What is a White Paper?
Originally, the term white paper was used as shorthand to refer to an official government report, indicating that the document is authoritative and informative in nature. Writers typically use this genre when they argue a specific position or propose a solution to a problem, addressing the audience outside of their organization. Today, white papers have become popular marketing tools for corporations especially on the Internet since many potential customers search for information on the Web. Corporations use white papers to sell information or new products as solutions that would serve their customers' needs.
The Purpose of a White Paper
Typically, the purpose of a white paper is to advocate that a certain position is the best way to go or that a certain solution is best for a particular problem. When it is used for commercial purposes, it could influence the decision-making processes of current and prospective customers.
What Kind of Problems Do Readers Want to Solve?
The audience for a white paper can be the general public or multiple companies that seek solutions to their problems or needs. Typically, you will not know your audience personally, unlike when you write a recommendation report for your client. And yet, in order to persuade your audience, you need to focus on their needs. If you can address the problems that your readers want to solve, they will read your white paper for a solution. Otherwise, your white paper may not be read. It is important to emphasize your readers' interests rather than your interests, as shown in the example below:
Not: This white paper introduces ABC company's new freight service.
Instead: This white paper discusses how to choose a freight service company that best fits your needs.
From: White Paper: Purpose and Audience at Purdue Owl
FYI - each of these sites requires a registration (free) in order to download the white papers.
White papers abound on the Internet. Find some using a search engine such as Google. Type in "white paper" and a topic that interests you. You can add "filetype:pdf" to your search because many white papers are published in PDF format. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of those white papers to help improve your own white paper.
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