — and I recommend that everyone use it before writing a white paper.
If you want to use Google Scholar effectively, you will need to use the Google Adwords Keywords tool, too. Type in keywords on Adwords to find relevant search terms, then do a search of those terms on Google Scholar. These keywords will help you find the content your audience is interested in reading, which can certainly be used as a helpful guide for your own white paper writing.
Get some additional help from the search engines
This is pretty obvious, but I will point it out anyway. Normally, when I first get contacted by a client about writing a white paper, I search the subject and related keywords on Google (I use Google, but you can use your favourite search engine) to find out more about the topic. This quick search helps me learn the basics about the topic and prepares me for the talk with the client. After the initial interviews with the experts, I conduct a more thorough search on Google looking for white papers and more advanced content.
Looking up the most popular search terms on Adwords and then searching those terms on the search engine can also be very helpful. This will help you learn what your audience is looking up, what they are coming across, and who your competitors are.
These searches will help you find:
- Journals (studies): A general search through scholarly journals may turn up some studies that aren’t available on Google Scholar. These studies can contain some wonderful stats and figures, which can be included in your white paper.
- Blogs and articles: Search engines love blogs and other websites that regularly publish new content. A search for relevant blogs on the topic will help you locate some wonderful information.
- White papers: Type in the words “white paper” or “white papers” after your keywords to get additional results that could be useful.
- News: As I mentioned, search engines love new content and searching for news on your topic will help you find the latest articles and videos on the subject. Using the latest news can help you support your white paper’s assertions and show readers what variables may have affected the results — if the news reports findings positively, it might shed some light on things the company did right; bad news might help you understand what they did wrong and how you can help your readers avoid making the same mistake.
- Competitors’ content: Searches can help you find out more about your competitors. After you perform a search, check which companies are dominating the search results, what services they provide, what white papers or other marketing materials they make available, etc. Using this information, you can write a white paper that is similar to theirs, or you can create something different and more innovative on a similar topic.
How do you find great content for your white papers? Have I missed any important tips? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below.
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