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White Paper: Purpose and Audience

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A white paper is a certain type of report that is distinctive in terms of purpose, audience, and organization. This resource will explain these issues and provide some other tips to enhance white paper content.

What is a White Paper?

Originally, the term white paper was used as shorthand to refer to an official government report, indicating that the document is authoritative and informative in nature. Writers typically use this genre when they argue a specific position or propose a solution to a problem, addressing the audience outside of their organization. Today, white papers have become popular marketing tools for corporations especially on the Internet since many potential customers search for information on the Web. Corporations use white papers to sell information or new products as solutions that would serve their customers' needs.

The Purpose of a White Paper

Typically, the purpose of a white paper is to advocate that a certain position is the best way to go or that a certain solution is best for a particular problem. When it is used for commercial purposes, it could influence the decision-making processes of current and prospective customers.

What Kind of Problems Do Readers Want to Solve?

The audience for a white paper can be the general public or multiple companies that seek solutions to their problems or needs. Typically, you will not know your audience personally, unlike when you write a recommendation report for your client. And yet, in order to persuade your audience, you need to focus on their needs. If you can address the problems that your readers want to solve, they will read your white paper for a solution. Otherwise, your white paper may not be read. It is important to emphasize your readers' interests rather than your interests, as shown in the example below:

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What Is a White Paper?

Purpose of a white paper, how to write a white paper.

  • White Paper FAQs

The Bottom Line

  • Trading Strategies

What Is a White Paper? Types, Purpose, and How To Write One

Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

what is a white paper presentation

Investopedia / Michela Buttignol

A white paper is an informational document issued by a company or not-for-profit organization to promote or highlight the features of a solution, product, or service that it offers or plans to offer.

White papers are also used as a method of presenting government policies and legislation and gauging public opinion.

Key Takeaways

  • A white paper promotes a certain product, service, or methodology to influence current and prospective customer or investor decisions.
  • Three main types of white papers include backgrounders, numbered lists, and problem/solution white papers.
  • A white paper provides persuasive and factual evidence that a particular offering is a superior product or method of solving a problem.
  • White papers are commonly designed for business-to-business marketing purposes between a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or between a wholesaler and a retailer. 

White papers are sales and marketing documents used to entice or persuade potential customers to learn more about a particular product, service, technology, or methodology.

White papers are commonly designed for business-to-business (B2B) marketing purposes between a manufacturer and a wholesaler, or between a wholesaler and a retailer. It can provide an in-depth report or guide about a specific product or topic and is meant to educate its readers.

The facts presented in white papers are often backed by research and statistics from reliable sources and can include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data. A white paper can communicate an organization’s philosophy or present research findings related to an industry.

Types of White Papers

A startup , large corporation, or government agency will use white papers differently. There are three main types of white papers, including backgrounders, numbered lists, and problem/solution white papers.

Backgrounders detail the technical features of a new product or service. Designed to simplify complicated technical information, they are used to:

•Support a technical evaluation

•Launch a product

•Promote a product or industry leader

Numbered lists highlight the key takeaways of a new product or service, and are often formatted with headings and bullet points such as the following familiar format:

•3 Questions to Ask

•5 Things You Need to Know

Problem/solution papers identify specific problems faced by potential customers and suggest a data-driven argument about how a featured product or service provides a solution to:

•Generate new sales

•Educate salespeople on product characteristics

•Build industry interest.

White papers differ from other marketing materials, such as brochures. Brochures and traditional marketing materials might be flashy and obvious, but a white paper is intended to provide persuasive and factual evidence that solves a problem or challenge.

White papers are commonly at least 2,500 words in length and written in an academic style.

A white paper should provide well-researched information that is not found with a simple internet search and have a compelling narrative to keep the reader's attention. The author of a white paper should:

• Research and fully define the topic.

• Create an accurate outline of information.

• Write an attention-grabbing introduction.

• Format the paper for easy reading.

• Revise and proofread.

What Is an Example of a White Paper?

All of these documents, publicly available on Microsoft’s website, focus on aspects of the company's suite of cloud services. In contrast with brochures, these white papers don’t have a clear sales pitch. Instead, they dive into relevant topics, such as cloud security, hybrid clouds, and the economic benefits of adopting cloud computing.

  • An AI-First Infrastructure and Toolchain for Any Scale
  • Moving your Mission Critical Mainframe Data to Azure
  • Mesh and hub-and-spoke networks on Azure
  • Backup and recovery overview for Azure users
  • Backup and recovery overview for users new to Azure

How Have New Industries Used White Papers?

Cryptocurrencies have also been known to publish white papers during initial coin offerings (ICOs) and frequently issued white papers to entice users and "investors" to their projects.

Bitcoin famously launched a few months after the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto issued its famous white paper online in October 2008.

Why Is It Called a White Paper?

White Papers may have developed from the use of “Blue Papers” in 19th century Britain, where a Parliamentary report cover was blue. When a topic for the government was less serious, the blue cover was discarded and published with white covers. These reports were called White Papers. In the United States, the use of government white papers often means a background report or guidance on a specific issue.

A white paper is an informational document issued by a company, government agency, or not-for-profit organization to promote the features of a solution, product, or service that it offers or plans to offer. The facts presented in white papers are often backed by research and statistics from reliable sources and commonly written in one of three formats that include backgrounders, numbered lists, and problem/solution papers.

Copy Engineer. " The 3 Types of White Papers and When to Use Each One ."

Master Class. " How To Write a White Paper ."

Microsoft. " White Papers on the Cloud and Azure ."

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Marketing tips

What is a whitepaper?

How to write a whitepaper—and what you can expect it to do for your business..

A hero image with a photograph of a woman looking at a graph on a computer screen

Whenever I say the word whitepaper, I often get glazed-over looks, weird nodding motions, and get-me-out-of-here body language. And sure, a whitepaper isn't as glamorous as a data report or as relatable as a blog post, but don't knock it till you've tried it.

I've written several whitepapers (also known as special reports or research reports) over the years, and they're actually pretty interesting to research and write, especially if you love doing deep dives into topics.

And when done properly, whitepapers generate quality leads that will advance through the sales process. Here's everything you need to know about whitepapers.

Benefits of a whitepaper

When to use a whitepaper

Whitepaper examples

Whitepaper vs. eBook vs. blog post

Types of whitepapers

How to write a whitepaper

A whitepaper is a sales and marketing document written as an authoritative report to educate and inform potential customers. It discusses, in-depth, a potential solution to the prospect's problem , or pain point, where your product or service is an obvious solution. By incorporating research, studies, surveys, and other data to support the presented information, your whitepaper answers your customers' questions while simultaneously nudging them to consider your business as a solution. It's a win-win.

Because whitepapers genuinely help your audience and position you as an authority, they're a really valuable lead generation tool: whitepapers are typically presented as gated content , meaning prospects have to complete a form (providing their contact information) to download the content. 

With Zapier , you can automatically send the data you capture in your lead gen forms to your CRM, email marketing tool, or any other app you use. Learn more .

But remember: although a whitepaper is a marketing document, it's not a pitch or product presentation. It's designed to be a resource for ideal prospects at various stages of their buying journey .

A customer will read a whitepaper because it educates them on something they want to know more about. But in the process, whitepapers help potential customers learn more about your product, service, or solution and persuade them to take the next step in their buying journey. 

Here are the primary benefits for your business:

It positions you as an authority in your industry, demonstrating that you understand your customers' problems and how to solve them.

It increases awareness of your solution to those problems.

It builds brand trust by helping prospects make an informed buying decision.

It gets you valuable contact details and insights for nurturing leads .

It serves as sales enablement content , helping your sales team close deals.

When should you use a whitepaper?

Let's say you have a coffee shop. Coffee is a product that speaks for itself—anyone walking by can smell what you're brewing and decide if it's enticing or not. But if your offering is less tangible and more knowledge-based, then you'll need a different way to draw in customers and display your expertise. Whitepapers are a great solution.

This is especially true if you sell something relatively complex or with a longer sales cycle. Just keep in mind that it's a trade-off: by gating the content, you're not getting the SEO value from it. You'll have fewer eyeballs on your content, but the people attached to those eyeballs will be much more likely to buy from you.

Here are two whitepaper examples, to give you a sense of what they look like.

Whitepaper example: Jiminny

This whitepaper , published by Jiminny, is designed to attract leads that want to better understand what sales functions look like in a mostly virtual world. It cites studies and sales leaders to help inform the audience, and it only briefly mentions its conversational intelligence tool that can help sales teams perform better.

A screenshot of a small section of the Jiminny whitepaper

Whitepaper example: Highspot

This whitepaper , published by Highspot, is designed to attract B2B prospects that want to give their sales reps the right content at the right time, while avoiding inconsistent or off-brand messaging. As a sales enablement platform, Highspot is positioned to offer this type of education, and folks interested in it will likely be qualified leads for them.

A screenshot of a small portion of the Highspot whitepaper

Whitepaper vs. eBook vs. blog post: What's the difference?

You have a bunch of options for written content—a whitepaper is only one of them. 

A blog post is lighter in tone, shorter in length, and never gated. While blog posts vary in length, they're generally shorter than eBooks or whitepapers—and they tend to be hyper-focused on a specific topic.

An eBook can also be light in tone, but it's longer and usually gated. It digs deeper into a topic or might present information on a broader collection of topics. It also often has a lot of visuals to support the text.

A whitepaper is often more authoritative in tone, is longer, and cites research from start to finish. 

Each of these options can be used for various stages of the buying journey, and each can point to your product or service as a solution, but you'll be attracting different types of audiences depending on which one you choose. And, of course, you can (and depending on your industry, should!) be creating all three. You can even repurpose content from one to use in another.

The 3 main types of whitepaper

Once you've decided you need a whitepaper, you'll need to figure out which type of whitepaper you want to develop. You can map it to the stage of the customer journey you're targeting.

Numbered list whitepaper

This type of whitepaper presents a set of points about a specific topic of interest to your audience, often leaning heavily on industry trends.

Funnel stage: Awareness . This roundup style is often used to nurture prospects in the early stages of the customer journey—folks who are looking for general industry information and want to be better informed.

Example : Jiminny's research report, The Top Six Sales Trends of 2022 .

Problem/solution whitepaper

This type of whitepaper recommends a new or better solution for a challenging business or technical problem. 

Funnel stage: Consideration . This type of whitepaper is often used to attract and educate prospects in the middle stages of the buying journey: they know they have a problem, and they're researching ways to meet their challenges and goals. 

Example : Sales Readiness Group's whitepaper, Maximize the Effectiveness of Sales Training .

Backgrounder  

This type of whitepaper explains the technical features of a product or service and its related benefits. 

Funnel stage: Decision . This is useful for prospects comparing a shortlist of solutions near the end of the customer journey: they want more information about your specific product or service.

Example : Highspot's whitepaper, Highspot Security Overview: How we protect your data .

There are also loads of business-savvy chimeras that combine aspects of each of these types. Don't feel pigeon-holed, but use these three types as guidance for how to think about developing your whitepaper.

Now it's time to sit down and write the thing. But how exactly do you do that? First, keep in mind that writing a whitepaper takes longer and is much more intense than writing a blog post. You're not going to bang it out in one sitting, so before you begin the process, it's best to have a roadmap to keep you on track.

Select a topic and style

Do your research

Create an outline

Get feedback

Write your whitepaper

Edit and refine

Add formatting, graphics, and design

Create a landing page

1. Select a topic and style

Choosing the right topic for your whitepaper directly influences the results. If you select a topic of serious interest to your ideal audience, you'll generate lots of leads and insights. Otherwise, you'll have wasted your time on a long piece of content.

Develop or use an existing customer profile to help identify your audience's top needs, challenges, and goals. Then, determine where you need content along the customer journey: awareness, consideration, or decision. 

Ask yourself:

Do I need something to explain how my product solves a problem for a specific audience to attract new leads? 

Do I need a well-researched report to nurture prospects until they're ready to buy? 

Is there a complex feature that prospects need to understand thoroughly before making their final buying decision? 

These questions will help you identify which type of whitepaper to write and what topic to write about.

2. Do your research

To write about a topic well, you'll need to understand it through and through. Complete thorough research before diving into any actual writing: read other papers on the topic, interview subject matter experts, or conduct a survey. Search for data, surveys, and research studies from authoritative industry sources to help build your argument and prove your whitepaper's premise. 

If your whitepaper reads like a blog post, with minimal citations and a lack of authoritative sources, readers won't see you as a valuable source of information.

3. Create an outline

An outline may seem tedious—and I'm not going to force you to make one for every short blog post you write—but when it comes to a whitepaper, it's necessary. It's easy to ramble when you're writing long-form content , and an outline prevents you from getting off-topic. You'll be glad you have one after you write a few pages and think, "Wait…where am I going with this?" 

Here's a standard whitepaper format:

Introduction

Executive summary

Various sections (and subsections) throughout the body, guided by your research

Somewhere in your whitepaper (usually at the beginning or end), you'll also want a section about your company. How prominent this description is will depend on the type of whitepaper you're writing, but you want people to know who's providing this valuable resource.

Also in your outline, indicate where you'll want graphics and what you think those graphics should demonstrate or represent. This will help you kick off the design aspect earlier, so there isn't a design bottleneck once you've completed the whitepaper.

4. Get feedback

Always run your outline by other stakeholders before moving forward. (If you have a sales or customer support team, they're great resources because they have their finger on the pulse of customer pain points.) Now's your chance to get everyone on the same page, brainstorm any gaps in the content, or see a different perspective on a given topic.

If you do this before writing, it'll save you a lot of time and effort down the line.

5. Write your whitepaper

With that feedback in hand, flesh out your outline and write the body of your whitepaper report. Dig into that research, and give your readers keen insights and valuable takeaways. A few specific notes:

Add subheadings to break up large sections for readers who prefer to skim—they'll also make the document easier to read for everyone. 

Add comments to note when something should be placed in a callout box or otherwise highlighted in the final version.

Indicate where different visuals will be placed.

Cite your sources. I know this goes without saying, but it's a non-negotiable.

Once you've finished the body copy, write your introduction, executive summary, and conclusion. Readers get the gist of the report by reading these sections before deciding if reading the whole whitepaper is worthwhile.

6. Edit and refine

Let your whitepaper draft sit for a day or more, and then come back to it. Review the document with a fresh outlook, and try reading it aloud to make sure it flows properly from section to section—do your best self-editing .

Once you have what you think is a final draft of your whitepaper, have a trusted colleague or an editor do a final proofread. (Or they might give you bigger picture feedback, in which case, back to the drawing board!)

7. Add formatting, graphics, and design

You've done it—you have a final draft. Now, make it visually pleasing. Work with a designer to add those graphs, charts, or illustrations to help your audience literally see your points. Lean into aesthetics and dress up your whitepaper with a dynamic layout and design aspects. Just be sure your design choices aren't interfering with readability.

8. Create a landing page with a lead gen form

You're ready to roll out your whitepaper. Create a landing page or pop-up where your audience can trade contact information for your content. If you have an existing resource library on your website, put it there; otherwise, a one-off page will do the trick. (Here are some tips on crafting solid lead gen forms and a case for using micro conversions .)

Highspot landing page for a whitepaper, with a lead gen form

And remember, the landing page is only one way to get people to download your whitepaper. You should also get your sales team involved, and advise them to share your whitepaper with prospects they've been nurturing. Use your whitepaper cross-functionally, and reap the benefits of your well-researched, well-crafted document.

Read more: 11 one-pager examples and how to create your own

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Margot Howard

Margot is a freelance content marketing writer with many years of corporate sales experience. She writes for B2B SaaS, software, and service companies, especially Sales Technology companies. When she isn't writing, you can find Margot cooking, hiking, or walking her dog. Connect with her on LinkedIn: https://bit.ly/3gCGDL2.

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How to Write and Format a White Paper: The Definitive Guide

Mary Cullen

You’re ready to compile and share your company’s deep knowledge of your industry. A white paper seems like the perfect format. It’s a useful product to highlight your company’s expertise and a valuable tool in marketing.

But, how do you transform your knowledge into white paper content?

White papers are similar but distinct from business reports. In order to write a successful one, you need to understand the difference and include key elements. This article will help you decide if a white paper is right for you, and if yes, how to prepare and produce one.

To write a white paper, thoroughly research a topic and propose a comprehensive solution in a well-structured, factual, and persuasive document.

A white paper should include: 1. Title (accurate but enticing) 2. Abstract (including the Problem Statement) 3. Background (may be detailed and technical or broad and high-level, depending on audience) 4. Solution (the ‘ta-da’ moment of the white paper) 5. Conclusion (the summary of findings) 6. References (using correct industry format)

What is a white paper?

A white paper is an authoritative document intended to inform the reader on a particular topic fully. It combines expert knowledge and research into a document that argues for a specific solution or recommendation.

The white paper allows the reader to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

White papers are data-centric, text-heavy business documents. Due to a large amount of data and research, white papers are deep reads and tend to have a formal tone.

Use and value

Businesses write white papers both to record expertise and to market themselves to prospective customers.

White papers are generally written for an audience outside of the business. Therefore, they are a tool to attract readers to the company by offering top-quality, industry knowledge.

However, a white paper is not a sales pitch. It sells the company by highlighting the internal expertise and valuable recommendations, not by bidding for business.

Sales Pitch: 8 Ways ABC Marketing will save money on your social media budget

White paper: Social Media Advertising: Matching marketing needs and platforms

businesswoman-typing-business-summary

Write an actual white paper with individual instructor guidance.

Our Advanced Business Writing Course + Coaching includes written feedback and two live coaching sessions.

How to select a white paper topic:

Choosing the right topic is essential to have your white paper read. There are three major factors:

1. Audience

As with any business writing, your audience is your first consideration. The white paper must be written with a target reader in mind. The audience may be long-time customers familiar with the industry or new prospective buyers who are entirely new to the field.

Reflect on the reader’s pain points or major questions. Within these topics, look for ones that have not been fully investigated or the available information is out-of-date.

2. Expertise

Your white paper should match and highlight your company’s expertise.

The entire document should provide a complete investigation, including external research and internal knowledge. The business’s own know-how informs the content that is included and how it is compiled.

3. Problem-based and solution-focused

White papers should identify and address a particular problem. The problem should be relevant and timely in your field. The document may focus on issues such as common dilemmas, new trends, changing techniques, and industry comparison.

The white paper must have a proposed solution or recommendation to answer the problem. This solution is based on thoroughly examining the problem and potential solutions.

White paper preparation

The selected topic must be comprehensively researched. Pull information from online references, industry resources, and internal documents. White papers are data-focused, so they should be supported by significant research.

There’s no hard and fast rule on citations but you need to cite any information that is not public knowledge and that you didn’t know before beginning your research. However, understand that the reader’s confidence is likely to increase with an increasing number of cited references.

Of course, all resources must come from authoritative sites. In order to write a valuable document, all research materials must be from credible, reliable sources.

Read other white papers

Are there white papers covering your topic or area already? Read them to determine the knowledge gaps and the opportunities to build on existing content. This review will also ensure that your white paper is novel instead of redundant.

Use a mind-map

It can be overwhelming to keep track of the many sources, ideas, and content involved in preparing a white paper. A helpful organizational tool is the mind-map . A mind-map allows the writer to catalog and connect the many different pieces into one visual overview.

We suggest using the free tool MindMeister to organize your content. It’s simple to use and free.

FreeMind is another alternative but some organizations don't allow it to be used since it must be downloaded.

Don't forget visual elements

When designing a white paper, the written content is most important. However, taking the time to create an aesthetically pleasing design cannot be ignored. It should be remembered that the visuals used can greatly contribute to the overall impact of your white paper. By using visual elements such as images, animations, videos, charts, and graphs that reinforce and illustrate arguments, can greatly increase clarity for the reader while making key points stand out.

White paper format

White papers generally follow a standard document format. The content order may seem similar to other business reports, but there is one major difference:

A white paper places the conclusion at the end.

Many business communications, such as technical reports or proposals, place the main conclusion at the beginning of the document. This order responds to the desires of the reader and their preference in receiving the information.

In a white paper, the content and research inform the reader and increase their understanding of the problem throughout the document. The final section provides the ‘ta-da!’ moment where the reader now receives the solution which is supported by the evidence in the document.

The reader’s journey and preferences in a white paper and business report differ. The major findings follow suit.

If you’re unsure of these distinctions or are looking to improve your business writing skills, consider enrolling in our online self-paced Technical Report Writing Course (see all of our courses here ).

And, no matter the journey, the document must be easy to understand and include informative headings for easy navigation.

Choose an accurate title

A good title is essential. It should clearly indicate what the reader will learn from the white paper. It should also be enticing.

Bland title example: White paper on Law 123.4 Referencing Environmental Impact Assessments.
Enticing title example: The Rules are Changing: White Paper on the Environmental Impact Assessment Legislation Proposals in 2018

The phrase ‘white paper’ does not necessarily need to be in the title at all. Some audiences are seeking that authoritative indicator. Other readers may be scared off from valuable content because of the term. As always, think of what your audience would prefer.

The abstract offers the reader a brief overview of the white paper’s main points. It allows the reader to ensure they have found a document relevant to their needs. After reading, the reader should be able to know if they are ‘in the right place.’

Problem statement

The problem statement specifies the issue the white paper will address. The problem needs to be defined and placed into a context to ensure it’s understood by the reader.

This section provides the background information required for the audience to grasp the problem and, ultimately, the solution. The content may be detailed and technical or broad and high-level. The content depends on the reader and the problem.

If original research is completed for the white paper, the methods should be communicated.

The ‘ta-da’ moment of the white paper.

Based on the preceding information, the solution is now presented. It is developed and argued for using the gathered evidence and the expertise of the author and their company.

This section summarizes the white paper’s major findings. Recommendations based on the solution are provided.

All sources used to develop the white paper must be collected and cited in this section. It adds validity to the document. It also gives the reader content for further research. Depending on your industry, follow MLA or APA citation formats. 

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Final thoughts

Writing a good white paper is not a simple task. However, the investment of time and skill can produce a valuable document that shares your company’s knowledge, contributing to overall education and progress in your industry. And, a good white paper increases business opportunities. As you develop an informational document such as a white paper, it's helpful to strengthen your writing process with our Advanced Business Writing course. 

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  • What Is a White Paper?
  • Written By Gregg Rosenzweig
  • Updated: August 2, 2023
We’re here to help you choose the most appropriate content types to fulfill your content strategy. In this series, we’re breaking down the most popular content types to their most basic fundamentals — simple definitions, clarity on formats, and plenty of examples — so you can start with a solid foundation.

What is a white paper?

A white paper is an in-depth piece of content (similar to an ebook) or well-researched report that allows a business to serve as an authority on a topic, often by presenting a problem alongside a solution. They often include charts, graphs, and visualizations to help hammer a point home.

What makes white papers more than just ebooks?

Unlike ebooks, white papers deliver an abundance of focused and original research. Their reason for being includes everything from presenting data analysis to new studies to academic research.

They can be created from…

  • Case studies
  • Original data
  • Presentations
  • Research papers

what is a white paper presentation

The long and short of it

Whether it’s a case study or report requiring a deeper dive, white papers often range in depth depending on how much information is in the ocean of information to explore.

A general guide to white-paper length:

  • Short Form (1,500 words or less)
  • Standard (3,000+ words)
  • Long Form  (5,000+ words)

What can white papers do for a business?

A white paper can serve as a powerful, persuasive, useful, and lead-generating tool positioning a business as a credible thought leader on a given topic.

Popular use-case examples for white papers

White papers establish authority and build trust with an audience — but one of the most compelling reasons to produce one is capturing qualified leads. For example, you can capture personal information upfront as a gateway before granting access to the white paper.

Business types:

White papers are historically popular in places such as the government or financial sector when a study’s findings must be relayed in a relatively succinct format. However, they have been more universally adopted by companies well-versed in content marketing.

White paper examples – short form

what is a white paper presentation

White paper examples – standard form

what is a white paper presentation

White paper examples – long form

what is a white paper presentation

Understanding content quality in examples

Our team has rated content type examples in three degrees of quality ( Good, Better, Best ) to help you better gauge resources needed for your content plan. In general, the degrees of content quality correspond to our three content levels ( General, Qualified, Expert ) based on the criteria below. Please consider there are multiple variables that could determine the cost, completion time, or content level for any content piece with a perceived degree of quality.

what is a white paper presentation

More content types with examples:

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  • What Is an Ebook?
  • What Is a Customer Story?
  • What Is a Product Description?
  • What Is an Infographic?
  • What Is a Presentation?
  • What Is a Motion Graphic?
  • What Is an Animated Video?

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what is a white paper presentation

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The 2024 Ultimate Guide: How to Write and Format a White Paper

The step by step guide to succeeding with white paper marketing.

Frame 16 (1)

  • 1 What is a white paper?
  • 2. White paper examples
  • 3 How to write a white paper
  • 4 Mistakes a white paper should avoid
  • 5 White paper Format
  • 6 Gating your white papers
  • 7 White paper distribution
  • 8 Handling your white paper leads
  • 9 Choosing the right white paper template
  • 10 Final thoughts

Introduction

White papers are a popular and powerful tool for content marketers. They can be used to position your company as a thought leader and authority on a subject by presenting useful and persuasive research findings and information about your products and services, White papers can also be used as a powerful asset to generate more leads when the information is valuable enough for readers to submit their personal details in order to access your findings. This ultimate guide will teach you everything you need to make white paper marketing a formidable addition to your content marketing strategy . 

How to Write and Format a White Paper Infographic

1. What is a white paper?

A white paper is an in-depth report or guide about a specific topic and the problems that surround it. It is meant to educate readers and help them to understand and solve an issue.

In the world of marketing, a white paper is a long-form piece of content , similar to an eBook . The difference between the two is that white papers tend to be more technical and in depth. The facts and opinions expressed in white papers are often backed by original research or statistics that the publisher has aggregated from reliable sources. They often include charts, graphs, tables, and other ways of visualizing data. 

The term "white papers" originated in England as government-issued documents. One famous example is the Churchill White Paper , commissioned by Winston Churchill in 1922.

Today, the term is most commonly applied to “deep dive” style publications. Businesses — especially in the consulting, financial, or B2B sectors — use them to communicate their organization’s philosophy on a topic, make the case for the superiority of their product, or simply to present research findings related to their field.

White papers are no less editorial than other forms of content, but the depth of research lends them an authoritative tone. For this reason, they are good candidates for promoting thought leadership .

Who uses white papers?

In the past, white papers were most often produced by governmental agencies, NGOs, think tanks, consultancies, and financial institutions that needed to present the findings of their ongoing research in a succinct format.

With the widespread growth and adoption of content marketing (the creation and distribution of non-promotional content intended to generate interest in a business and its offerings), white papers have become more common in other industries as well. Any organization that engages in content marketing can benefit from producing white papers.

Their popularity across industries is due to their versatility. While all white papers have certain elements in common, a B2B startup will use them differently than a large consultancy, and both will use them differently from a governmental organization.

Types of white papers

There are numerous types of white papers a business might publish.

  • One type is the backgrounder , in which the benefits of their product, service, or methodology are explained in depth.
  • Another is a problem-solution approach, which walks the audience through the solution to a problem that is common in their industry.

Other types of white papers simply present a summary of useful statistics and information about the state of a particular field or industry. An example of this would be the Content Marketing Benchmarks Budgets and Trends from the Content Marketing Institute.

Whatever type you produce , the contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area. Your audience is searching for an information document, and will look for an authoritative source — a business they perceive as having in-depth knowledge of a subject.

The contents of your white paper should serve to showcase your expertise in a given area.

The purpose of a white paper

White papers enable you to build trust with your audience. They show readers that you're reliable, experienced, and adept in a given domain. When potential customers search for an informational document to help them understand a problem or opportunity they're facing, and you provide them with a quality white paper that helps, they'll turn to you again in the future.

This perception of authority can also serve to boost sales in an organization. More than half the respondents to the Eccolo Media B2B Technology Content Survey reported having read a white paper before making a buying decision. Buyers prefer to purchase from vendors they trust and see as experts in their field.

Finally, white papers are extremely useful for lead generation . The Content Preferences Survey from DemandGen found that more than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper — more than for eBooks , case studies, analyst reports , podcasts, brochures , or infographics.

With all of these potential benefits, utilizing white papers in your content marketing strategy can produce great results.

More than three-fourths of survey respondents were willing to exchange personal information for a white paper.

2. White paper examples

When you think about white papers, you probably think of PDF articles with thousands of words. But times are changing and so is the way we produce and consume content.

Nowadays, every marketing collateral (including white papers) needs to be well written, well structured, and designed for every type of visitor. 

Here are some great examples of white papers doing exactly that. 

White paper example - CodinGame

This unique one-pager presenting findings from the Developers at Work Survey demonstrates how a white paper should be done. The animated, interactive data charts show off just what's possible with our embed feature.

Open white paper example #1  

White paper example - BDO GDPR

Privacy and the GDPR - BDO

This well-produced special edition produced by BDO and creative agency Monte Media does an incredible job of turning a conventionally dull topic into a piece of content that's engaging and comes to life.

Open white paper example #2

White paper example - content-marketing-strategy

This white paper is a step by step guide to succeeding with content marketing.

See more  white paper examples

Start creating white papers with Foleon

3. How to write a white paper

Starting a white paper can be a daunting task. So much information and research are required that it’s easy to get lost in that portion of the work and let it become a roadblock to actually putting things on paper.

Even after the writing itself has begun, white papers are tricky to do well. Simply listing statistics without some form of narrative arc is a surefire way to keep your white paper from ever being read. Luckily, following a few simple guidelines can help keep a white paper engaging and make the process of finishing it much easier.

Pick the right topic

This might seem obvious, but without a topic that resonates with your audience, your white paper is not likely to be read. When choosing the right topic, you should consider three important criteria:

  • It should be something you are qualified to write about.
  • It should be something your audience is interested in.
  • It should address a topic around which little content has been written already and thus fill a " content gap ."

Naturally, finding a topic that brings points 1 and 2 together is vital. White papers are meant to be authoritative pieces of content based upon the author's experience and expertise, so it's important to write about what you know . But you must match this to the interests of your readers if you're to produce something they'll be eager to engage with .

Don't be afraid to crowdsource information from within your organization. If the topic of a white paper is related to engineering, why not interview an engineer or have them look over what you’ve written? The same goes for other roles. Crowdsourcing knowledge means having the power of a true expert in many fields.

Finally, filling a "content gap" will help your white paper get noticed and gain traction. By addressing a topic no one else has written about definitely, your white paper will be more likely to rank highly on search engines and even be featured elsewhere on the web.

Pro tip: You can even ask your audience what they would like to see in your upcoming white paper. You'll get ideas, make your topic more relevant, and you'll generate buzz around your content even before it's finished. In fact, we used the same method for this guide!

white paper promotion slack

Define your audience

Defining your audience goes hand in hand with choosing the right topic. But moving beyond your audience's interests, it’s important to think of the kinds of people who will be reading your white paper.

  • Are they fellow professionals, well versed in your subject?
  • Are they likely to be reading something they are relatively unfamiliar with?

Knowing this helps establish the voice you should use and whether industry-specific jargon is appropriate. It also narrows the scope of the research you should include. It’s always important to ensure all arguments are logically sound and well supported, but the stats and information presented should be relevant to the specific audience you're targeting.

Part of defining an audience in the age of Google centers around how people will find the white paper. This means thinking about which platforms specific personas use for research and what search terms they put in. Not only will this help a white paper get found by the right people, but it is useful when outlining the white paper later on.

Optimizing for keywords is important, but remember to write for people, not for search engines. Google is getting better all the time at understanding and matching search intent with relevant content . This has become particularly important with the advent of AI-powered language models which can produce long-form content at scale. 

Wrap it in a great intro and outro

Ad with all good writing, your intro should serve to captivate your audience, pique their curiosity, and entice them to read further. It's good practice to provide a brief summary of what they'll find in the white paper and to emphasize exactly what benefit they'll get from reading it.

Your outro is equally important, especially if you're using your white paper to market your products or services. You should avoid any self-promotion in the body of your white paper, but you can certainly mention your relevant product offerings and how to obtain them — perhaps using a compelling call-to-action — at the end.

Pack it with value

White papers are not meant to be advertisements for your company, and you should avoid any overt promotion. Instead, you should provide plenty of useful information that will be valuable to readers even if they don't become customers. Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Remember, white papers serve to showcase your expertise as a company or brand in a given field. Your readers should come away having learned something useful and with the impression that you're a reliable source of expert information. As pointed out earlier, generating this kind of reputation will lead to greater business success as buyers are more likely to purchase from companies they trust.

Emphasizing value is the key to a great white paper that will get shared and widely read.

Don’t be scared of multiple drafts

No first draft is ever a finished work. Elizabeth Bishop, the renowned and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, wrote seventeen drafts of her poem “One Art” before it was completed. It’s now considered one of the best villanelles ever written .

While a white paper may not need seventeen drafts, there will undoubtedly be points missed and logical inconsistencies in the first version. Finishing a draft, stepping away, and coming back to it with a fresh mind is the best way to ensure quality. If there’s another good writer at your company, getting another set of eyes on it is even better.

Keep it interesting

White papers should be more detailed and thorough than blog posts or eBooks . This may cause them to be more dry and formal, but this doesn't mean they have to be boring.

A trap that white papers easily fall into is using statistics as a crutch and not maintaining interest throughout. Technical as it may be, you still want your white paper to be read. To make this happen, it’s useful to borrow techniques from fiction and creative nonfiction writers.

There are lots of resources for learning about a plot, but generally, it has five parts, as illustrated in Freytag’s pyramid:

White paper plot design

These won’t always correspond perfectly in a factual piece of writing like a white paper, but they can get you thinking about how to create and hold interest. Use those ideas to keep readers’ attention until the very end.

4. Mistakes a white paper should avoid

There are some pitfalls and common mistakes to avoid when writing a white paper. Each of these has the potential to make an otherwise stellar piece of content into a wasted effort. Here's a brief list of things to look out for.

Sounding like a sales pitch

When white papers are used as part of a marketing campaign where businesses showcase their product, a common mistake is to make them sound like a sales pitch . Don't let this happen; it will immediately turn your readers off. In a white paper, your audience is seeking unbiased, educational information that will help them, not try to persuade them. Save the sales pitches for other content, like product brochures .

Lack of adequate research

As previously mentioned, white papers should be well-researched documents. It’s true that conducting lengthy original research may be outside a marketing team’s budget, but merely including a few stats from the first page of a Google search simply won’t cut it.

Aggregating statistics and searching through scholarly work may take time, but the result will be worth it. For your white paper to achieve its intended effect, It’s important to establish your content as an authoritative source to which the audience would want to return.

Poor design

We'll go in-depth into design in the next section, but it's worth mentioning here. The written content of a white paper is what matters most, but neglecting design is a big mistake. Design makes your salient points stand out and helps the reader understand what they're reading. Using visuals (like images, animations , videos, charts, and graphs) that support your arguments is crucial.

Check out this white paper example built with Foleon!. Open the white paper

Not telling a story

White papers are informative and factual. We’ve driven that point home already. That doesn’t mean they should be boring. Backgrounders, problem-solution white papers, and research findings all have a story to tell, and the reader is far less likely to make it through the entire piece without some form of narrative to keep them engaged. Setting up a problem, elaborating on a solution, and including some type of success story is a proven formula for making any type of content more story-like.

Leaving it abstract

Because most white papers will involve sharing research findings, it can be easy to leave them in the realm of theory without explaining how to utilize those findings on a practical level. This is true more of backgrounders but can be the case with problem-solution white papers as well.

A good example is the abundant amount of content on employee engagement. Many B2B cases have covered the importance of employee engagement and the pitfalls of getting it wrong. Too little of this content goes further and gives concrete examples of what companies in specific verticals can do to alleviate the problem.

5. White paper format

Before addressing anything else, we first need to talk about the format you'll use.

A picture is no longer worth a thousand words. Today, its value is in the number of eyeballs it can keep glued to your content and the ratio of those viewers it convinces to click through to other sections of your website.

Your carefully crafted copy and painstakingly gathered statistics won’t earn those clicks on their own. The average human attention span is now less than that of a goldfish . And with 3.3 million Facebook posts, 448,800 tweets, and 149,513 emails sent every minute , competition for your readers' attention is intense, to say the least. Long form mediums like the white paper need serious sparkle just to compete.

How to format a white paper

You'll need more than just black text on a white background. Your design choices regarding things like color, typography, and the use of visuals will play a prominent role in the success of your white paper. Here are a few important principles to keep in mind for creating a quality white paper design.

Keeping mobile visitors in mind

More than 54% of internet traffic is now mobile , and web designers have adapted to this trend by creating what's known as responsive design . Before this, web pages simply scaled according to the size of a user's screen, retaining their layout. Naturally, this made most pages both unreadable and unnavigable on smaller devices.

Responsive design solved this by allowing elements on a page to rearrange, resize, or be completely hidden from view in response to the size of the screen. When a smaller screen is used, font-sizes increase, buttons become larger for touch screens, and the entire layout adjusts to make the page mobile-friendly.

But while this has become standard for web designers in a mobile-first world, producers of other digital content assets like white papers have generally not adapted . Surprisingly, most companies that offer white papers and eBooks on their websites still use PDF format .

The problem with PDFs is that they're unreadable on smaller screens . They're fixed-layout documents — they can't adjust or adapt to different screen sizes. Reading them on a mobile device requires excessive zooming and panning around, which is a terrible experience for users.

Mobile traffic is ever-increasing. If you decide to produce your white paper as a PDF , you risk excluding this vast segment of your audience. It's a design mistake that will cost you views and conversions.

Responsive white paper example - NGData

See examples of responsive white papers

Emphasis and readability

Because in-depth white papers contain lots of text and visuals, as well as supplementary information like footnotes, figures, logos and copyright info, the danger is that your design becomes cluttered. Clutter accumulates before you realize it. You may choose a clean layout and color scheme, to begin with, but as you continue to add content, things can get crowded. Often, you must make tough choices about what not to include to strike the right balance between completeness and readability.

Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information. These choices and priorities affect layout, placement, color, font size, page order and more. Use these design elements to create emphasis on vital pieces of information. But be careful. Emphasizing too many pieces of information — or too few — will cause readers to struggle to discern what’s important.

Good design makes bold choices and prioritizes important information.

Have a look at what's trending

Bold fonts and color schemes are in. If you look at the hippest tech companies right now, you’ll see lots of pastels and color gradients. Of course, all that might change tomorrow. But still, a great way to get inspiration when you're just starting is to take a look at what design trends are currently popular.

U2's frontman, Bono, sings "every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief." And he's right. Good designers are always drawing inspiration from other designers. The best way to create a successful design is to spend a lot of time looking at what others are doing successfully. Use Evernote , or a bookmarking service to save white papers and other exceptional designs that you encounter for future reference.

Don’t know where to start looking? Dribbble and Behance are two networks where great designers share their latest work. They consistently have material that’s on the cutting edge of what’s trending.

Design for your audience

While trends may inspire you, it's more important to align your design with your audience and your subject matter.

  • Will you be addressing suit-and-tie financial executives or blue-collar management at construction firms?
  • Are you writing about changes to privacy regulations in the tech industry, or about the effects of farming on biodiversity?

White paper format and design

Your design should support and strengthen your topic. The colors and typography should be consistent with what you're writing about, the tone you've chosen, and the audience you've defined. Writing a white paper for a funeral parlor? Hot-pink headlines might be a bad choice. Taking color psychology into account can help you achieve the look and feel you're after.

Brush up on the basics

No prior knowledge of design? No problem.

If you don’t have a designer working with you in-house, you can still teach yourself the basics of design and check work against those principles. A big part of the battle is knowing the search terms that will get you the knowledge you need. Luckily, good primers on basic graphic design are abundant.

After doing a bit of reading, start creating. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. If you create a white paper and don’t like the design, try to pinpoint what it is about the design that needs improvement. After the reading you’ve done, you’ll have the tools to critique your own work and the work of others. This is the best way to improve and create well designed white papers.

Choosing the right tools

At Foleon, we pride ourselves on providing a tool that makes creating responsive digital white papers easy, even for those with no prior graphic design experience.

Choosing a tool like this, which takes the guesswork out of design, will shorten the time it takes for you to produce great white papers. There is a vast ecosystem of tools out there, each of which is geared toward a different purpose and skillset. The right one will enable you as both a designer and a writer.

See how you can scale engaging content creation .

6. Gating your white papers

For most companies, lead generation and growing lists of contacts for the sales and marketing teams are important activities. Attracting visitors to your site and offering them something of value in exchange for their contact information is a proven method for filling the top of your funnel.

But for this type of inbound marketing to work, two things are needed: exceptional content that visitors are eager to acquire, and a method for gating (or walling off) that content behind a form.

Gated white paper

Many brands skip the first part and move straight to the second. They quickly produce something mediocre and put it behind a form. This might work in the short term for generating lists, but keep in mind that users expect more from content they “pay” for. The quality of your gated content serves as an indicator of the quality of your brand will affect your ability to turn prospects into customers down the road.

So how do white papers fit into your b2b content marketing funnel ? They may act either as lead generation tools themselves or can be used to direct readers to other parts of a website that captures lead information.

What is gated content?

Walling expert content off behind a form designed to capture personal details is one of the most common techniques for generating leads. Gated content is any content that a reader cannot access until after they input some personal information, such as their name and email address. White papers and eBooks are two of the most common types of content used for this purpose.

Typically, a company will create a landing page that includes a description — and perhaps a preview — of what information readers can expect to find inside. The landing page will include a form for visitors to enter their personal information and thus gain access. After entering the required information, visitors are either presented with a download button or receive the gated content in their inbox.

There are plenty of variations on this formula, but the basic technique of providing “free” content and asking readers to “pay” by providing their personal information has been very important part of content marketing for a long time.

To gate or not to gate

While gating your best content is great for lead generation, there are some drawbacks as well. Walling off your white paper will mean it gets read by fewer people as not everyone is willing to give away their contact details.

An open-access white paper will be read by a wider audience. If it’s in-depth and authoritative, it may also do well organically and improve your search rankings. Gating it behind a form, however, will prevent search engines from indexing it.

It’s important to consider what the primary goal of your white paper is: disseminating information and gaining brand awareness or generating leads. If the latter is more important, then gating is a great option.

Semi-gating

Another variation on gated content — and one that’s growing in popularity — is semi-gating . This can give you the best of both worlds by allowing your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.

Semi-gating gives readers a taste of your white paper without requiring them to give up any info. You can, for example, make the first few pages of your white paper open access, and then make visitors fill in a form to read more. This works well because digital content is so abundant and brands must offer more for free or risk visitors turning elsewhere.

Allow your white paper to reach a wider audience while still retaining the ability to generate leads.

Offering more content for free also builds trust and brand loyalty among your readers. Let them know your white papers are valuable and helpful, and they’ll be more interested in giving you their personal information. You’re also more likely to gain qualified leads if readers have a chance to sample your white paper before converting.

Of course, semi-gating doesn’t mean giving away your entire white paper. Typically, there’s at least one section of the white paper that is exclusive to those who go through the gating process. Semi-gating can help reach a wider audience, build trust and loyalty, increase lead quality, and still help you capture the contact information you need.

There’s a concept in marketing and design known as friction . Friction is anything that causes the sales process to slow down. It’s like a roadblock that makes it less likely prospects will convert, sign up, download, or purchase. It can be caused by a multitude of things including poor design, confusing navigation, subpar copy, too many form fields, and more.

Your ability to generate leads with a gated white paper will largely depend on how much friction is involved. Asking for more information than you really need is one common and unnecessary source of friction that can lead to losing potential readers.

The entire field of conversion rate optimization is geared toward removing friction — or making user interactions easier. CRO specialists make forms simpler, navigation more intuitive, and design CTAs that are more likely to be clicked. Optimizing your landing page for conversions is a vital part of any lead generation campaign.

But the reality is, asking for personal information will always be an obstacle for a large number of people. So the key here is to make the process easy and noninvasive as possible.

An excellent way to do this is by reducing the number of form fields to the bare minimum and using mid-gating to ensure your ask is timely and yields immediate value for the reader: "Fill out this form to get access to the rest of this white paper, we've saved the best for last!".

Create white papers and eBooks that integrate with your favorite CRM or marketing automation platform. Get started

7. White paper distribution

So, after following the tips in this guide, you create an engaging, informative white paper that inspires readers to take action and deepen their relationship with your company. You mid-gate (or semi-gate) it to capture readers’ information and gain valuable insight into the interests and demographics of your consumer base.

Now, you publish it on your website, sit back, and wait for your Pulitzer.

Only, the traffic never comes… Where did you go wrong? You didn't think about your white paper distribution strategy . 

The importance of distribution

The internet isn’t the same as it once was. Thanks to the massive amount of content produced every day for and an ever-growing number of channels, it’s a lot harder to get noticed. Unless you’re Gabriel García Márquez back from the dead, simply writing something and posting it online doesn’t guarantee readership.

To get eyes on your white paper, you need to be smart not only about writing and design but distribution as well. Some content marketing thought leaders go so far as to claim that you should spend 20% of your time on content creation and 80% on promotion.

Distribution is all about identifying traction channels where your ideal customers consume content and making your white paper highly visible on those channels. Depending on the audience you defined in the beginning, some will be more relevant for you than others.

Social promotion

If you’re at all familiar with marketing, advertising, or online media, chances are you’re aware of how important social media is to visibility. People from all walks of life, and from all over the world, are on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Ensuring that you share your content regularly on these platforms will give you a solid base of promotion on which to build.

But it's not enough to simply write a post and tweet it into the void. Try to find communities like Facebook and LinkedIn groups where your target audience is likely to congregate. Search for relevant hashtags on Twitter and Instagram . Find subreddits relevant to your industry.

Once you’ve found your audience, it’s much easier to connect with them. If you contribute to these spaces regularly, you’ll have an easier time keeping their attention and distributing your white paper.

Influencers and earned media

Public relations isn’t what it once was; influencer marketing has taken its place as the way to get noticed by the masses.

These days, influencers — people with large, engaged followings on social media and newsletters — are better equipped to amplify your content than traditional journalists. They play a growing role in shaping public opinion and even in setting business trends . Shares from an influencer can even help you land spots in major publications the way press releases used to.

Social media is the best place to find influencers in your vertical. When you investigate the best communities in which to promote your white paper, look for the content that people are already referencing and sharing. Eventually, you’ll start to get a picture of who’s putting out content that’s getting widespread traction. These are the people whose voices can amplify your brand.

Start by interacting with them. Begin a conversation, comment on their pieces with regularity, and give them feedback on their work. There are great tools, like Voila Norbert and ContactOut , to help you quickly track down email addresses.

After building enough rapport, try offering to collaborate on future white papers or other types of content. This process can take some time because your goal here is to build a relationship.

Eventually, you can ask an influencer to share your white paper. You might even consider quoting them in the white paper itself — anything that gives them an incentive to share your work is helpful.

Pro tip: Try to find an expert in your white paper related subject and interview them. It will add value to your white paper and you'll increase the chance that the expert shares your content with his or her extensive network.

Email marketing

The jungle of online content may thicken daily, but there are a few places you can still get readers’ attention. Email distribution has stood the test of time in this regard. It provides greater ROI than social , and it shows no signs of weakening.

If the purpose of your white paper is lead generation, email marketing will not be applicable. But for boosting sales, building trust, and establishing your brand as a trustworthy source of information, it's important not to neglect your existing contact base.

Although email may not have the appealing viral possibilities associated with social media, it does have other advantages. Namely, anyone who subscribed to your email list chose to be there. This means you can expect a higher level of engagement from this audience than those who come in via other channels. Capitalize on their loyalty and engagement by encouraging contacts to share your white paper with their networks and thus multiply your distribution efforts.

This was discussed in the previous section, but it's worth mentioning again here: another big advantage of Foleon's gating features is that when your existing contacts share your white paper with their contacts, those people will be confronted with a login form that will allow you to capture their info and expand your email list further.

Going beyond the basics

The techniques discussed above are essential items in your white paper distribution toolbox. However, they’re not the only ones. The best way to distribute your white paper depends largely on your target audience and the industry to which your content speaks.

Take some time to critically evaluate and research how knowledge is shared in your industry. Every industry will be slightly different. Reaching people in these places is the best guarantee of effective distribution.

8. Handling your white paper leads

As we've discussed, white papers can serve a variety of objectives. They’re commonly used for thought leadership and to disseminate important research, relevant to a specific industry.

When it comes to content marketing, however, the most common use for white papers over the last several years has become lead generation. In chapter 6, we discussed how to bring readers to your white paper and capture their information.

Once you've properly gated your white paper and set up a solid distribution strategy, it's time to think about how you'll handle the leads that come in. If not properly tracked and nurtured, leads will quickly become cold and won't lead to increased sales for your company. So how do you follow up with leads and maximize the opportunity you’ve created with your white paper?

How to track your white paper leads

The buyer’s journey outlines the steps a person goes through, from becoming aware of a problem they have, to learning about different solutions to that problem, to eventually purchasing a product or service (hopefully yours) that solves their problem.

White paper customer journey

To maximize the chances your new leads become paying customers, you must take the abstract concept of a buyer’s journey and map it to your specific content ecosystem. The actions your prospects take on your website can be indicative of what stage of the journey they're in.

For example, you may see someone read a blog post on your site, then come back a day later to get your white paper, and then finally sign up for a free trial or an email list. After that, they might decide to make a purchase. As patterns begin to emerge around the journey your customers take, you'll learn what actions on your part can help them to advance.

There are many tools available to help you analyze this journey for yourself. Google Analytics is probably the most widely used. It lets you track and compile data regarding user behavior on your website. You can define goals and generate reports that will show you steps users tend to take before completing those goals.

Targeting stages of the buyer’s journey

As it becomes more clear what actions visitors take before purchasing, you'll better understand where to use your white paper in the buyer's journey.

The question you should seek to answer is, where does it provide the most value to your potential customers? Do you see greater success when accessing your gated white paper is a prospect's first interaction with your company? Or is it perhaps more effective to use it as an offer once visitors have returned a second (or third) time to your site?

You can see that white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of an ecosystem. The related blog posts, landing pages, emails, social messages, and follow up sequences must all be carefully orchestrated and properly timed.

This process takes practice. It takes trial and error, and you must be a keen observer of trends . However, that effort will pay off.

...white papers don't exist in isolation but act as a member of a content ecosystem.

Following up with your leads

Depending on where in the buyer's journey you use your white paper, the way you'll want to follow up with leads will be different.

  • If, for example, your white paper targets the awareness stage and the leads you gather are relatively unfamiliar with your company, it might be smart to enroll them in an email sequence that highlights other pieces of content on your site such as blog posts that are relevant to the topic they showed interest in.
  • If your white paper is for people in the consideration stage, and leads are already familiar with what you have to offer, you might consider following up by sending them special offers or exclusive deals — again, closely related to the topic of interest.
  • If you're taking a highly targeted approach to distribution and using your white paper to generate hot leads that you think are already close to making a purchasing decision, the best way to follow up might be for a sales representative to reach out directly by phone.

This is what it means to nurture leads. By proactively keeping in touch with leads and offering them more relevant content, you maximize the likelihood of them becoming a customer.

9. Choosing the right white paper template

In 2021, Hubspot reported that 82% of marketers actively invest in content marketing. Thus, the need to create interactive content experiences that stand out amongst your competitors has never been more critical in your content marketing strategy as the volume of published white papers grows yearly. 

For this reason, the visual representation of your white paper has become increasingly crucial for retaining your audience's interest. In addition to the value your white paper content provides your audience, the single most significant factor at your disposal to maintain content engagement is how your white paper is visually presented. 

For whitepapers, the white paper template you opt for to present your content can significantly influence the success of your publication. The template is more than just a matter of aesthetics; it represents a strategic decision that affects user engagement, experience, and even how your brand is perceived.

Below are some factors you should carefully weigh when choosing your white paper template .

Target audience and content

The two biggest influences that will determine the selection of your white paper template are your target audience and the purpose of your content. 

For example, if you create an annual report that provides Financial Services information or a research piece exploring trends in Software & IT salaries, you’ll want to use a template that easily represents data-rich elements such as tables and eye-catching statistics. In contrast, visually-oriented templates containing hi-res imagery or videos are better suited for online catalogs or digital magazines . 

Think about your target audience's needs and how your template's layout can optimize your content's engagement. 

Creative control with flexible features 

You’ll get the most value out of your interactive white paper with a content creation platform that allows you to harness professionally designed white paper templates that are easy to use and fully customizable with a drag-and-drop interface. This will allow everyone in your team to create content quickly with no coding experience required. 

Custom templates set your white paper up for success by providing a starting foundation to help guide the layout and structure of your content. Custom features allow you to design your white paper any way you like by quickly changing blocks, fonts, and colors according to your brand guidelines with the added ability to add or remove sections. 

Mobile experience and device responsiveness

As of September 2023, over 55% of website traffic is from mobile devices. Therefore, it is essential that your white paper is responsive across all devices. 

Most content creation platforms have integrated tools that automatically adapt your content to different screen sizes. However, to ensure the best possible user experience, you should always test your white paper on multiple devices as part of your content creation process before publishing.

Finally, website speed is one of the most significant factors influencing user experience and playing a pivotal role in organic rankings. According to section.io , 32.3% of visitors bounce from a webpage if it takes more than 7 seconds to load. Ensuring that your content creation platform and hosting services are optimized for website performance is critical in maximizing your readership when choosing your white paper template.

10. Final thoughts

Be prepared to write a lot more content.

By this point, you should have all the ingredients you need to make your white paper a rousing success. However, you’ll notice by now the reality that your white paper fits into a larger ecosystem of marketing actions and content.

In today’s business world, producing quality content is one of the best ways to get your target market's attention. But not everyone will be ready for the same piece of content at the same time.

From white papers to blog posts, to podcasts, the type of content that will drive conversions for your business is something you'll discover over time. What’s certain is that one type won't satisfy all your audience's needs. Because of that, you should be prepared to fill the rest of your buyer’s journey with other appropriate content.

This means lots of writing. There’s no way around that. It means coming up with content ideas, creating them, distributing them, and measuring their success — then rinsing and repeating. After this primer, you should be fully equipped for success writing not only white papers but whatever content you choose along your journey.  

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What is a white paper and how to write it with examples

Dec 9th, 2022

what is a white paper presentation

What is a white paper?

How to write a white paper, white paper examples, should you gate your white paper.

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If your business objectives are to promote your product or service, generate leads, establish thought leadership and encourage your potential customers to purchase the product, you can create a white paper. Marketing specialists write white papers to educate their audience about a specific topic or describe and promote some methodology. These in-depth reports can highlight the features of your product or service and help your customers find solutions to their problems.

However, to create an excellent white paper, you must have clear goals, relevant topics, and new information to share. In this article, we will take a closer look at white papers, consider their unique features and describe the differences between white papers, case studies, ebooks, and blog articles. We will also discuss the process of writing a white paper and provide several examples of this content type.

A white paper is a report or guide that gives a thorough overview of a topic while promoting a company’s goods or services and enticing readers to use them. A white paper presents a potential solution to customer problems, describes the product’s features and justifies why a product or service is the perfect option for the given issue. In addition, this marketing document contains studies, surveys, and other statistics supporting the provided information. The audiences for white papers include prospective clients, investors, journalists, analysts, and stakeholders.

A white paper is a form of content marketing or inbound marketing. It is a piece of content that allows for generating traffic and increasing the company’s visibility in search engines. A document is typically written in an academic style and contains at least 2,500 words. White papers are created for two primary purposes: educating potential customers about the topic while positioning a company as an authority and encouraging consumers to purchase the offered product or service. In addition, whitepapers are often presented as gated content , so consumers should fill out a form with their contact information to download material. 

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There are three categories of white papers: backgrounder, numbered list, and problem/solution. The backgrounder describes the technical or business advantages of the product. This white paper is most effective for supporting a technical evaluation or product launch . A numbered list or listicle provides a series of recommendations, questions, or points regarding a specific business issue. These white papers are intended to draw attention with provocative ideas, nurture leads , or cast doubt on competitors. Finally, problem/solution papers present a new solution to a problem, generate leads, and inform and persuade stakeholders.

Although a white paper is a sales document, it differs from a product pitch or presentation. A white paper is useful and informative and provides only facts without opinions. It aims to build trust with the audience and increase brand awareness . Sales pitch, in contrast, is written in a more aggressive tone and focuses mainly on the product’s benefits. While the goal of a product pitch is to convince the audience to buy your product straight away, a white paper uses facts and logical arguments to inform the readers about your solution and explain why it is the best choice.

Now we will compare a white paper with a research paper, case study, ebook, and blog article and look at their distinctive features.

White paper vs research paper

Research papers are scholarly publications in journals that feature the findings of original studies or criticism of other researchers’ works. A research paper aims to contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field. Research papers are usually written to support or refute a theory and present recent findings. These publications are frequently examined by academics who are specialists in various branches of science and technology. It often takes a long time to publish a research paper as it requires peer reviews.

White papers typically address complex issues through technical discussions. These documents are used in product marketing to highlight a specific viewpoint or product and influence consumer purchasing decisions. Although a white paper is presented scientifically and logically, it is intended to impact customers in a way that benefits the business. While research papers are created by engineers, scholars, and doctors, the authors of white papers are technical writers, internal company personnel, and subject matter experts. 

Research papers are mostly published for informational and educational purposes. Hence academics like students, professors, researchers, and scientists make up the majority of their readers. On the other hand, white papers’ audience is prospective customers, so they might increase sales of a specific brand, product, or service. 

White paper vs case study

A case study is a record of research conducted to examine a specific problem or circumstance during a given period. For example, in a business case study, an author may explore the organization’s strategy, analyze how consumers use a product, or describe the state of the market. The goal of a case study is to educate readers, inform the audience about a problem and provide recommendations. In essence, both a white paper and a case study describe the advantages of a product or service while demonstrating how a particular method has turned out to be an efficient remedy for the problem.

However, there are some significant differences between white papers and case studies. Case studies are more concise, while white papers are longer, involve technical research, and provide detailed suggestions on resolving the issue. The former demonstrates the effectiveness of a solution and provides real-life examples. Case studies also place greater emphasis on observation and examination. White papers, in contrast, focus primarily on theoretical information and highlight crucial characteristics of a product or methodology.

White paper vs ebook

An ebook or electronic book is a digital publication that contains text, photos, and interactive elements like links and videos. Ebook provides recommendations, answers, or strategies for an industry or niche. White papers and ebooks share certain similarities. For instance, both marketing assets can be used to establish a company as a thought leader, build credibility and generate leads. Besides, ebooks and white papers have a longer lifespan than other content marketing formats. You can use the documents for a few years and repurpose them in different ways: turn them into a series of blog articles, create an infographic, or include the publications in newsletters.

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The primary difference between an ebook and a white paper is the audience. An ebook is a comprehensive guide on a specific topic targeted predominantly at a general audience. A white paper is an academic report that targets a niche audience of specialists and presents new research. The other difference is the objective. The purpose of a white paper is to educate the audience and highlight the brand’s value proposition. Ebooks are also more informative and comprehensive. These assets serve as guides for broader topics. Finally, ebooks are longer and have a formal structure, while white papers often include the following components: a problem, methodology, guidance, and resolution.

White paper vs blog article

A blog article is a piece of content posted on a blog which is a website or a section of the site. Blog article often includes text, images, and videos. A blog article aims to briefly overview the subject, generate leads , and market products and services. On the other hand, a white paper’s primary goal is to give a complete idea about the topic. Although blog articles can present facts, these content pieces are usually not data-focused and are much shorter than white papers.

The other difference between white papers and blog articles is the tone. White papers require an official and professional style, while blog articles can be written in a more informal manner. White papers require more research and provide a thorough analysis of a product or service. Therefore, completing a comprehensive white paper can take weeks to months. A blog article is more straightforward, so writing one can take a few hours to several days. White papers are designed to draw qualified leads and prospects, whereas blog articles are less technical and can reach a wider audience.

Once you are familiar with different content formats and their differences from a white paper, let us discuss the process of writing a white paper from ideation to publication and distribution.

An excellent white paper needs to be thoroughly researched and present new information that readers cannot find through an internet search. Moreover, a white paper should be engaging and maintain the audience’s interest. Now we will describe how to write an excellent white paper in greater detail below.

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Step 1. Define your audience

Defining your audience is one of the most crucial steps in creating a well-researched white paper. First, you need to consider what kinds of readers you want to attract. For example, you can use specific jargon if your audience is professionals in the industry. Furthermore, the statistics and provided information should be relevant to your target audience. Knowing your readers’ interests also narrows the scope of research you should conduct.

When determining your audience, consider the following characteristics: educational background, job title, and professional needs. Think about which platforms and search queries your readers use to find information. Conduct in-depth research to understand why your audience is interested in this topic, how much knowledge readers already have about the subject, and how your white paper can help them. In addition, interview your clients and check the comments from your audience to learn about their main problems and goals.

Step 2. Choose a relevant topic and research it

Choosing an impactful topic for a white paper is a crucial component of its success. When defining the topic, make sure you are qualified to write about it and that your audience is interested in the problem. Beyond that, the topic should fill the content gap , which means that there should not be much information online on the subject. Your topic may concern a product or an innovative business idea. A white paper can describe a particular aspect of your business or your team’s accomplishments.

Ask your audience about their expectations, check other reports and studies to identify content gaps, and interview other industry experts to develop an idea for a white paper. Then find credible sources and collect expert opinions and statistics. Finally, fact-check the information to verify its accuracy. 

Step 3. Make an outline

The following step is to create an outline that determines your target audience, defines the structure, and organizes the study. When creating a plan for your paper, think about how to summarize your findings in a way that addresses the issues of your readers. Make a list of concepts and crucial matters you should address within each section.

A white paper typically consists of the following elements: title, abstract or summary, introduction, section subheadings, sources, and conclusion. First, you need to describe a problem or situation. Secondly, you should provide a methodology and instructions. Finally, you need to explain possible solutions to the problem. 

Step 4. Provide valuable information

It is critical to remember that a white paper’s goal is to provide helpful information to an audience even if they do not become your clients. Make sure each paragraph brings value and makes readers feel they have learned something new. A white paper should demonstrate your expertise in a particular field as a business or brand.

Use proven facts and statistics to make a white paper more trustworthy. Thus, your audience will perceive the company as a reliable source of information. In addition, building a reputation as an expert will increase your chances of achieving success, as customers are willing to buy from businesses they trust.

Now you need to format the content of your document. Use bullet points and subheadings to divide the text into sections and make it easier to read. You can also add charts and graphs to capture readers’ attention and highlight the concepts you want people to remember. You can decide how to format the paper by looking up various examples and templates. 

Step 5. Proofread and edit

When writing a white paper, maintain a formal tone. Use language appropriate for the audience you are targeting. Avoid using informal language, slang, and expressions that are not suitable for academic writing. Although keyword optimization is crucial, remember to write for your readers instead of search engines. Google is constantly improving its capacity to recognize and match relevant information with search queries.

Do not worry about creating a perfect white paper on the first draft. It may require several revisions to finalize a report. To ensure your white paper is exciting and understandable, hire professional proofreaders or try editing a document yourself. 

Step 6. Distribute and promote your paper

Creating the document is only the first step. You also need to ensure it reaches the desired audience. For instance, you can send a press release to advertise the publication of a new paper or share it through LinkedIn or Twitter. The other way to promote the publication of the white paper is to send it to your prospects after a demo call to provide more information. A smart strategy to distribute your white papers is to embed or link them to relevant landing pages, guest blogs, and newsletters.

White paper syndication or publishing the same document on independent websites enables companies to target a niche market , generate leads, and increase the reach of a white paper. Besides, a white paper distribution through content syndication is very effective as it allows for repurposing content and promoting it on various platforms.

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Next, we will look at white paper examples from different companies in various industries to provide you with an understanding of how to create a white paper.

In this section, you can find three white paper examples to collect ideas for creating your own.

Cisco’s white paper

Cisco is a company that develops and provides network equipment, data security services, and telecommunications gear. The company created a white paper called “Networking and your competitive edge” , where Cisco explained the importance of having a secure and reliable network edge. The advantages of this white paper are a large number of infographics, quotes, statistics, and balanced use of text and visuals. Plus, the document allows people to understand a complex topic with the help of the simple and engaging language of the presentation.

Google’s white paper

The white paper called “Cloud security and compliance” by Google is a 28-page tutorial demonstrating the effectiveness of Google cloud products and services in protecting the data of any workspace. The white paper has all the components of a well-written, readable document, including subtle color fonts, pictures, and plain language. What is more, Google repurposed the white paper and created the infographic for people who do not have time to read the entire document. 

Uber’s white paper

In the paper called “Fast-forwarding to a future of on-demand urban air transportation” , Uber promotes the idea of air transportation and establishes the company as a key figure in its creation. The company describes its VTOL aircraft, explains the need for it in urban areas, and lists the obstacles that should be overcome. Uber also mentions reviewers from NASA, MIT, and other prestigious air transportation organizations to increase the report's credibility. As a result, the company establishes itself as a thought leader by describing future trends and innovations in the industry.

You can use the above-mentioned practices tested by reputable companies to create a white paper that will educate your audience, generate leads and increase sales. 

Companies can use gated content like white papers to grow contact lists for marketing and sales teams. Gated content is any publication that readers can access by providing personal details like name and email. A company creates a landing page that contains a description of available content and a form where users can enter contact information and gain access to the materials.

There is no definitive answer to whether you should gate a white paper. On the one hand, gating your content is a great way to generate leads . Moreover, a successful buyer's journey often starts with gated content as the very first step. Most people who provide contact information are interested in your company because of your regular distribution of useful content.

On the other hand, gating your white paper reduces the number of people who will read the document because not everyone wants to share their personal details. Therefore, if your white paper is not gated, it will attract a larger audience and can improve your search rankings. However, gating a white paper will stop search engines from indexing a publication.

Creating a perfect white paper may require a lot of time and effort. Nevertheless, this results in a valuable document that promotes your company’s expertise and fosters general education and development in your industry. A perfect white paper contributes to the company’s growth.

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Blog Marketing

How to Write a White Paper [Tips & Templates]

By Chau Nguyen , Jun 28, 2023

white paper writing

So, you need to write a white paper.

And not just write it, you need to make it interesting too — especially if your goal is to establish thought leadership or generate leads.

Because here’s the thing: the average human attention span is less than that of a goldfish, so just plopping tons of data and text onto a page and calling it a day won’t work.

If your white paper lacks engagement, your readers may choose to leave. Even if they genuinely require the information, they may encounter difficulties due to excessive text. Moreover, retaining the painstakingly assembled information may become a challenge for them. Utilizing Venngage’s white paper maker can help overcome these obstacles.

In this article, I’ll break down how to write the best white paper for your business, design tips included. (Spoiler: visuals will help you get more engagement!) I’ll also include  white paper templates  you can edit and make your own.

Let’s get started!

Click to jump ahead:

How to structure a white paper, how to write your white paper, how to create a white paper outline, tips for designing an engaging white paper, faqs about white paper writing.

Most white papers follow a standard format that includes a:

Introduction

  • Proposed solution

You may be wondering why there isn’t a problem statement section. After all, a white paper is supposed to dissect and provide solutions to a problem, yes?

Well, you can include the problem statement in the intro — intros explain what a white paper is about. This section is the perfect place to make a case for your white paper.

But of course, there’s no rigid format you should follow to a T. If it works better with your content, feel free to make your Problem Statement a separate section.

Now, let’s look at what you should write in each section with examples:

The title page is straightforward: it includes the title of your white paper and the name of the organization that produced it (or the author’s name).

This government white paper discusses the problem of illegal tobacco trade and proposes several approaches to address it: 

white paper writing

Just so you know, some of our templates are free to use and some require a small monthly fee.  Sign up  is always free, as is access to Venngage’s online drag-and-drop editor.

You can also include a sub-headline under the title to further explain what it’s about: 

white paper writing

The introduction should explain the purpose of the white paper and why the reader should care. It should be interesting (and informative) enough to hook the reader right away and keep them reading.

As mentioned, the introduction also contains your problem statement. In other words, it should provide an overview of the problem you’re trying to address. You don’t need to include too much information here, as that’s the role of the Background section.

Here’s an example:

white paper writing

The author introduces an overview of the problem — phishing scams — which is backed with visualized data that allows readers to grasp its impact at a glance:

data visualization examples in white papers

Related :  How to Visualize Data In Your White Papers

Here’s where you provide background information about the problem you’re discussing. This section tends to be research- and data-heavy.

Let’s revisit our “Approaches to Battling the Illegal Tobacco Trade” white paper. Here’s what the Background section looks like:

white paper writing

The author provides a table that lists the countries where illegal tobacco trading is present, from the least problematic (less than 10% of the industry) to the most (40% and above).

The author also includes some background information on illicit tobacco products, all backed by data:

“Cigarettes account for over 90% by value of tobacco product sales. They are also the most illicitly traded form. Numerous bodies of research indicate that the illicit cigarette trades represents approximately 10%–12% of the total cigarette market — although this varies by country.”

And why illegal tobacco trade is problematic:

“Each year this translates to a loss of government revenues from US$40 to US$50 billion.”

Now, onto the proposed solution.

This could be a product, a service or a course of action. 

This government white paper addresses the sugar consumption crisis among children and proposes a policy to ban the sale of added-sugar products in schools:

white paper writing

Let’s look at another example. This technology white paper proposes a product as a solution: new technology that helps prevent falls in tilted chairs:

white paper writing

No matter what solution you propose, it should be well-supported with evidence. In the white paper above, the author presents elements that make their new technology the solution to fall prevention: 

White paper writing

The conclusion should summarize the main points of the paper and provide recommendations for next steps:

white paper writing

You can also add a call to action here, like “contact the author for more information”. Or if you’re writing a white paper to gather more leads, you can add some information about your business too: 

white paper writing

Note : white papers are academic in nature, so you should use reliable sources to back up your argument and include citations/references as needed.

Return to Table of Contents

Before making your white paper engaging, you first need to make it informative and credible. After all, it’s an important document to establish you as a thought leader in your industry.

Here are some guidelines to ensure the quality of your white paper:

Research your audience and topic well

Think about who will be reading your white paper. Are they actually experiencing the problem you’re trying to solve? Will your solution work for them? How much information will they need to be persuaded?

White papers are authoritative in nature, so people expect them to come with meaningful data from credible sources. Make sure you research your audience and your topic well to know how much data you need to make your case.

If your data comes from primary research, you can include your methodology as well for transparency and credibility:

example of methodology in a white paper

Once you’ve nailed your research and solution, time to deliver all that information the best way you can. The language you use here must be the same as your audience’s: think of all the words and phrases they use often and try to incorporate them into your white paper writing.

You should also consider how people will read your paper — on desktop, on tablet or on mobile.

Mobile accounts for about 50% of global website traffic , reaching nearly 60% in Q2 2022. 

Unless you have enough resources to create a responsive white paper ( like this one! ), you should make sure your document is legible on mobile. This means breaking up your paragraphs into smaller chunks of text and adding plenty of visuals so it’s easier on the eye:

white paper writing

I’ll touch on more tips to make your white paper engaging in the next section, so stay tuned!

Make sure people can scan your content

And to do that, you should break up your text with headings and subheadings. This helps keep your white paper organized and allows your reader to scan through the information easily.

white paper writing

You should also add a Table of Contents after the title page to help readers navigate your paper. Or in this case, the Table of Contents sits right on the first page:

white paper writing

Keep it succinct and to the point

There’s no standard length for this type of content, but a good rule of thumb is to write a white paper that’s around six pages. This should be enough space to do justice to your research and data, without overwhelming your readers.

Plus, it’s always good to be mindful of your audience’s time when creating any type of content.

As white papers ‌provide expertise or a solution to a problem, your audience should be willing to devote a good amount of time and attention to your content… but don’t push your luck!

No matter how interested a reader is in a topic, they’ll drop off eventually if you ramble instead of getting to the point. 

You can follow these ten useful pointers when creating your white paper outline:

  • Define your purpose : Clearly identify the objective of your white paper. Determine what problem you’re addressing or what information you’re providing to your audience.
  • Research and gather information : Conduct thorough research on the topic to gather relevant data, statistics, case studies, or expert opinions. This will help you support your key points and strengthen your arguments.
  • Develop an introduction : Begin your white paper with a compelling introduction that grabs the reader’s attention and provides an overview of the topic. Clearly state the problem or opportunity you’re addressing and briefly outline your proposed solution.
  • Organize main sections and subtopics : Identify the main sections that will structure your white paper. These sections should correspond to the key aspects or steps of your proposed solution. Break each section into subtopics that will be discussed in more detail.
  • Provide supporting evidence : Within each section, present evidence, examples, and data to support your claims and validate your solution. Use clear and concise language to convey your points effectively.
  • Include visuals and graphics : Visual elements such as charts, graphs, diagrams, or infographics can enhance the readability and understanding of your white paper. Incorporate relevant visuals where appropriate to illustrate complex concepts or data.
  • Craft a conclusion : Summarize the main points discussed in the white paper and reiterate the proposed solution. Emphasize the benefits or value that readers can gain from implementing your recommendations.
  • Add an executive summary : Write a concise executive summary at the beginning of your white paper, providing a brief overview of the entire document. This allows readers to quickly grasp the key points and decide if they want to read the full paper.
  • Review and revise : After completing the initial draft, review and revise your white paper for clarity, coherence, and overall effectiveness. Ensure that the information flows logically, the language is concise and engaging, and there are no grammatical or spelling errors.
  • Format and finalize : Format your white paper to make it visually appealing and reader-friendly. Use appropriate headings, subheadings, fonts, and spacing. Consider adding a table of contents for easy navigation. Finally, proofread your document one last time before publishing or sharing it.

Let’s say you’re looking for a white paper on sugar consumption in children. Would you read this:

white paper writing

Needless to say, applying visuals and data visualizations to your white paper makes a big difference. And you don’t need to be a professional designer to do so. Let’s look at some tips for creating an engaging white paper design:

1. Use a white paper template

If you don’t have the design skills to organize your draft into a well-designed document full of visuals, using a template is the way to go.

Venngage offers dozens of  white paper templates  you can edit for your business:

white paper writing

To get started, simply  sign up for a free account , search for a white paper template and edit away.

To make it even easier for you, we’ve made a video walking you through editing a white paper template in Venngage. Check it out here:

2. Add data visualizations to your white papers

If you’ve got yourself some good data, don’t bury it under heaps of text. 

While everyone on your team is busy creating boring Word documents, you can be the creative genius that uses charts and pictograms to craft a visually engaging white paper.

The type of charts you use will depend on the type of data you’re visualizing. We have  a guide to picking what types of charts to use  that can help you there. 

You could use a line graph to show revenue  growth over time . Or you could use  pie charts  to show parts of a whole, like in this policy white paper example:

white paper writing

Pro tip: with our  online graph maker,  you can create better charts and graphs than the standard Excel charts. A plain old bar graph won’t do much to inspire anyone, but a creative chart that tells a story can. 

Pictograms  are also a creative and effective way to visualize statistical data. Take a look at the white paper example below. Pictograms act as visual aids to showcase key statistics and changes in the IT sector:

white paper writing

Don’t be afraid to mix it up. They say variety is the spice of life — and this saying applies to white papers, too! This business white paper design, for example, combines both bar graphs and pie charts:

white paper writing

For more tips on visualizing data for your white paper, check out our post:  How to Visualize Data In Your White Papers

3. Emphasize key points and takeaways with tables and text boxes

Visualizing information or data doesn’t mean just using graphs. When writing a white paper, you can also section off important pieces of information using tables and boxes.

In the white paper template below, the designers used a table to organize key points and takeaways from each main section:

white paper writing

Here’s another example of a white paper layout that uses a table to highlight some key statistics:

white paper writing

Breaking up lengths of text with boxes will help make your white paper easier to read, like in this example:

white paper writing

Which brings us to our next point…

4. Break up chunks of text with visuals

Visuals are perfect for illustrating ideas and emphasizing points.

Don’t be afraid to break up your text with visuals and create some breathing room in your white paper. You can even dedicate a whole page to pictures. Images give the eyes a rest and help reinforce information.

Take this white paper example — it dedicates a whole page to an evocative quote and photo:

white paper writing

Visual headers are also a great way to break up expanses of text while still having the visuals serve a purpose. You can create your own illustrations using icons — this can make for some fun and quirky headers, like in this workplace tech white paper:

white paper writing

5. Allow for plenty of white space on your pages

Speaking of giving your text some room to breathe, make sure you don’t crowd your pages with too much text or images.

Adding white space (or negative space) can help ensure your design isn’t too cluttered. 

Check out how this example uses plenty of white space on nearly every page. The result? An organized and modern white paper design:

white paper writing

6. Use a consistent design that reflects your white paper topic

When you’re designing a multi-page document like a white paper or a report, your pages should have a cohesive look and feel.

(Note: by using a consistent design for your white paper, you’ll achieve  unity  — one of the 13 basic  design principles .)

First, think of the themes reflected in your white paper. Is your white paper about social media engagement? Then using illustrations of birds (“tweeting”) or speech bubbles could work.

A white paper topic focused on establishing a sprint process could use race track visuals instead.

The hiring strategy white paper below uses greenery as the main design theme. Plants reflect the concept of growth associated with recruitment:

white paper writing

7. Incorporate your branding into your white paper design

To improve brand recognition, you need to have  consistent branding  across all marketing collateral. This not only helps your  marketing efforts  but also helps you maintain consistency in your internal and external comms.

Be sure to incorporate your  logo , brand color palettes and fonts into your white paper design.

For business users, Venngage’s  My Brand Kit  makes it easy to save your logos, brand color palettes and brand fonts for later. Then, you can easily apply them to your designs with one click. 

For example, you could change the colors of this white paper template… 

white paper writing

…to this: 

white paper writing

Try thinking of creative ways to incorporate your  branding . 

This white paper design, for instance, extends the use of its signature color beyond standard headers and icons. It actually applies a transparent color overlay to the images, adding a punch of color and reinforcing its brand palette in an unexpected way:

white paper writing

We have plenty more white paper design tips in our post on the top 20+ white paper examples you can use for your business. Check it out here: 20+ Page-Turning White Paper Examples [Design Guide + White Paper Templates]

What is a white paper?

A white paper is a well-researched, in-depth report that discusses a problem and proposes a solution to that problem. Here’s an example:

white paper writing

Typically backed up with lots of data and persuasive, factual evidence, quality white papers address complex concepts or problems, making them essential for any content marketing strategy.

For more information on the origin of white papers (including why they’re called “white papers” in the first place!), read our post:  What is a White Paper? 15 White Paper Examples to Get Started .

What is the purpose of a white paper?

White papers often have original research to back them up, and take a strong stance on what needs to be done to solve a problem.

In other words, white papers advocate for the best solution to a particular problem, making them authoritative by nature. Which makes sense given that they’re often used by the government, like in this example:

white paper writing

But as more and more businesses ‌use white papers, their purpose has changed a little. 

They’re still an authoritative source of information, but rather than just to inform or educate, white papers can also influence an audience’s decision-making process.

This marketing white paper, for example, aims to persuade businesses to market themselves effectively in order to attract talent:

white paper writing

Companies can also use white papers to show that their product or service can best solve their customers’ problems. Of course, they still need to back their claims with research and evidence.

white paper writing

A cyber security company could use this white paper to showcase their expertise and offerings in order to drum up more business.

Make sure your white paper is not only informative but also engaging!

Remember how the average human attention span has dropped to below that of a goldfish?

Even when a reader is interested in the topic of your white paper and plans to devote a good chunk of their time reading it, they may still bounce if your content is too dense (read: walls of text).

So make sure you think of your audience when you write your white paper and follow our design tips to keep them engaged.

And remember, you can create a professional, well-designed white paper using one of Venngage’s white paper templates. It’s free to get started!

That White Paper Guy

How to repurpose a white paper into a slide deck

Here’s how to repurpose a white paper into a slide deck..

This is part 4 of our ongoing series. For other posts in this series, see the links at the bottom of this post.

keyboard with recycle key - That White Paper Guy

For example, you can use a slide deck to present the highlights of the topic in an online webinar or in-house presentation.

Then you can offer a white paper to those who want more details.

Consider the key differences between these two types of content, as shown in the following table.

three slides repurposed from white paper - That White Paper Guy

Our sample slides

In this case, the client didn’t actually repurpose the white paper to use as a presentation.

Instead, we created a few sample slides to show how this white paper could be repurposed as a slide deck.

To see those slides as a PPT file, click on the thumbnails above.

To see those slides as a PDF with notes, click here.

Here are a few more details about each slide.

slide of man yawning - That White Paper Guy

Slide 1: Alarming factoid

The white paper includes the disturbing factoid that sleep deprivation costs companies an average of $3,200 per employee per year.

Imagine if you’ve got 10,000 employees. That adds up! So this slide does nothing beyond highlighting this one alarming fact. And that’s enough!

slide of woman staring at alarm clock - That White Paper Guy

Slide 2: Surprising assertion

The white paper recommends a new approach to help get a good night’s sleep: cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia, or CBTi.

And we make a surprising claim that CBTi is more effective than sleeping pills. This claim is backed up by WHO and medical authorities in the U.S. and the UK.

There’s a lot of small text on this slide, but two-thirds of that is simply the names of the three associations being cited as sources.

For any B2B content to be effective, you need to have credible sources lined up.

And notice how the slide is driven by the graphic, showing an assortment of pills beside a clock reading 3 AM and the pill-popper still wide awake.

That means a presenter can talk while showing this slide and the power of the graphic helps the main point sink into the minds of the audience.

slide of mobile app download page - That White Paper Guy

Slide 3: Screenshot

Here’s a screenshot of the mobile app and the download page from the client’s company. Showing the recommended solution is a good idea for an intangible product like an app.

There’s a lot of text on this webpage, but you don’t expect your audience to actually read it. The heading at the top tells the whole story in six words.

How many slides do you need?

To cover the highlights of a typical white paper, 12 to 16 slides is enough. Here are some pointers on how to manage this for each main flavor of white paper.

scoop of chocolate ice cream - That White Paper Guy

You want your slides to cover every significant point the executive summary touches on.

That means you can divide your slides into three main sections:

  • The problem
  • The traditional solutions, and why they don’t work
  • The new recommended solution

About a dozen slides should be enough for this flavor.

scoop of strawberry ice cream - That White Paper Guy

For a numbered list ( strawberry)

For this flavor, you want your slides to capture every point in the numbered list.

That means you need a slide or two for every point, along with one or two more at the start for the introduction, plus one or two more at the end for the conclusions.

Let’s consider a numbered list with five points.

Going by this formula, you will need:

  • 1 or 2 slides at the start
  • 2 x 5 = 10 slides for the numbered points
  • 1 or 2 slides at the end

That totals 12 to 14 slides in all, so the original estimate of 12 to 16 holds true.

scoop of vanilla ice cream - That White Paper Guy

For a backgrounder (vanilla)

You want your slides to cover every key feature and the related benefits that the white paper touches on.

That means you need at least one slide for each key feature, plus one for the benefits of that feature. For more complex descriptions, this could increase to two for each feature plus one for the benefits (3 in all).

And you’ll want a couple of slides at the start for the introduction, plus a couple more at the end for the conclusions and call to action.

Let’s consider a backgrounder with four key features and benefits. Going by the formula above, you need:

  • 2 at the start
  • 2 x 4 = 8 for each feature and its benefits
  • 2 at the end

That totals a dozen slides in all.

For a more complex presentation, simply add more slides on each feature.

A dozen slides should do it

You can see that for any flavor, about a dozen slides can be enough.

That gives you about a minute and a half for each slide to reach the recommended TED Talk length of 18 minutes.

Of course, if you plan to deliver a 45-minute webinar, you probably don’t want to sit on each slide for nearly 3.5 minutes.

In this case, you can add interest by building some slides point by point or splitting the longer slides in two.

Whatever you do, don’t put your audience to sleep by making them sit through 10 slides on the grand history and stirring achievements and customer service philosophy of your company. Boooooring!

Instead, sum up the company in one slide, right at the end. Your audience will thank you.

Photo of young business person falling asleep during boring slideshow

Use visuals, not text

[Tweet “Repurposing means re-imagining the same ideas in a different format. “] You’ve already got a narrative document, the white paper. For a slide deck, you really want to use visuals and keep the text to a minimum.

Not sure where to find good visuals?

Check out our article on cost-effective sources for good stock photos.

If a viewer wants more information, have the white paper available as a download they can get to read afterward.

The last thing you want is so much text crammed onto the slides that your audience starts to read. You don’t want them to read; you want them to listen to your presenter!

How to promote your slide deck

There are loads of places where you can use a B2B slide deck. You give a  presentation and then load it up on the company’s own website, on SlideShare and on similar sites.

For those who haven’t thought about how to publicize an upcoming white paper, a slide deck is an easy and excellent promotional tool.

And here’s how to find the other parts of this series:

Here’s part 1 on the original white paper .

See part 2 on repurposing it as a press release .

See part 3 on repurposing it as a set of blog posts .

And here’s part 5 on creating a landing page for this white paper .

Have you ever repurposed a white paper into a slide deck? Did you learn any tips from that exercise? Please leave your comment below.

Want to hear whenever there’s a fresh article on this site? Subscribe here to stay in the know on long-form content . From time to time, we’ll also send you word about some great new resource or training. And you can unsubscribe any time.

what is a white paper presentation

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. How to Write and Format a White Paper (With Examples)

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  3. What is a White Paper [+ Examples & Templates]

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  4. 20+ Page-Turning White Paper Examples [Design Guide + White Paper

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    A white paper is an authoritative document intended to inform the reader on a particular topic fully. It combines expert knowledge and research into a document that argues for a specific solution or recommendation. The white paper allows the reader to understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

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  22. How to repurpose your white paper in to a slide deck

    Let's consider a backgrounder with four key features and benefits. Going by the formula above, you need: 2 at the start. 2 x 4 = 8 for each feature and its benefits. 2 at the end. That totals a dozen slides in all. For a more complex presentation, simply add more slides on each feature.

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