Normally, we want to incorporate as much data as possible in our articles (or any other content). One main source of data for content creators are white papers. There are a lot of these available online, however we need to make sure that what we are reading are reliable.
According to impactonthenet.com, a white paper is defined as a detailed and authoritative report. So, it is published in order to educate people. White papers are being produced by several agencies in order to sell a product, promote a technology, fund a project, and to show and establish expertise in a specific field.
There are so many of these and admittedly some are really low quality (or more blatantly, useless). White papers usually appear more professional and trustworthy as compared to some other content.
What a white paper should be?
According to Canright Marketing Reports – The Whys, Whats, and Hows of White Papers, there are several types of white papers :
- Technical white papers (how things work)
- Business benefit white papers (problem and solution)
- Hybrid business/technical benefit white papers (to influence technical advisers)
- Government white papers
A white paper has several parts which include a catchy title, the data (graphics, graphs, surveys, etc, recommendations and conclusions, and of course, the references and methodology employed.
There are also “variances” of a white paper, which include a hybrid paper, report. What really separate white papers from these other published online materials is the original data that are being produced by the agency or institution that produced the white paper.
Also, these are usually published in a specific time period. Some companies release this once a month, some prefer quarterly or yearly – it depends on the amount of data and the period when the data was taken/ recorded.
The good white paper
There are a lot things included in the checklist of of a good white paper. Good white papers are persuasive, generally short, for the good of all (not self-serving), a mixture of being academic and like a magazine, and these covers several cases, and do not just focus in one (and obscure) case.
All of these good stuff are useless unless the visitor or the reader engages with your white paper. In order for them to do so try following the 3-30-3 rule, which means that in the you only have 3 seconds to grab their attention, 30 seconds more (if they stayed), and 3 mins to explain the gist of your paper.
So how do we deal with these white papers?
These are some tips on how to filter out the white paper that we are using as references/ sources for our content.
The date first
Of course, the first piece of information that you need to check in a site is the date of publication. Given the current limitations and flaws in the search results of most search engines, you really need to double check if the pages that they produce are the most current ones. Still, you also need to check if these are the most relevant ones.
The agency/ institution and author that published the paper
One key in creating a sell-able white paper is the packaging. Actually, in some instances you will hardly see any differences between those that are produced by lower quality companies compared to the ones that are produced by the credible and trusted ones.
Also do a basic search of the author. I’m sure you don’t want to quote someone who doesn’t have a good portfolio. Or with a not-so-ranking site.
Does it have a lot of data?
As always, the best ones that I encountered and used in some articles include the one that use simple and direct language. Avoid those that are “wordy”. These white paper usually provides direct data through short write-ups with many graphs.
Usually, these papers are treated as data banks, wherein the density of figures and statistics per page is several times compared to the usual blog articles. That’s why white papers that really doesn’t have that much info should be avoided.
How did it acquire the data?
Admittedly, some of these papers have external sources of data. The data that you are using in your content should be accurate. Furthermore, make sure that the paper that you are reading interprets the data correctly. A single set of data can be interpreted several ways depending on the biases of those who use it.
Is it sponsored by a big company?
Most companies either sponsor or publish their own white paper. If you encountered any of these, be critical about the stats or figures. Just to be safe make sure that you consider all the other factors that are not included in these white papers.
These are used in marketing their products and services. Or you can put some disclaimer when citing these materials.
So many white papers proliferate the web and it does up to you to decide which ones deserve being part of your list of sources for your own content. The tips that I provided are somehow already tested however, it’s still up to you to explore.
We often encounter white papers but how do we deal with them? Ric of Agents of Value, shares some thoughts on how to spot useful and credible white papers.