A white paper is an authoritative report or guide that informs readers concisely about a complex issue and presents the issuing body's philosophy on the matter. It is meant to help readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
Step 1: Make the White Paper Count
First things first—if you’re creating ad hoc content that doesn’t have direct ties to business objectives, stop everything now.
Creating effective content starts with understanding the strategy behind it. Especially with involved content like a white paper, do your due diligence and ensure you have the basics of content strategy down.
Before you get neck deep in your white paper, make sure it’s aligned to your top priorities. Once you’ve established the strategic significance, we can get into the tactical execution!
Step 2: Execute on the Strategy
Once you have your strategy down to a T, it’s time to create the actual asset. Start by placing your logo in the page header.
Step 3: Put Together an Easy-to-Read Title Page
This page should show the title of the document, the companies or analysts who helped research the document, the date that the publication was published, and its authors. We like Helvetica because it’s easy to read, and has a whole catalogue of font variations.
Step 4: Identify H1, H2, and Subsections
Give your white papers consistency by identifying standard protocol for subsections and how information is organized. This helps readers understand more information at a glance, and helps white paper authors more quickly put together their information.
Step 5: Break Out Sections That Need to Stand Alone
Not all pages need to be full of text. Some pages, like key takeaways or breaks in thought, can take up a full page.
Step 6: Use a Simple Color Palette to Bring Attention to Key Thoughts
This helps readers find the nuggets of information that they need—quickly. You can use a color that reflects your corporate structure, or something more vibrant. We suggest not using red because it’s often associated with edits.
Step 7: Put Fully Baked Ideas into Easy One-Pagers
To get the full value of your report, bake one-pagers into the full document. Sales teams can use these one-pagers for sales calls, or buyers can hold onto them for easy reference, recall, or summarization of major sections.
Step 8: Ensure Your Pages Look and Feel Consistent
Designers are great at making documents look like Vogue spreads. We writers, or content strategists, can suck at it. One key is to take a look at the whole document and ensure that your pages have a similar style and feel.
- Limit yourself to one or two font families for titles and paragraph text.
- Use a narrow color palette throughout the document.
In the end, you’ll have a professional-caliber document that you can use for reports, research, case studies, or data. Save your .docx or .doc files as a .pdf file before final sharing the asset. It gives your document a final professional seal.
DIY White Paper Template
Ready to get started making beautiful and effective white papers? Download this FREE template and get started making it your own!