White papers are one of the most powerful tools available for marketing communications … but only when they are used correctly. One of the biggest mistakes companies make with white papers is making them too overtly promotional.

White papers aren’t ads

Companies that create white papers that are blatantly promotional typically mistake white papers for advertising or brochures. In reality, they’re a very different communications channel that needs to be handled differently. When readers pick up a brochure or read an ad, they know someone is making a sales attempt, but when they read a white paper, their goal is to obtain information about an issue or a challenge.

Fill white papers with facts, not hype

The most effective white papers explore the facts related to situations, needs, or challenges to educate the readers so that they may make the right decisions. Typically, white papers begin by exploring the issue or challenge and then describe the solutions that have been developed to address it.

Blatant promotion turns off readers

Readers see right through blatant promotion, so it compromises the credibility of the white papers. Instead of serving as a collection of helpful facts, this type of white paper is basically a sales pitch cloaked in a different appearance. The reader is less likely to believe the arguments that are being presented and won’t see the information and advice in the white paper as objective.

You get to choose the facts

Of course, when writing a white paper, you get to select the facts that put your company in the best light. For example, if your veeblefetzer uses the cross-cutting process to core radishes, rather than the spiral-coring method employed by 90 percent of your competitors, your white paper can focus on the many engineering advantages of cross-cutting.

One way to share your message

If you’d like to include a promotional message about your company in a white paper, the best way to do it is to include a short section at the end that provides a general description. Steer clear of hype and focus on the facts. Rather than say something like “Amalgamated Enterprises produces the finest veeblefetzers on the market,” use language that’s more like “Amalgamated Enterprises has been manufacturing veeblefetzers since 1953 with an emphasis on efficiency.” While that’s a sales message, it won’t seem as blatant, so it’s less likely to turn off readers.

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