White paper must-do #3: Wrap up the project properly
Wrapping up a white paper is often neglected by newbies and veterans alike.
In this step, the writer and client tie up any loose ends and close the file.
This includes taking care of sources, permissions, payment and perhaps a post-mortem.
Without doing all this, certain issues may not be handled in a business-like way.
This series describes three powerful techniques that can help any white paper writer gain more success.
Part 1 explained how to kick off the project at the start.
Part 2 covered why you must create an executive summary before drafting a complete document.
And this part describes how to wrap up a project at the end.
Gathering and checking sources
I recently spent a day in Canada’s largest library in Toronto trying to track down the references given in a white paper from a Fortune 200 company.
I had little success. As a result, I now mistrust that company and all its claims.
As a former marketing executive, I’ve had calls from prospects asking for sources from several white papers my company published.
Fortunately, I could produce them.
This builds credibility and furthers the purpose of the white paper: interacting with prospects. But if you can’t produce your sources, this only detracts from the company’s credibility.
Today, I routinely provide my clients with a set of PDFs for all my sources, keyed to the footnotes in the paper.
For a webpage or blog post, I note the precise URL and capture it as a PDF or HTML file. My clients can spot-check any quotes as they wish, then file away those sources for future reference.
I believe this is a best practice that all white paper writers should follow.
Until that day, it’s an unexpected gesture that I believe conveys confidence and professionalism.
Some consulting firms and publishers want vendors to ask permission before quoting from any of their articles or reports.
While seeking these permissions is the client’s responsibility, it’s much easier for them to do when they have a copy of the source document on hand… helpfully provided by their writer.
And ton the other side of the table, the writer may want to name the client as a reference, or use a finished white paper as a sample. Of course, they should ask permission before doing either.
Getting payment and transferring copyright
Obviously, once a white paper is done, the writer sends a final invoice and the client pays it. I recommend linking this final payment to the writer’s transfer of copyright.
While copyright rules vary by country, if the client has a note or e-mail from the writer permanently transferring all copyright to a white paper, that should eliminate any possible legal hassles.
A simple statement like this will suffice:
“For consideration received, I [name of writer] permanently transfer all my copyright to the white paper entitled [name of white paper] to [name of client’s company] as of [date].”
Consider this step complete when the client has paid the invoice, the writer has transferred the copyright to the client, and the white paper has gone into final design or distribution.
Both the client and the writer can now rest assured that they’ve closed the file in a business-like way.
Doing a post-mortem
Larger consulting firms often do a post-mortem of every engagement, but this is not a standard practice for white paper writers and clients.
Perhaps it should be; we can all learn a few things by reviewing what went right and what could have gone better on any project.
In fact, reviewing past projects is how I came to recognize these three “must-dos” for any white paper:
- Doing an early kickoff call
- Delivering a short summary early on
- Wrapping up all sources, permissions and payments in a business-like way
If you follow these three steps, I guarantee your next white paper will go smoother.
You’ll be taking some highly effective measures to avoid the common pitfalls that can afflict these complex projects, and helping to ensure a happy outcome.
Do you wrap up your white paper projects neatly? Why or why not? Please leave your comments below.
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