Updating white papers can be a never-ending process, but that’s not a bad thing, because it ensures the messages you’re sharing with your audiences are up-to-date. When developing a brochure or a publication, most marketers start with some sort of objective and develop an outline covering the main points. They then create a series of drafts, each of which becomes more complete and polished. At some point, the drafting ends and there’s a “final.” Everyone signs off on the final and it goes off to be printed.
Updating white papers prevents obsolescence
Of course, because that “final” was final at a particular moment in time, it’s instantly obsolete. Three months from now, you pick up the printed piece and wish you had worded one of the paragraphs differently. Six months from now, you’ve released an improved version of your product, and that brochure doesn’t reference it. A year from now, you’ve launched a new marketing campaign with a fresh look, and that brochure no longer fits. Sadly, you still have a couple thousand of them stacked neatly in the storeroom.
Updating white papers uses small quantities
Most companies produce white papers in much smaller quantities. Some even produce them only in PDF format, forcing people who download them to use their own equipment to print them out. Because of that, updating white papers is much easier. A company can update the PDF file and post the new version to its website.
Updating white papers overcomes inertia
Most companies still are slow to change printed pieces. Once “finished,” those items remains untouched until they’re brave enough to tackle the process again. Most of the time, they won’t develop that courage for years. Their company changes with each passing month, their market changes every week, but their white paper continues to share information that hasn’t been updated since 2014. Instead of serving as an up-to-date reflection of the company and its business, the white paper becomes every bit as useful as those stacks of brochures in the storeroom.
Updating white papers should happen regularly
The key to keeping things current is to stop thinking about your white paper as a one-time project and start thinking of it as a living reflection of your business. Revise the content frequently, because your company and your world are constantly changing. Don’t be afraid to rework something if you discover a better way to say it. Be particularly careful about using information tied to dates. If your white paper references your 2016 model, readers will conclude the rest of the information is just as dated, and will assume your company doesn’t care about sharing up-to-date information.
Set up a regular review process
One way to keep white papers from becoming stale is to review them regularly and religiously. Designate a particular day each month for your task list. Take an hour or so that day to review your white papers and consider the content in light of what’s happening within your organization. Look for new developments that aren’t reflected and old items that need to go away. Then make all the needed changes.
Ask an outside expert
It may also be worthwhile to engage an outside marketing professional to perform a quick assessment of your white paper. A fresh set of eyes may identify shortcomings that are obvious to the outside world, but haven’t been noticed internally. An outsider brings several advantages:
- Independent and neutral. An outsider such as a professional white paper writer will bring more objectivity to the process and be better able to point out how your audience might not come away with the same impression of what you plan to say. An outsider has fewer preconceived notions and internal assumptions about your product or service and can also challenge your team’s biases and opinions.
- Conveniently ignorant. While you might think an outsider is at a disadvantage because they lack your level of knowledge, it can actually be a big advantage. Because they have to develop a thorough understanding before presenting your message to the outside world, they’ll have to ask a lot of questions that are likely to be many of the same questions prospective customers might ask.