Spicing Up Your White Paper

Now. Do you want to make potential customers and others in your industry really interested — or do you want to bore them to death? Hopefully, you’ve written all the required sections of your white paper in an interesting way. But remember how people in meetings react to a speaker who drones on and on, reciting facts in a monotone. You don’t want your white paper to be like that!

So here’s where you can spice things up a little. Include things that relieve the monotony of big chunks of text on a white page. Present your information with variety. Here are a few suggestions for doing that:

Use Graphics and Charts

detailed flow chart

A detailed flow chart (Photo courtesy Scott Keatley)

You’ve got so many different ways to present data these days. And you know that graphic displays and images can help people understand how a pile of data relates to something in the real world. There are Venn Diagrams and Spider Maps and Line, Bar, and Pie Charts, Network Trees, Flow Charts…well, you get the picture. So insert that picture into your white paper!

Photographs are another way of making things stick in the reader’s mind. You can spend pages describing how to set up a piece of equipment, but with a couple of photographs that show how the equipment looks when it’s set up properly, you can save a lot of words. So use a few photographs.

Of course, don’t overdo it. Yes, a very long block of text on a white page can get boring. But if the reader has to spend the whole white paper jumping from photo to chart to photo, with only sporadic bits of text between them to tie them together, you won’t have a unified paper at all. You’ll have something more like, oh, a scrapbook.

Case Studies and Partnerships

drawing of two hands in a handshake

Help your readers find beneficial partnerships (photo courtesy Flickr user Aidan Jones)

These are sections of text too (though they can also contain graphics), but they add a personal element to your white paper. This is a chance for your readers to learn the stories of others — individuals or companies just like them, perhaps — who have benefited from the information you’re presenting. You tell these stories in as objective and factual a way as you can. And yet you can bring in personal elements, by quoting the people themselves.

This will really draw other potential customers to you. Case studies catch their interest, because they can see themselves in those other shoes. And notice that you’re not doing any pressure marketing here. You don’t need to.

Another way to appeal to your readers is by telling stories of others they can partner with, to solve their particular problem. Sometimes you’re just presenting information, and aren’t trying to push an actual product or service. You can still keep these people on your side by helping them benefit even when you’re not making a sale.

White Paper Formatting

You know the basic sections you need in your white paper, but you can create extra interest by varying your formatting. Is your subject something that lends itself to a two-column format? Do you have “pull quotes” from within your text that you can set apart in a sidebar? How about an extra sidebar itself, containing interesting tidbits or factual trivia connected to your topic?

Have some corner, perhaps the top right or bottom right, where you position a small version of your logo along with the paper page number. You might add a border line, say, down one margin or across the top of each page, in a color related to your logo colors.

As with your graphics and photographs, do not overdo your formatting tweaks. But you can add visual interest, and guide your reader’s eyes to parts of the page that you consider most important, in subtle ways. Once you have all the material you want to include in your white paper, experiment a bit with the layout, to see if you can add a subtle but effective extra touch to spice things up and keep the reader reading.

Next time: How do we use a white paper once we’ve got one?