Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged Hardcover – 30 Aug 2006
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About the Author
Michael A. Stelzner is the founder of SocialMediaExaminer.com ? a popular online magazine that helps businesses answer social media questions with useful how-to articles, in-depth case studies, expert interviews, and original research. He also authored the book Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged, and is the man behind several large professional development conferences such as the Social Media Success Summit.
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Top Customer Reviews
This is `educational marketing' - a great way for small businesses to inform and influence by giving customers something they value, for free. In return, you'll get their loyalty and often their business; a total `win-win' for both sides.
Micheal Stelzner is the daddy of white paper writers. His very clear, practical book gives you everything you need to know if you're thinking of writing one. It includes some great examples and useful tips. He teaches you how to write, format and market your white paper, including the art of selecting the right topic, crafting a compelling title, researching and interviewing your subjects.
A well-crafted white paper is a super weapon in your marketing arsenal and a great credibility builder for any small professional business. As Michael Stelzner states:
"White papers are able to fly under the radar and penetrate most organisations' anti-marketing defences because they are sought after and brought in by decision makers. If they are well written, white papers will not only reach their target, they will influence them."
If you are a small, professional business you should consider writing white papers. This book will show you how.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In this volume, Stelzner offers his detailed definition of a white paper: "...a technical or business benefits diocument that introduces a challenge faced by its readers and makes a strong case why a particular approach to solving the problem is preferred. A white paper usually proposes a solution to a problem, but can also introduce a new concept or describe how to perform technical tasks.
He explains with rigor and eloquence "how to capture readers and keep them engaged."He suggests that there are four primary types of white papers: technical white papers tend to be targeted at engineers, business benefits white papers are usually targeted at decision-makers in management positions, hybrid white papers are usually targeted at both influencers (e.g. engineers) and decision-makers, and government white papers which usually discuss implications of policy decisions.
Here's a key point which both Stelzner and Bly stress repeatedly: A white paper must never be -- or be perceived to be -- an "infomercial" in print form. A white paper has value to the extent it provides information and counsel which help its recipients to answer questions and to make decisions. What's in it for the provider? There are several significant benefits which include positive association with the given answer or solution, the recipient's appreciation (i.e. good will), and perhaps most important of all, maintaining direct and relevant contact on a non-solicitation basis.
What I especially appreciate about Stelzner's approach is that he provides a step-by-step framework for what can - and should - become a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effect "game plan" for the production, distribution, and promotion of white papers (regardless of type) which will have the greatest appeal to what should be their carefully selected recipients. The ten-step process which Stelzner explains may - and probably will - require a segmented database. These are the sequential steps:
1. Clarify the topic ("focus your lens")
2. Identify your ideal reader (s)
3. Decide on primary and secondary objectives
4. Develop a detailed outline
5. Interview the experts (or at least identify expert and relevant sources)
7. Write the first page
8. Write the title
NOTE: You may prefer to identify several candidates and select one later.
9. Write the core ("Where's the beef?")
10. Hire an editor
NOTE: Stelzner probably prefers that a professional writer be retained but, if that is precluded by limited resources, at least obtain feedback from several qualified persons who meet the profile of the "ideal reader."
Stelzner thoroughly discusses each of these steps, offering countless "dos" and don'ts,"while reiterating that the most effective white papers tend to be those which address a specific problem and then offer a solution which in no way is - or is perceived to be - self-serving insofar as the provider is concerned. I totally agree. Over the years, my own extensive experience with white papers - either as a provider or as a recipient - has convinced me of the importance of viewing a white paper as a no-strings "favor" or benefit. The integrity (i.e. credibility) of the white paper itself as well as that of the provider must be impeccable.
Initially, I said that I highly recommend both this book andRobert Bly's The White Paper Marketing Handbook. That's true. I also strongly suggest that both be purchased and then carefully read. Whereas Bly addresses more of the marketing aspects of white papers, Stelzner focuses heavily on the craft of writing them. Absorbing and digesting the material in both books will assist substantially the process by which important writing and marketing decisions are made.
Sure, a business wants to show how it has the solution to the problem identified in the paper. But a well-written white paper does more than market a solution. It also establishes a person or business as a thought leader, introduces a new idea or concept, and explains how something works. Too many white papers turn into infomercials and Stelzner walks the reader through the process of creating an effective white paper.
Stelzer covers everything including needs analysis, research, interviews, and other important steps in the white paper writing process beyond the actual writing. I've downloaded or received many white papers and few get my attention. For some, the title can scare a reader out of reading it. These titles sound like something written by a PhD for others in the field.
As a freelancer writer, I've written a few white papers and not with as much confidence as I would like. Writing White Papers gives me all the information I need to thoroughly and confidently write the next one without any lingering doubts or fears.
Writers who write few or no white papers will appreciate the chapters on "Interviewing," "Researching," "Writing the First Page," "The Compelling Title," and "Writing Tips and Strategies." The advice in these chapters applies to various types of writing.
Most of the book's contents focus on writing information technology-related papers -- probably because they're the most technical and difficult to write about -- however, one of the examples is about personal accountability. The book doesn't stop at the white paper writing process. Its last chapter focuses on marketing white papers.
The book demonstrates how to make a boring topic engaging -- a problem that often faces the writers of white papers and contains two examples of white papers that retain my attention even though I'm not the prime audience. The book engages the reader making it a surprisingly fast read. Writers, technical writers, and marketing professionals will benefit the most from this well-organized, insightful, and clearly-written book.
Stelzner covers all parts of writing white papers from the perspective of an outside writer. This includes defining the paper's scope and outline, conducting interviews, researching literature, and drafting the paper. Stelzner also provides helpful hints on style, formatting and speaking to intended readers. The chapters on crafting a title, writing the first page and using white papers as marketing tools are informative.
The book's focus is on IT. The risk is that some of the examples that relate to IT may not transfer to other industries. Examples and references to papers from non-IT industries would provide the breath that this book lacks. Research methods focus primarily on Google searches, almost crowding out the wealth of other sources--especially the non-web based ones--that are easier to search and are more efficient in providing relevant insight.
Using white papers as marketing tools focuses almost exclusively on web-based search engines, severely limiting the marketing options available. Most readers assume that authors are knowledgeable in their subject matter. Thus, the introduction containing Stelzner's personal history is unnecessary.
Chapters 1 and 2 would greatly benefit from better organization, and chapter 8 would be more readable if it were divided into smaller chapters. Figures and sidebars are not labeled and are not referenced in the main text (Chapter 10 is a notable exception). The main text could use the services of an editor with an eye for grammar (eliminating the inappropriate use of "secondly"). The main text is not right justified, making the ensuing highlighting jagged. Also, the quality of the paper is such that the highlighting bleeds through the page.
Overall, the content covered in Writing White Papers is practical and useful. From this perspective, it is an excellent, albeit narrow, reference. However, it reads more like a draft copy than a final publication.
Armchair Interviews says: Good information that could have been much better if overall presentation (editing, paper, etc.) was improved.
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