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Book review: Crafting White Paper 2.0

We all have more to read than we can get to.

So how can we expect time-starved B2B execs to read our latest 10-page white paper?

We can’t.

“Executives know that white papers provide them with valuable information,” writes Jonathan Kantor in his refreshing book Crafting White Paper 2.0.

“Unfortunately, the traditional all-text white paper… requires too much time to sift through,” he notes.

“To gain the attention of the time-and-attention-challenged business reader, new formats must be incorporated into white paper content.”

Crafting White Paper 2.0 book cover

We can’t argue with that.

For the past 20 years, white papers have been getting shorter, more colorful, and better designed.

Kantor’s book encourages white paper creators to carry on these trends.

He argues for better design and content to make these documents more accessible to busy executives.

The author has a wealth of experience in B2B white papers, after working with tech companies like AdobeAppleIntelJ.D. Edwards (now Oracle), and Microsoft.

 

 

Here are a few tips from Kantor for anyone doing white papers.

White paper 2.0 tip 1: Update your thinking

Certainly, a white paper needs to be fact-driven and take a dignified tone.

But yesterday’s “wall of text” doesn’t cut it anymore.

Here’s what Kantor says the white paper 2.0 is about:

  • Concise size (12 pages max)
  • Suitable for reading on-screen
  • More color
  • Better layout and design
  • Attention-getting enhancements: callouts, graphics, bullets, and boxes
  • Designed for online sharing through social media

If your white papers still look like something pumped out of Word, it’s time for an update.

White paper 2.0 tip 2: Use summaries

The oldest trick in the book for a communicator is to “tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, tell ’em, and then tell ’em what you told ’em.”

These three chunks map perfectly to a white paper’s executive summary, main body, and conclusions.

If you’re leaving out the start or the end, you’re missing a critical chance to get your message through.

“The executive summary assumes that readers know nothing about the white paper topic and provides them with introductory and background information that creates an incentive to read the rest,” says Kantor.

There are two types of executive summaries, he notes, and each has its place:

  • preview creates interest, like a movie trailer
  • synopsis sums up the document, like an abstract

On the other hand, “the concluding summary assumes readers have read the entire white paper and as a result, reinforces essential ‘takeaway’ messages.”

Skimmers often flip through the whole document and immediately notice the conclusions at the end.

This is where to place another must-have element, the call-to-action.

Not sure what to use for your call-to-action?

Well, what do you want readers to do after they finish your white paper? That’s your call-to-action.

White paper 2.0 tip 3: No graphic? Use a pull-quote

A pull-quote is a short sentence pulled out of the text and shown in larger print. These make a great visual breaker in an otherwise plain page.

There’s no reason not to use these in white papers.

Keep these short, just one sentence from 10 to 20 words, says Kantor, and you can count on your pull-quote getting noticed by anyone flipping through.

Use a pull-quote on every page, he advises, especially if that page contains no other visual.

These break up the monotony of the text and give you an ideal way to highlight the most important message on that page.

Conclusions

That’s just a taste of the detailed discussion and excellent tips in this book.

The only downside is that the author/publisher didn’t follow his own advice. The pages are a sea of grey with next-to-no visuals to save us from drowning.

That’s likely a constraint of time, money, and the e-book publishing process.

Still, it’s a missed opportunity to showcase what the author means.

Even so, if your firm or client is using white papers to generate business, you owe it yourself to get his book Crafting White Paper 2.0 and use these techniques to capture the attention of today’s crazy-busy decision-makers.

 


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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 300+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. And named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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