We all use them. All of us can identify them. In politics they were originally used to guide the public in making educated decisions on certain political policies and stances. A plan of action and a state-the-facts-and-resolve type of document. For the technology industry, they have become increasingly popular for one main and obvious reason: technology is ever changing. A new technological advance here, an application there, white papers help distribute a great deal of information to the public and create a very quick and concise way to convey it. Business is booming with white papers. They are becoming a lifeline to interacting with the world on the Web. A quick fix to the paper-load problem. The brochure re-invented, restructured.
The Proof that White Papers Have Power
Recently published reports, although more geared to the technical industry, prove just how influential the white paper has become in gaining public relations for individuals, as well as becoming increasingly popular in building B2B relationships. Savvy B2B Marketing blog has constructed a list of surveys inviting B2B technology marketers to check out the proof of the “value of white papers”. A link to TechTarget’s 2009 Media Consumption Report – Mindset of the IT Pro During the Recession is included as part of this list and concludes that “trial software and white papers are the most utilized, along with being among the most effective, forms of content for researching IT problems and solutions”. Savvy also added the Eccolo Media 2009 B2B Technology Collateral Survey to the list to further confirm the successes of white papers. The report yields that “seventy-seven percent of respondents said they’d read at least one white paper in the last six months (compared to 68 percent in the 2008 survey), with 84 percent of them rating white papers as moderately to extremely influential when making technology-purchasing decisions”. Quite a jump from last year’s numbers.
Stephanie Tilton, writer of the referenced blog post, Survey Says…Tech Buyers Read and Forward White Papers, who brings us this compilation of studies, stands by her belief that the white paper is a must, and for marketers who want to stay in the game, they must choose the right time to utilize them so potential buyers are in the know from the get go. With white papers being “read by 80 percent of respondents during the pre-sales phase” and with 89 percent of respondents claiming to have shared white papers with others, Tilton encourages companies to move quickly, include all the proper information needed to inform buyers of new technology, and construct their white paper well. As quickly as the white paper can gain popularity, credibility can be lost with too much time and effort going into the actual selling or advertising of the product.
A Common Goal
We have the proof that white papers can work. We have the proof that organizations build them, that people read them, and that those intrigued pass them along, but what does that mean for the PR industry? Exactly how has public relations harnessed the power of the glorious white paper? With public relations, we are constantly setting goals, meeting institutional guidelines, receiving news, sharing news, educating and informing—working to gain or maintain relationship and the public’s attention at all times. And whether the message is by the people or for the people, PR pros have one goal in common, to bring the public and their clients, whoever they may be, to a higher understanding of one another.
Reaching that Goal
White papers help PR agents add on to their list of instruments. One way that white papers help us set our goals is by serving as an easy and cost-effective way to reach our target, giving these ‘documents’ a big power up for the PR industry. Email, file attachments and the Internet make it easy to transfer these documents from one locale to another, causing white papers to become virtually paperless. Often, there’s no need to even print what is being sent. These days all you have to do is tweet a link to your firm’s site. Now that’s PR power. The only cost becomes the knowledge and the time. And maybe this isn’t that big of a problem, since most people who write white papers are either well-skilled at crafting the paper or are so passionate about the information presented, that they have no problem contributing to the main goal.
Offering the Options You Want them to Choose
Another PR power of the white paper is the ability to give PR firms a way to reach their client’s public by giving them a how-to approach to make their decision. The power of persuasion on behalf of a trusting client. And although facts are a must in writing a white paper, there is always the power to speak the biased voice of the organization being represented. They give a firm the power to inform before encouraging or offering a variety of solutions where they have strategically placed their client as one of the top choices. It’s ingenious, really.
Connecting With Your Peers
With the popularity of company blogs on the rise, white papers give even more power by helping PR agents keep a relationship with their PR peers. When you search on the Web for white papers, the results are overwhelming. Whether it’s to invite PR practitioners to try a new technology or product that the firm strongly believes in or to inform them of a method that as a firm, they have found useful to their peer public, they are still encouraging visits to their Websites, all the while generating traffic. Collecting hits. Welcoming comments. The white paper lasso of the PR cowboy out in the Great World Wide Web.
The real power goes to the development of a good white paper. A white paper should be perfectly crafted. There are a bunch of firms relaying to the public exactly how important it is to have a properly written white paper. They even include a quick questionnaire to help collect data from inquiring potential clients. Which leads to the next PR power of the white paper worth mentioning.
Put Yourself Out There
How do you get that white paper out there? How do you get the hits to begin with? How do you encourage visitors to take the time to comment? How do you control all this traffic? By SEOing your white paper to the point of credibility—attaching a well-respected firm, to an inquiry involving a client, for an individual to run to their computer and utilize their search engine researching skills. In other words, being the firm linked to the information that the general public is in search of.
Join the Crowd
So what can you take away from all of these statistics and information about the ever-educating white paper? Harness the PR power. Get in on the action. Enjoy the privilege of utilizing the white paper’s cost-effective advantage. Write it well and how your audience wants to hear it. Inform, by using the power of suggestion. Put yourself out there and encourage traffic. And share what others have to offer. You never know when you might stumble across someone else’s perfectly crafted white paper and just won’t be able to resist the urge to pass it on.