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Deciding whether to publish a white paper? Consider these pros and cons

Posted by Shivali Anand

December 20, 2021    |     4-minute read (724 words)

You've downloaded, read and utilized white papers to help make decisions on behalf of your own business. But have you considered the benefits of publishing your own?

The phrase “white paper'' was first coined by Winston Churchill in 1922 to refer to an instrument of participatory democracy by enabling comments and discussion on a specific topic.

Nowadays the goal of a white paper, which at its core is a marketing product, is to provide knowledge and recommendations on a specific issue and showcase your business’s expertise. White papers are often leveraged at industry and promotional events, conferences and seminars. The majority of white papers are aimed at long-term efficacy of the publishing business, and they may be used to market a product or service.

Before writing your own white paper, consider the benefits and drawbacks. For most businesses, publishing one is unnecessary by virtue of the competition, customer awareness and market relevance. On the other hand, a white paper can be a vital marketing and advocacy platform for companies that want to be seen as experts in their industry.

Some of the pros and cons are listed below to help you decide whether or not you should create a white paper for your company.

The pros of publishing a white paper

  • Attracts decision-makers: White papers appeal to decision-makers because they are definitive and authoritative. They're informative and foster speedy decision-making, and they're often used as the foundation for predictions, reports and investigations. Opinions may be formed based on your well-researched and verifiable white paper.
  • Consumer focused: Every white paper, regardless as to whether the firm provides a product or a service, should be exhaustive in its information, which may spur opinion and action from its readers. This places customers in a position of control, allowing them to consume the information and make conscious decisions based on the document’s data.
  • Educates without selling: How can you promote your product or service without coming across as preachy, desperate or overly sales-oriented? A white paper can fill this space. It's informative without being overly slanted toward sales. It can be a powerful tool for businesses if it strikes the right tone and tenor.
  • Emphasizes hard facts: A white paper, unlike a sales presentation or an advertorial, isn't snazzed up to tempt a customer. It appeals to the logical part of the human brain with raw facts and data, from which they can make informed decisions.
  • Imparts information: A well-researched white paper will be shared by users and consumers. When consuming the white paper, it becomes a word-of-mouth reference to be shared with others. This makes the white paper an excellent promotional tool.
The cons of publishing a white paper

  • Risks being dull: Too much data tends to make information boring. This is one area where the judicious use of data and literary skills are needed to engage readers.
  • Pretense: If a white paper is written by an amateur in that particular field, the reader will see through it, and you will lose credibility.
  • Obligation: Whenever a white paper is disseminated to the public and is conveyed as absolute in its accuracy, readers will not question the information. Users may cite it, and this carries the responsibility for the paper to be true and verifiable. If the paper is found to have questionable data or information, your business’s integrity will be in jeopardy.
  • Resource intensive: Publishing a white paper requires considerable resource and dedicated staff. This can put a strain on smaller businesses with limited resources. 
Three purposes for white papers

As a business owner you may feel compelled to publish a white paper, but you need to be clear about the purpose of the document before deciding. They can serve any, or all, of the purposes outlined below.

Educational: An educational white paper aims to disseminate information and introduce readers to your service or product. 

Tips and pointers: A tips and pointers white paper that centers around tips and pointers is instructive and informs readers how they can get the most from your services or product.

Problem-solving: A problem-solving white paper centers around a specific issue and offers a solution, perhaps in the form of exhaustive FAQs.

Whatever version of the white paper you choose to publish, remember to conduct extensive research to ensure that you are perceived as the authoritative source you desire.

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