Looking for a great model for the structure of your white paper? Look to the way in which one writes a persuasive essay. After all, as Michael Stelzner, a leading authority on the topic of writing white papers, states in his pdf entitled How to Write a White Paper, “[a] white paper must contain informative and persuasive information. The goal of a white paper is to lead the reader toward the conclusion that your product or service will best meet his or her needs.” Similarly, a persuasive essay also aims to persuade the reader to adopt a certain point of view or to take a particular action. Given that white papers and persuasive essays share the common goal of shaping a view point, then following the structure of a persuasive essay results in the kind of compelling white paper that you want. Let’s look at the crucial components needed in the construction of a successful persuasive essay and transfer them to the creation of a white paper.
Much like in a persuasive essay, the first paragraph of your white paper should always contain a statement of your writing’s purpose. Choose wisely as this statement serves multiple purposes.
1) It lets the reader know the topic of discussion.
2) It keeps you from wandering outside of the scope of relative information.
3) It helps organize the entirety of the white paper.
In a white paper, the typical thesis would address a real problem faced by consumers and/or businesses whose solution, presented in the white paper, proves your product or service to be the best choice.
However, since you are asking the reader to stay with you for anywhere from 1 to 12 pages, throw in a sentence or two that grabs their attention. Waterford Union High School’s library staff gives a great list of ways in which a persuasive essay’s introduction can grab the reader’s attention when writing the persuasive essay. They suggest that you open with –
- an unusual detail,
- a strong statement
- a quotation
- an anecdote that is short and to the point,
- a statistic or fact,
- a question, or
- an exaggeration or outrageous statement.
Depending upon the tone of your white paper, any one of these persuasive essay attention grabbers could be used.
Helpful Executive Summary
At this point, do yourself and the reader a favor by writing an executive summary paragraph. An executive summary previews the main points of any document aimed at persuading its audience. The executive summary should provide the reader with enough information to get familiarized with what the white paper discusses without having to read it in its entirety. Why is this important? Given the amount of text that crosses an individual’s path in any one day, people don’t have time to read every single word. Our generation filters worthwhile content through skimming and scanning. The executive summary allows the reader to recognize the value of your white paper early on and, when given more time, will read the entire thing. An executive summary also benefits you, the content writers or writer. The white paper’s executive summary serves to keep you from wandering outside of the established parameters of the topic of discussion, thus filling it with only relevant material.
Strong, Supporting Body
Who can forget the 1980’s Wendy’s commercials demanding to know Where’s the Beef? If you have advertised a big juicy hamburger, give them a big juicy hamburger. Make sure that the fancy bun of the white paper’s introduction and executive summary doesn’t open up to reveal a lot of nothingness. The body is where you present supporting evidence that proves two things :
1) your arguments are reasonable and reliable and
2) your expertise in the target industry.
Thorough, well-researched and well-examined evidence substantiates the premise of your white paper and provides a compelling reason for why your reader should be doing business with you.
The tools most effective in substantiating your position are –
- logical arguments,
- examples or where your product or solution is beneficial,
- expert opinions, and
- personal observations or testimonials.
Keep in mind that, in keeping with the reader-friendliness of your white paper, add a picture or other visual elements to the body of your white paper. Whether it be graphs, charts, pictures, and sidebars, these elements strengthen, clarify, support, and add visual interest to your white paper.
Given that this is the last chance to influence position of the reader with respect to the information you have to share, the conclusion has to be rock-solid. As with any good persuasive essay conclusion,
- don’t introduce new ideas or material,
- simply restate the point of view communicated in the introduction, and
- briefly summarize the details of the body’s information that substantiates the view point you aim to see the reader espouse.
However, this is where the white paper diverges from the framework of a persuasive essay. Whereas a persuasive essay ends with a tone of completion, a white paper, written for marketing purposes, strives to continue or open up a dialogue with potential clients with a call to action. The determination of your call to action depends upon what you want the reader to do next. If your white paper seeks to educate the reader prior to investing in a product or service, then provide a checklist of the important things outlined in your white paper will help the potential customer hit all of the points that prove the benefits of your service or product to be the best solution to the problem. The call to action could be a question which causes one to ascertain how the material presented in the white paper improves one’s life or adds value to one’s business. Your white paper’s call to action could simply be an invitation to view your website, request further information, or speak directly with a company representative. All of that contact information should be found in your white paper. However you close out your white paper, make sure it leaves a positive impression since this final message will be playing in the reader’s mind long after he or she stops reading.
Writing white papers isn’t for everyone. Although simple in the fact that a white paper benefits from following the framework of a persuasive essay; word choice, grammar, flow, and the synthesizing of research findings can cause some people to turn down the writing of a white paper. If that describes you, outsource the writing of your white paper to a company who specializes in copywrite service and web copy service. Not quite ready to give up? Good for you! Just brush up on your English teacher’s lesson on a persuasive essay and your white paper is ready to take shape.