It’s not unusual to see postings on industry message boards and social media saying, “white paper writer needed.” Often it’s because company marketing executives or sales leaders ask their teams to write white papers to share important information with key stakeholders, and the teams realize there’s a better way.
Why is a white paper writer needed when so many people within the company are capable of writing? One good reason is that white papers are a unique type of document, and they require a different mindset from ordinary business writing and even promotional materials such as web copy and blog posts.
White paper writer needed for busy staff
Another is that professional white paper writers write for a living. They’re writing all the time, so it’s no surprise they tend to be faster and more productive than non-writers. Additionally, professional white paper writers typically don’t have other tasks and responsibilities competing for their attention, like employees at your company. For example, if you’re being asked to draft a white paper, what’s going to happen to the rest of your workload? Will someone else help or can you count on some long workdays?
Professional white paper writers also understand the most effective structure and approach for white papers. They’re not like brochures, instruction manuals, or other types of documents. Through their experience, they’ve learned what techniques do the best job of communicating information.
Professional white paper writers approach the process and your company with fewer preconceived notions and internal assumptions about your product or service. They can also challenge the biases and opinions common among your team. In general, they bring more objectivity to the process. When I write a white paper, I may be hired by the client, but I try to put myself in the place of the reader. I focus on what readers are going to notice and how they’ll think about key issues. I learn about their professions and roles, so I understand whether my writing needs to be more technical or aimed at beginners.
Some company leaders assume that professional white paper writers can’t possibly do a better job, because we don’t know as much about the company or product as their employees do. That’s absolutely true, but our comparative ignorance is actually a benefit. Before a professional white paper writer can present your message to an outside audience, they have to learn all about it, especially if it’s a field that’s new to the writer.
That means writers will have to do a lot of research … and they’ll ask a lot of questions. That includes questions your and your team would have never thought to ask, because you know your area of expertise backward and forward, and you forget not everyone shares your knowledge. It’s likely the questions a white paper writer asks you will be the same questions your prospective audience would ask.
When you or one of your co-workers drafts a white paper and it goes through the approval process, there’s plenty of room for judgment. Unfortunately, in many work environments, people are unwilling or unable to give candid feedback because they’re afraid it will cause hurt feelings or problems. If your direct supervisor writes a white paper and asks you to review it, are you going to be able to tell them it’s poorly written?
Professionals are accustomed to criticism, and besides, you’re paying for the work, so you want it to match your needs and expectations. You can be comfortable making edits and other changes. If someone else finds fault with it, you can deflect those criticisms to the writer — but if your boss is thrilled with the finished white paper, guess who gets the credit?