Last month, I attended two great industry events, PSC’s Annual Conference and the Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit. Both were amazingly educational, which got me thinking about white papers and how vital they are to this industry.

When done well, white papers are a tremendous resource for clients and one of the most effective thought leader and lead generation tools for GovCons. Too often, though, we’ve seen excellent white papers get overlooked because a company doesn’t leverage the best promotion tools available.

Here are five creative ways to make the most of your next white paper.

1. Be sure your white paper really is a white paper. No kidding!

“White paper” is one of those terms that gets erroneously applied to a wide variety of thought pieces. A true white paper is not a product pitch. It’s not an opinion piece. It’s not a capability brochure or an e-book. It IS an authoritative, in-depth report that’s meant to educate the reader on an important industry technology, issue or development.

To deliver what your readers expect, be sure your white paper looks and reads like a white paper:

  • Length: Most sources say at least six pages.
  • Structure: Title page, table of contents, executive summary, problem description, solution options and (if available) a case study of an organization that solved their problem. Include references or footnotes.
  • Voice: Professional. Serious. Academic. Consultative. Not salesy.
  • Point of View: It must represent issues that are true industry concerns and include solutions that are not just from your company.
  • Graphics: Use charts and graphs. Call-outs of statistics are helpful.
  • What to Avoid: Company product photos and specific names of company products.
  • Format: The final document should be available as a PDF, 8 ½ x 11 inches. Keep file size small (under 1 MB), for fast downloading and emailing.
  • Printer-Friendly: Remember that many people still print white papers. We recommend keeping backgrounds mostly white, to limit ink usage and to speed print time.

2. Promote it through your organization’s website and social media.

When you publish a new white paper, you’ll want to promote it using your digital marketing channels.

  • Landing Page: Create a great landing page for your white paper. Use a compelling description and a simple form (name, organization, email and phone number) to encourage visitors to download the paper. You can’t capture leads without a form!
  • Social Media: Create a series of posts for LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook. Use the posts to provide a preview of the content. “47 percent of government CIOs say they struggle with [issue],” for example, is a more useful post than “Read our new white paper on [topic].” Of course, use images and relevant hashtags to get the most visibility.
  • Email and Newsletters: If you have a strong database of customer emails, send a short note with highlights of the white paper in bullet form and a link to the full document. Or feature the white paper in your next newsletter.
  • Blog: Write a company blog on the topic, with a link to the full white paper for more information.
  • Website “Ads”: If you have a budget to do small targeted ads with links, it would amplify your reach. In addition, develop your own ad and place it on relevant pages of your website.

3. Enlist your authors to promote it.

If you name the authors of your white papers, work with them to promote their thought leadership.

  • LinkedIn Blogs: Encourage authors to write a short blog on the topic and post it on their LinkedIn, with a link to the full white paper.
  • LinkedIn Groups: Ask them to share the white paper, with a couple of key takeaways, in relevant LinkedIn groups.
  • Podcast: Consider recording the author(s) for a 15-minute podcast on the topic. In the D.C. market, federal decision-makers spend an average of 46-55 minutes commuting to and from work. Include a link to the white paper in the podcast description.
  • Video: Create a short video or series of videos (two minutes each). They should be educational, not simply promoting the white paper. Include a link at the end of each video and in the description for people who want to read full content. Place videos on YouTube to increase SEO and shareability.
  • Email Signature: Have all company execs, marketing, BD and capture personnel update their email signature lines with a simple prompt. “Read our newest white paper on [topic]” and link to the white paper.

4. Share the white paper with the media and associations.

A white paper can open up doors for media coverage on the issue you address.

  • Media “Friendlies”: You probably have a short list of editors and reporters who follow your company news. Many will welcome a short note with the white paper attached or with an ungated link. Use your email to briefly (3-4 sentences) highlight the issue and solutions in the white paper. Offer to make your spokesperson available for an interview on the topic.
  • Bylined Article: Some white paper content can be repurposed into a bylined article. The content, of course, will be different. But the article or author bio could reference the recent white paper.
  • Industry Blog: Offer to write a blog on the topic for an active association blog. If they allow you, include a link to the full white paper.

5. Highlight the white paper at your next conference.

Conference attendees are hungry for educational content. Consider white paper promotion as you plan for your next conference.

  • In-booth Promotion: Use your pre-show emails, in-booth communications and event personnel to invite attendees to stop by the booth to take home a copy or request an emailed file. (Be sure to collect their contact information!)
  • Press Room: Print small note cards and place them in the press room, encouraging interested press to download the white paper or pick up a copy at your booth.
  • Meet the Author(s): Schedule times that the author(s) will be in your booth. Use email, social media, booth signage, the note card or even a sponsored flyer in the registration bags to invite attendees to meet the authors.

The next time your team is planning a white paper, include promotion plans. With all the effort that goes into creating that valuable company asset, you’ll want to make sure it gets into the hands of clients and prospects who need it.

Do you need ideas for your next white paper? Or suggestions for how and where to promote it? Or an extension of your marketing team to pull off the plan? Just let us know. Our team is always happy to help.