How To Find the Best White Paper Writers
How To Find the Best White Paper Writers
A white paper is an in-depth informative guide on a technical or complex topic, such as a research study, process, product or issue. Your brand can hire white paper writers to illustrate a successful business outcome, cover an important topic in your industry, report on original research, offer a reference guide for your product or service, present a case study or educate readers about a process.
If you haven’t yet added white papers to your brand’s content marketing strategy, consider these statistics about the power of white papers in effective B2B content marketing from the Equinet Media blog, the Content Marketing Institute, Edelman Insights and Curata:
- 71% of business consumers report using another company’s white paper to drive a buying decision in the past year
- 75% of business consumers say they would provide an email address or other information in exchange for a white paper on a topic of interest, compared with just 49% for a video and 62% for an infographic
- 79% of business consumers say they are more likely to share a white paper with a colleague than any other form of content
- 60% of businesses that produce white papers say it’s their most successful content format
- 55% of business consumers say they use white papers and other forms of thought leadership to make business decisions
If you’re impressed by those numbers, use this guide to plan your white paper and hire a technical writer that meets your needs.Did you know that 60% of businesses that produce white papers say it's their most successful content format and 79% of business consumers say they are more likely to share a white paper with a colleague than any other form of content? 🤔… Click To Tweet
Reviewing the Characteristics of a Great White Paper
Graham Gordon’s 2010 book How to Pick the Perfect Flavor for Your Next White Paper describes three main formats used for business-to-business white papers:
- A numbered list of points, questions or tips about an issue within your industry. This type of white paper strives to gain attention for authoritative content, build thought leadership, or highlight the benefits of a product or service.
- Background information on your brand’s methods, tactics, products or services as part of a technical evaluation, business case or product introduction. This could take the form of comparing different items in your product line or levels of service available from your company, for example.
- Problem and solution, in which you offer the client value with advice about a nagging issue. In addition to improving the authority of your brand, this type of white paper can help guide fresh leads into your sales funnel.
According to HubSpot, white papers usually range in length from just a few pages to 50 pages or even longer. However, even the shortest white papers should contain informative, trustworthy, research-based information. Unlike an e-book, designed for the reader to skim, a white paper can be dense and detailed. Even so, headings, bulleted lists and sidebars can guide your audience and help them digest your message.
You can also distinguish white papers from other types of content with a formal tone. While your blog posts may not cite other sources, your white paper will likely require a list of external references.
Setting Goals for Your White Paper
Because white papers often cover complicated topics, finding a writer with specialized knowledge can improve your chances of releasing a successful publication. When you decide to produce a white paper, think about how the publication will fit into your overall content marketing strategy. Assign two to three goals for your white paper accordingly. For example, you may want to release a white paper to:
- Influence customers to invest in your product or service
- Improve your brand’s SEO rankings for specific keywords
- Inspire trust in your brand with authoritative content
- Solve a pain point for your clients
- Persuade readers of your point of view
The classic white paper drives new leads with its credible, helpful, well-researched content. Create a landing page for an optimized white paper to gather subscriber email addresses with an enticing incentive that solves a nagging issue or presents enlightening information. Natural goals to track include qualification rates, closing rates and conversion rates.
There’s one thing you should never do with a white paper: Directly sell your brand’s product or service. Doing so can damage credibility and weaken the efficacy of your content, creating the exact opposite of your desired impact.
Preparing To Hire a Technical Writer
Demodia recommends creating a detailed brief to guide white paper writers and improve your chances of receiving highly effective content. Before investing in content creation, make sure you document:
- The goals of the white paper
- The desired audience and their position in the sales funnel
- The format of the white paper
- The target keywords, if one of your goals for the white paper is to improve SEO rankings
- Ancillary material for the white paper, such as figures, illustrations, research studies and graphs
- The call to action, whether you want readers to sign up for a free trial, ask for a product demonstration or share your content with their networks
The more information you provide your white paper writers, the closer you’ll get to the content you envision. Consider giving your writer samples of white papers you like to serve as inspiration.
While the components of the white paper will vary based on your chosen format, topic and message, these documents generally include:
- A short yet descriptive and compelling title
- An abstract, which summarizes the main points of your content
- A problem statement or thesis, which lays out the purpose of the white paper
- Background to give your reader context for the key information
- A conclusion where you provide your solution or viewpoint
- References that cite the sources you used and provide an important resource for readers who want to learn more about the topic of your white paper
After investing in white paper creation, have a plan for promoting the finished product so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Your marketing team should distribute the optimized landing page for your white paper through social media channels, including your email newsletter. Consider pulling digestible tidbits from the final content to use as promotional teasers on your blog, encouraging potential leads to provide an email address and download your white paper.
Finding Highly Effective White Paper Writers
When you hire a technical writer, screen for the ability to produce clear, direct, accurate, readable content that meets your specifications. In addition to robust writing skills, look for these attributes when reviewing applications from white paper writers.
Education and Background
While few university programs offer a bachelor’s degree in technical writing, many white paper writers have earned a degree in English, business writing, communications, journalism or a related field. Some specialized writers first earn a degree in a technical field, such as computer science, IT, or engineering, before entering the white paper realm.
You can also seek writers who have completed a minor or certificate program in technical writing. These programs typically cover topics such as scientific writing, writing for engineers, writing in the professions, information design and collaborative writing practices. As a result, a writer with this type of education usually has the knowledge and skills to create a clear, well-researched, detailed and engaging white paper.
Many writers also join professional organizations dedicated to technical writing. While these associations vary depending on the specific specialization, examples include:
- Society for Technical Communication
- International Association of Business Communicators
- National Communication Association
- Usability Professionals’ Association
- Institute of Scientific and Technical Communications
- American Medical Writers Association
- IEEE Professional Communication Society
Members of these organizations can pursue continuing education opportunities such as conferences and workshops, which reflects a dedication to honing one’s craft. The Society for Technical Communication, the profession’s largest group, offers a series of Professional Technical Communicator certifications:
- The Foundation level certification requires the applicant to pass a knowledge test that covers project planning and analysis, written communication, visual communication, organizational design, content development, editing, management and production.
- The Practitioner level certification requires a Foundation level certificate along with the demonstration of skills such as managing content production teams, developing reader personas, planning usability testing, editing technical content, using appropriate graphics and data to illustrate concepts, finding and appraising evidence, and organizing content appropriately for a particular product.
- The Expert level certification, still in development, will require applicants to provide work samples and undergo interviews with industry leaders. Applicants must also earn a Practitioner level certificate.
Ideally, your technical writer will have general experience writing white papers and scientific documents or specific experience within your niche. However, he or she may know little about the topic you plan to present in your white paper.
Great white paper writers have the research acumen to seek the background information they need for context as well as the granular details they need to understand and effectively express complex ideas to your audience. Check whether your applicants use credible sources and understand how to cite them correctly.
Because the content in a white paper can be dense with facts and statistics, you need a writer who can cut through the clutter and create a product that makes sense to your readers. Lack of a systematic, detail-oriented approach to white paper writing can result in omissions, oversights and inaccuracies, compromising your efforts to build brand authority. When reviewing a writer’s portfolio, look for well-organized content with a logical progression and clear presentation. It’s a good reflection of how he or she will likely approach your project.
Subject Matter Enthusiasm
White paper writers won’t necessarily be well-versed in your niche, and that’s OK. You’re the subject matter expert and will carefully vet the content before publication.
Look for a writer who demonstrates the interest and enthusiasm to dive into your realm and learn what he or she needs to know to produce high-quality content. That might mean eagerly tackling your background materials, asking lots of questions, interviewing subject matter experts, attending workshops and taking online courses to get up to speed.
Medium suggests screening writers for natural curiosity about technology and how things work. A diverse portfolio shows an ability to learn about new things and push the limits of one’s knowledge.
Business Concepts Savvy
Good business sense is a must for white paper writers. With deep comprehension of complicated concepts, the writer can distill these ideas clearly for your audience.
In addition, keen knowledge about ROI, analytics, SEO and other cornerstones of content marketing allows your writer to understand and address your goals in these areas. In fact, some experienced content marketing writers can provide statistics about the average ROI and conversion rate of their publications. A background in SEO writing services is an asset for your writer, especially if you want to use your brand’s white paper to improve your search rankings.
Writers whose portfolios consist of shorter blog posts may not have the experience with long-form content necessary to maintain a compelling voice and strong organization. Look for white paper writers who have samples that reflect your desired tone, length and format.
Experience repurposing content can also be an asset for an effective white paper writer. If you have existing blogs, studies and content that you want to transform into a more formal document, ask your prospective writer about his or her approach to this type of project.
Solid Communication Skills
A successful white paper may require your writer to gather details from multiple subject matter experts. Pay attention to the writer’s communication skills during the application and briefing process to make sure you feel comfortable having that person interact with internal and external stakeholders.
When you speak with your writer about the project, do you notice signs of active listening? Engagement with the project and other team members will enhance the quality of your final product.
The best white paper writers should be able to learn about a new idea quickly, then teach that same idea to others. During the application process, ask how they approach the teaching and learning framework inherent in technical writing.
Ready To Hire White Paper Writers?
If it sounds like a tall order to hire a technical writer with these qualities, consider working with a specialized agency for SEO writing services like BKA Content. With a team of experienced writers, we can match you with a content creator who meets your specifications. Contact us today to learn more about our white paper writers and request a quote for your next content project.
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