Let’s first establish what a white paper is and why it is an essential part of your digital marketing strategy. By definition, a white paper is a report on a specific topic related to your business that addresses a complex issue and presents your philosophy or viewpoint on that issue. White papers present in-depth material that is intended to educate an audience and often to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making. While there is no official set of standards for white papers, there are a few generally accepted rules to follow.
Style: A glossy sales pitch is not a white paper. They should be informative, fact-based, and useful for your audience. An executive summary or introduction should be included, and a table of contents may also help to organize the information.
Length: White papers are generally 6 to 8 pages, though they can range up to 50 or even 100 pages if the topic dictates.
Format: Most white papers are produced in portrait orientation PDF format.
Another consideration when determining whether the content you are creating is suitable as a white paper is the amount of research you will be utilizing. Unless you are presenting the first exploration on a topic, it is wise to acknowledge prior analysis by content experts, journalists, and other analysts. The incorporation of statistics and citations of other sources will support your material and establish your expertise.
This brings us back to the main reasons for incorporating white papers in your digital marketing strategy. White papers provide audiences with in-depth, heavily-researched information on a topic while establishing your expertise and thought leadership. They are essential tools for building brand credibility, and they provide a great resource even for teams within your own business.
In contrast to a white paper, a blog does not have an academic feel and takes a much shorter time to produce. Unbound by the research and citations necessary for a white paper, a blog post conveys a lighter tone, is generally much shorter at about 500 words, and is posted publicly online. While a blog post can be a stand-alone piece, it also should fit into your overall content strategy, including established content categories.
The language utilized in a blog post should be clear and succinct, and content should be geared toward the needs and interests of the audience. Blogs can be written in a variety of ways including popular list formats, event reviews, journalistic style pieces, and even commentary.
While white papers will be published more infrequently, the editorial calendar for blog posts will require more management throughout the year as the scheduling and tracking needs are greater. As posts are written, they will need to be evaluated according to SEO best practices to ensure that audiences will find your content.
Here is where your digital marketing strategy gets even more interesting. Blogs are an essential way to promote white papers. They can be used to build interest before the release of a white paper, highlight interesting charts or elements, and promote your expertise.