Do you know anyone writing a letter to Santa?
I always urge my kids to write one early in December.
And that got me wondering: Is a ‘Dear Santa’ letter anything like a white paper?
In the spirit of the holidays, here’s a lighthearted look at the similarities between the two… with tips on white papers sprinkled throughout.
White papers and letters to Santa #1: Both aim at a target reader
If you don’t know who you’re writing to, how do you know what to say?
A white paper is written for an ideal prospect for the sponsor’s product or service.
A letter to Santa is written for the big man himself—or at least one of his elf associates who help him from getting snowed under by paperwork.
Tip: Develop a persona for your ideal reader and keep them in mind as you write. For Santa Claus, that’s easy. For a B2B prospect, that takes a little research.
For more guidance, see my article on knowing your audience.
White papers and letters to Santa #2: Both use certain tactics to reach the target reader
Simply writing a white paper is only the first step.
Next, you must get that document in front of your ideal reader.
A white paper includes many elements that help you do that:
- A compelling topic the target reader cares about
- Strong SEO to make the document findable
- An engaging title to pop out of a list of search results
- A compelling cover to attract the eye
- Professional design that’s easy on the eyes throughout
All this will help your target reader find and look at your white paper.
A letter to Santa has only one target reader to reach.
So kids writing to Santa have an easier time. And they have a great shortcut.
Did you know that kids from anywhere can mail letters to Santa here:
If a child includes their mailing address and sends their letter by December 9, they will get a reply mailed back.
I know, I’ve seen those letters that come from Santa!
White papers and letters to Santa #3: Both seek to persuade
A white paper, in my book, is “a persuasive essay.”
The goal is most often to present a better solution to a raging business problem.
And the stakes are high: Millions of dollars’ worth of sales. The reputation and budget of the marketing team.
That makes any white paper a high-risk/high-reward project.
A letter to Santa is also a persuasive essay.
The goal is to present Santa with the wish list of presents a child wants to see under the tree.
While a letter is shorter, the stakes are high: The dreams of a child… and their hopes that somebody out there is listening.
White papers and letters to Santa #4: Both follow a prescribed format
A white paper follows a certain template that readers expect, including these elements:
- Contents page
- Executive summary
- Main body
- About the company
If any of those are missing, the white paper seems incomplete.
One popular type of white paper is a numbered list, where the main body is a set of observations, points, or questions about a certain topic of interest.
A friendly letter to Santa—according to my daughter’s class assignment—also follows a certain format, with all these elements:
- Heading with your address
If any of those are missing, the letter seems unfinished.
In most letters to Santa, the main body is a numbered list of dream presents.
White papers and letters to Santa #5: Both include a call-to-action
A white paper should state clearly what you want an interested reader to do next. This is the call-to-action.
Some sponsors ask for too much, like “call 1-800-BUY-NOW.”
But most prospects can’t buy yet, so they don’t do it.
Instead, a call-to-action should be manageable and doable.
For example, “click to see further content.”
Or interact with an online widget to see how much they can save by using the sponsor’s product.
Also, a white paper works best when the call-to-action is focused and specific.
If you include three or four different calls-to-action, a reader can get confused.
A letter to Santa implies this call-to-action: “Please bring me everything on my list on Christmas Eve.”
Some kids ask for too much, like “a real-live pony to live in our backyard.”
But most parents aren’t ready for that, so Santa won’t bring it.
Instead, a letter to Santa should have a manageable request.
For example, a list of three items.
If a child includes too many items, Santa’s elves can get confused.
White papers and letters to Santa #6: Both are concise and to the point
A white paper should build a compelling case as briefly as possible.
After all, busy executives have no time to waste.
And for his part, Santa is one of the busiest executives on the planet!
A letter to Santa can’t afford to beat around the bush.
Fortunately, most kids know how to get right to the point. If they include any small talk, it’s usually just a few words.
December 8, 2022
How are you? I was good this year, even when my brother bugged me. A lot.
For Christmas, please bring me a drum kit, a llama, and an electric skateboard with blue wheels that light up.
Please tell my brother not to touch my skateboard.
P.S. Enjoy the milk and cookies.
So there you have it, six clear similarities between a white paper and a letter to Santa.
But that’s not all… read on for your bonus checklist. (It’s very thorough—I checked it twice for you.)
A special gift for you, from a Grade 4 teacher
I often think most business people have forgotten everything they learned about writing essays in college.
That’s why they need white paper writers.
But schools today start teaching persuasive writing at a young age.
This year, my 9-year-old daughter has a school project to write a letter to Santa.
But not just the same old letter; in fact, she has to persuade him to move her from his Naughty list to his Nice list.
And here’s what her Grade 4 teacher will be looking for in those projects:
- Your introduction is clear and includes reasons for your letter
- You argue your opinion
- You support your argument with details
- You use transitions effectively
- You organize your writing in the correct format
- You use standard writing conventions (grammar, punctuation, etc.)
- Your finished piece is easy to read, polished, and pleasing to the eye
Notice how every item on that list applies perfectly to an effective white paper?
If that teacher ever wants to try something new, she could get work writing white papers!
So if you’re ever struggling to plan or draft or revise a white paper, refer to this list, and you won’t go wrong. Happy holidays!
For more fun articles like this on white papers, subscribe to my free newsletter.