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No one will read your white paper

By , on October 29, 2014 at 11:09 am

Did you make a white paper? Or, should I say, did you pay an agency several (many?!) thousand dollars to concept, copywrite and produce a white paper on a very serious but also probably very niche topic on which you/your brand/your CEO is a “thought leader?”

It’s okay.

I get how you are feeling. Probably a little disappointed with your less than 1% download rate. Don’t feel too bad, the white paper is probably buried in some distant corner of your website—so it was a losing game to begin with.

Let’s try this again.

Remember, everyone is reading on their phones. So with that in mind, PDFs aren’t going to help you. The design freedom you get with a PDF just isn’t worth it. Even a responsive textbox would be better than a PDF. No PDFs, okay?

Remember, also, that everyone is busy and reading your whitepaper is more work for them.

What?! It’s really well written and informative, you say?

It’s still work for your readers. Let’s not pretend a word like “white paper” is anything but more work…for everyone.

The importance of the right content at the right time on the right platform is not news to anyone at this point. But what’s still staggering is the amount of restructuring and investment that’s going on in the background.

We are in the middle of a content catch-up. Enterprises like yours are spending millions of dollars on digitization, struggling to filter their vast pools of data into tools, visualizations and–you guessed it, white papers—that are remotely digestible and maybe even useful.

But before you commit your whole year’s budget, ask a few key questions about your content and you may well get it right the first time.

1. Would you read this? Would anyone read this?

2. Do the text and images interact, relate, contribute in different, additive ways to what you are trying to say. If they don’t…get rid of them.

3. Is what you’re writing about accessible to your readers? Even those who may not know much about the topic? (They’re probably the ones trying to learn up on it, in the first place).

4. What percentage of your prose is buzzwords?

5. Where is your content living? How is it being consumed? Know the answer to that question before you start writing.

The list goes on and on, but the overall takeaway is quick: think through what you’re trying to do…you won’t get anywhere without a strategy.

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