When you finish a white paper, what’s next?
If you’re like most writers, you send in your invoice, and then take the rest of the day off.
But haven’t you forgotten something?
What about sending your client all the sources you referenced in your white paper?
How about backing up all those claims in your argument with some solid evidence?
I believe this must become a standard practice for white papers to maintain their stature in B2B marketing. Here’s why.
Can you handle the truth?
In 2016, the U.S. went through a terribly divisive election. And in the UK, the Brexit referendum was equally contentious.
Some politicians go so far as to insist that the truth doesn’t matter any more. Something just has to “feel” true.
There no longer is any line between information and disinformation, between empirical fact and magical thinking, between truth and Colbertian “truthiness.”
Truth does matter
But nothing is true just because it “feels” true.
After all, doesn’t it “feel like” the earth is flat? And doesn’t it “feel like” the sun goes around the earth?
But science proved thousands of years ago those feelings aren’t true.
By the same token, effective B2B marketing requires separating facts from feelings. And any false claim, once exposed, can sink a sale.. and ruin the reputation of a vendor.
I’ve never had a client ask me to fabricate sources. And I wouldn’t do it even if they did ask.
But in every workshop I give, someone asks if it’s okay to make up your sources. Guess what I tell them?
Back to white papers
One reason white papers pay so well is because clients expect you to do your homework, to dig out authoritative sources and to quote them properly.
How can you prove that you really did that?
The best way is to turn over a set of your sources to your client with your draft.
Why should a writer spend extra time doing something your client never asked for? Or, if you are a client, why should you insist on this?
For all these reasons:
- The ability to easily spot-check sources adds quality to your white paper.
- Having sources on file enables your client to deliver them on request… even if the original webpage is taken down or moved to a different URL.
- This shows you’re a professional who’s diligent and confident.
- This elevates the level of discourse in your white paper, and in your industry, to rely more on evidence and less on hype.
Use a universal file format: PDF
Enough of the preamble, let’s get on to the how-to.
No client wants to deal with a hodge-podge of sources in all different file formats:
• Screen grabs
Why not make it easy by delivering all your sources as PDFs?
PDF is a universal file format with a free reader for every platform.
Once you have a PDF, you’ll be able to access it for many years.
And as shown in the table, you can easily pull any type of source material into that file format.
|Source||How to save as PDF|
|Blog post||Note exact URL or permalink, save as PDF|
|Book (printed)||Scan source pages to PDF† or use Amazon "Peek Inside" and save screenshots of pages as PDF|
|E-book||Use ePub Converter (or similar)|
|Excel, Word or Powerpoint file||Save as PDF|
|Printed report||Scan source pages to PDF†|
|Webpage||Save as PDF or Print to PDF|
|Written notes||Scan notes to PDF†|
† If your scanner can’t create PDFs, use the free Windows utility iCopy from www.icopy.sourceforge.net to turn your scanner into a photocopier
How to generate PDFs
Here are a couple more tips on how to create PDFs under MacOS or Windows.
From MacOS: Save as PDF or Print to PDF from any application.
From Windows: You can Print to PDF from any application if you own Adobe Acrobat—the paid version, not the free Acrobat Reader.
If you don’t have Acrobat, if you can see it on the web, you can save it as PDF.
Check out the online converter at http://www.html-to-pdf.net/free-online-pdf-converter.aspx. Just copy in a URL, paste it into the converter, and wait a few seconds for your free PDF.
Numbering PDFs to match footnotes
After you have a complete set of PDFs, you don’t want to deliver them as a jumble. You can make each of your sources easier to find.
One simple way is to match each PDF filename to the right footnote.
I use the | character to separate the title from the publisher in the filename:
#–Title | publisher.pdf
This way, you can name the PDFs for footnotes 1 through 3 like this:
1–Can-You-Handle-the-Truth | CNN.pdf
2–The-scientific-method-still-counts | Economist.pdf
3–ACME-special-report-on-honesty | ACME.pdf
It’s not okay to make up “facts” for a white paper. Instead, you should do your own research. Then provide your client with a complete, organized set of sources.
Otherwise, how can you prove you did the research and quoted it properly?
I believe this is a best practice that all white paper writers should follow. This practice is good for readers, good for clients, and good for writers.
Once you get in the habit, this will become a familiar part of wrapping up every white paper project.
Do you provide sources to your white paper clients? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below.