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Shaking Up White Paper Styles

tsc-blog-wp image_600pxWhite papers are a huge part of B2B marketing. In some of our own research, we’ve found that white papers are the most relevant type of content for HR decision-makers, followed by webinars (live and recorded), newsletters and analyst articles.

Why do people love white papers? Because they:

  • Help people make a business case for a purchasing decision
  • Can provide actionable tips employees can use to change the way they work
  • Present a picture of how industry practices have changed over time
  • Link real-world examples with business insights

But white papers are quickly shifting away from being dry, academic articles. The messages are still important, but new visual styles are helping to add a little color and excitement to the white paper.

Here are some ways you can liven up your own white papers:

  • Think like a presenter: Don’t you hate looking at a white paper and seeing really ugly charts and graphs? They’re not appealing, and they don’t help to make the case for the white paper’s research or findings. Just as presenters are upgrading their own presentations, give the graphics in your own white papers a second look. GE adds color illustrations and charts that are attractive to the reader but still clear enough to convey the message.
  • Add a video: Many people now read on computer screens or tablets, adding a layer of technology not available for printed white papers. If people are reading your white paper on a device that offers multiple display options, give them embedded videos from your website. What better way to add a client story or software demo than right in the paper? UPS reported recent survey results in a paper that included important findings, illustrations and graphics, and embedded videos.
  • Build for technology: Beyond using iPads and Kindle Fires, people also use mobile devices to consume a lot of information. Responsive design helps websites adapt to being viewed on any number of devices. White papers can be developed in the same manner, adjusting the content layout and design to be viewed on a smartphone, tablet or desktop. Not all white papers (even about responsive design) are doing this just yet, but check out the InfluenceHR website — you can view it on all kinds of devices and it’ll adjust for your screen.
  • Make sure you get to the point: White papers are still filled with research and important information decision-makers need. If you sacrifice content for design, you might be missing the opportunity to close some deals. Accenture uses executive summaries to list the main points before diving into the details, while still using photography to accentuate the white paper’s design. This is a balancing act: Make sure to include points you are trying to make with complementing design elements — and then stop before going overboard.

You’ll notice that white papers start looking a lot like e-books and slideshows. While that might be the case for your company, make sure you still have some distinct styles to distinguish your asset types from one another. You want to make it easy for a reader to know which resource to go to for the answers to their questions.

White papers aren’t going anywhere, but it’s time to shake yours up.