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Four wild beasts that can ravage a white paper… and how to tame them

Four white paper predators stalk the halls of many companies, ready to strike without notice.

Any one of these is enough to ravage a white paper project.

If you encounter two or three on the same project, run for the hills?!

Here’s what each varmint looks like, and how to deal with it.
Creature Number One - The Scope Creep

Pest #1: The Scope Creep

This annoying little fellow refuses to stay on topic.

He is always hopping about, suggesting side issues, sending you irrelevant material to review.

He delights in urging your white paper to cover more… more… more!”

Why stick to one issue, he seems to chirp, when you could skim the surface of 10?

With a Scope Creep as a reviewer, your white paper may never be completed.



How to tame a Scope Creep

Deliver an outline early. Identify your ideal audience, preferred page count and overall scope. Get management to approve this direction.

Then if a Scope Creep rears his pointy head, don’t say anything like, “That’s a scope change…” or “That will cost you extra…”

He doesn’t care. It’s not his budget.

Instead, politely ask, “Does our target audience really need to know that? If so, we’ll have to change the outline.”

If other reviewers feel this is pointless, rally them together to overrule the Scope Creep.

If this happens often enough, he will be on his way, looking for a project that’s easier to disrupt.
Creature Number Two - The Tug-O-Warrior

Pest #2: The Tug-o-Warrior

This willful strong man is always up for a contest.

He may be from sales, marketing, engineering, finance or legal.

Wherever he works, he wants everyone to see things his way. He’ll argue with anyone, anywhere and never give an inch.

His call of the wild sounds like: “I’m right, you’re wrong, and this is not a democracy.”

With a Tug-o-Warrior as a reviewer, your white paper may fall into perpetual limbo.



How to tame a Tug-o-Warrior

If you’re a contractor, get half the money up-front, so the company is committed to finish the project.

If you’re on staff, peg your white paper to a real-world event like a trade show or a product release. That will give it more urgency, and help you join forces with higher management to out-muscle a Tug-o-Warrior.

If you’re locked in a push-and-pull, try to clearly articulate the different positions, then hold a showdown meeting or phone call to resolve them.

If enough reviewers all pull together, you can topple a single Tug-o-Warrior.
Creature Number Three - The No-See-Em

Pest #3: The No-See-Em

You don’t often see this pest in the light of day.

No one knows when he’ll come swooping down out of the night… until he’s got your white paper in his talons and he’s shredding it to bits.

Of course, he hasn’t bothered to be involved until then.

Why waste time giving his views any earlier? He prefers the thrill of the kill.

This winged menace can be very dangerous if he sits anywhere high up in the company.


How to tame a No-See-Em

Identify all reviewers early. Ideally, pull them all together for a kickoff call or meeting. Have them sign off the outline.

If you still get ambushed by a No-See-Em, appeal to the white paper’s sponsor. Then tell your No-See-Em that next time he should be involved from the start.
Creature Number Four - The Dyslexic Designer

Pest #4: The Dyslexic Designer

This harmless-looking rodent can undermine a white paper after everyone else’s work is done.

A Dyslexic Designer loves to bury things.

She’ll be happy to dig a hole for your text, and bury the key messages of your white paper.

Her specialty is shoveling your carefully chosen words into a deep well, so no one will ever see them again.

Or sometimes she hides your words in a wall of grey that’s hypnotizes all readers.


How to tame a Dyslexic Designer

Brief her early about the unique format of a white paper. Get her thinking about how an annual report or magazine article looks.

The point is the words must be easy to read for someone thinking about spending a lot of money with your company.

Make sure you and the white paper sponsor get final approval on the design.

If the company has a corporate template unsuitable for a white paper, get an okay to modify it.

Once a Dyslexic Designer realizes that someone is looking at her work, she may wake up and produce something attractive.

A good process can help control these pests

This light-hearted look at these white-paper predators has a serious point.

An effective content development process can help you tame these wild creatures and produce a white paper that gets results.

Don’t be inflexible, but do develop a workable process to protect your white papers against these varmints.

And if you ever find yourself acting like one of these, please stop and reconsider. The white paper you save may be one of your own.


Did you ever encounter one of these beasts? How did you cope? Please leave your comment below.

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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ 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 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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  1. Robert W Bly on August 22, 2020 at 11:07 am

    #1-3 are a plague to white paper writers everywhere–especially #1.

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