What Makes a White Paper Valuable?

I posted this question recently via LinkedIN Answers in the category of "Hiring and Human Resources."

My hope was to illicit responses from HR professionals - especially those who make buying decisions for products and services.

I did get excellent responses. They came not from HR pros, but from a mix of industry folks all who had well informed opinions on this topic.

You can read each of the responses on the LinkedIN Answers page, and I've quoted each of them here:

"Unfortunately the practice of white papers has become so saturated that is difficult to distinguish which ones are valuable."

"The value of vendor white papers to HR officials is inversely proportional to the amount of vendor promotion in the white paper."

"I do not think that people perceive online white papers as particularly valuable because everyone has access to them. It is the old if it's free, it must not be worth anything"

"The pros will be exaggerated and cons will be omitted. The bias never goes away in any white paper...I always feel that I am told half truth."

"White Papers are only valuable if they contain information that is otherwise very hard to find."

'Writing a white paper usually is the analysis of the state-of-the-art to provide a solution to a given problem. Basically, no fresh ideas are presented."

"White Papers are best ...when they describe a vision of a world in which the problem has been eliminated."

'I believe that, white paper[s] should never be written just for the sake of writing but always for the sake of answering somebody's query or dilemma."

Personally, in just the few years I've had a role in White Paper development, I've outlined, drafted, edited, reviewed, and read more White Papers than I care to count.

I've struggled with all of the points noted in these responses above at some time or another. Working through that struggle and writing for the needs of my audience produced good writing and valuable content (to my mind, anyway) in each case.

So while we did not hear directly from HR professionals among these answers, I feel it's safe to assume that a measure of skepticism exists among readers of White Papers generally, including those in HR. Though on the whole, these responses also indicate that the approach still has enormous communication value and I believe that to be true for HR as well.

The simple take away for me is to always be proud of what you publish. Whether you're commissioning a third-party or developing your own original content, as marketers, we must continue to earn trust and build credibility with those we're serving - those people who are not yet our customers.

As posted earlier this week, the new HRmarketer.com will make White Paper syndication a central feature of the HRmarketer Community.

We're going to put enormous effort into helping those seeking HR-related White Papers find the best of available vendor content.

Let's all do our part to make sure that they value what they find.

Final note: If you wish to add your own Answer in LinkedIN, the question remains open. Or add your comments to this post. We'd love to continue the discussion.

Posted by Jonathan Goodman

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