White papers are an effectual strategy to raise a profile

White papers might date back to the time before the Internet, but, if written properly, they are still an effective tool for companies to spread awareness of a technology, product, or service.

White papers might date back to the time before the Internet, but, if written properly, they are still an effective tool for companies to spread awareness of a technology, product, or service.

Although white papers take longer to craft than press statements or blog posts, PR pros can successfully pitch them to newspapers or magazines for republication on opinion pages, says Donna Fleishman, president of Cohn & Wolfe Atlanta.

“I have a client who was a founder of a retail giant and he learned about a bill going through Congress that would have had an incredible impact on business in the US. So he put out a call to a number of CEOs, large and small, who had not been aware of this bill and he wrote a white paper on it,” she says. “It was reprinted in The Wall Street Journal, and he got reprint requests from businesses and chambers of commerce, who thought that here was an issue that people needed to be educated on and made aware of, and there was a solution in this white paper.”

Many successful white papers focus more on an issue at hand and ways to solve it, than pitches for products or services, Fleishman adds.

“The pitfall is that if [the white paper] is too self-serving, it's not going to go anywhere. You have to be very focused,” she says. “You also can't be too long.”

Additionally, companies can adapt their white papers for the Web 2.0 age by releasing them in HTML format, allowing for bloggers and reporters to link to individual sections of the document, adds Amy Anderson, MD of Shift Communications' Boston office.

“I think that a lot of companies... put up a white paper on their Web sites and they think that's thought leadership,” she says. “[In HTML format], you're empowering readers to reach the content... the readers are kind of carrying the water for you on thought leadership.”


Key points:

  • Newsworthy white papers can be distributed as opinion articles
  • White papers should present a solution to a prominent problem or issue
  • White papers are usable on social networking Web sites and blogs if distributed in HTML format

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