If you were to ask me which marketing content product I’ve been asked to create most often, it’s hands-down the white paper. One white paper can serve many purposes and plays a very important role in the sales cycle process. However, there can be a bit of mystery about what exactly a white paper is.

For the past four years, I’ve taught the class “Writing White Papers” at Bellevue College. It’s become a required course in their Technical Communication Certification program. Students come in wide-eyed and confused, but leave the class fully understanding what it takes to create a strong, compelling white paper.

Watching that transformation has been rewarding, which got me thinking I should share it with a broader audience. Over the next 4 posts, I will take you through the steps you need to do to create your first white paper. At a high level, they go look like this:

Plan – It’s not enough to decide to write a white paper because you don’t have one yet. You need to plan upfront to determine the need, both internal and external, which will drive out the topic as well as how it will be used.

Create – While one post is not near enough, this is by far the longest, hardest part. Understanding which sections to include, what tone to use, and how it flows is key to a good, educational read.

Decorate – So, you’ve got the cake but it will be pretty unappetizing unless you decorate it. We’ll talk about adding items to help tell the story and how to best design and format the document to add punch and appeal.

Consume – Once a draft is complete, it needs to be edited. And, once it’s final, you need to get it in front of eyeballs that matter. You’ll learn tips for finalizing and distributing your new white paper.

Preheat the oven, get out your mixing bowl, and prepare to create your first white paper!