Even though the content we consume is getting more and more concise, short and direct, white papers play an important role in professional services marketing – and particularly in the AEC industry.
Generally, an AEC white paper takes a deep look at how a design, engineering or construction methodology, process or product addresses and solves a particular issue. Its development can be a tedious, daunting process. Research-based white papers are authoritative, with conclusions drawn from experience and evidence. They are used to influence the decision- making process and/or establish credibility within the industry.
Traditionally, white papers are developed and submitted to present at technical conferences, published in journals or used in response to RFPs or client interviews. Furthermore, these papers typically tap multiple talents to create, including project managers, copywriters, analysts and graphic designers.
Considering the investment of time and resources a white paper requires, it’s important to think of how it can be used beyond the initial intent – making it all the more worthwhile. These papers can be repurposed in many ways to support a company’s marketing, communications and business development strategies.
Newsletter Article or Client E-Blast (content + infographics)
A white paper can be condensed, or a single section may be expanded, to create an article that educates clients on how the findings might benefit them. The intended audience can spend 10-15 minutes reading a high-level, but still authoritative, summary of the paper’s topic, instead of only learning about the subject through a technical paper or formal presentation. Despite getting a shortened version of the original, the reader still walks away with the idea that the company is a thought leader on the subject. Newsletter or e-blast templates can be adjusted to allow for both content and supporting infographics, giving them visual appeal.
Byline Article (one or a series)
Many industry trade publications publish articles contributed by experts in the field, and a white paper’s subject could be a great topic to pitch to a publication that reaches a target audience of decision-makers or referral sources. Do NOT send a white paper to an editor wholesale and ask him/her to review it. Rather, send a summary of a segment or two of the paper, ensuring that the article you are proposing can be easily pulled and edited from the white paper to a piece that fits within the publications’ editorial guidelines. Most publications have requirements around word count, tone and format. It’s also possible that an editor would be open to an article series, allowing for maximum use of the existing content.
Blog Post(s) (content + photos)
Blogs are typically shorter than byline articles or newsletter pieces and a bit less formal, while still containing the sophistication required in AEC marketing communications. Research suggests that online readers have short attention spans and prefer less than 600 words in a post. This format allows numerous leverage options for the subject of a white paper. For instance, take one aspect of the paper and connect it to a specific project, person or story. Then, pair it with a photo or image that supports it. Rinse and repeat with another theme.
The subject a white paper tackles could be a profound addition to an award nomination – for people, projects or the company as a whole. A white paper illustrates an expertise or area of specialty, so use the content to your advantage when going after industry awards. Think about how it will help illustrate a successful outcome on a nominated project, or how it was conceived under the leadership of an executive being nominated.
Proactive Media Pitching
The subject of a white paper is typically responding to a problem with a new, innovative solution, so why not pitch the subject to the media as a compelling story worth covering? The key here is targeting the *right* media. If it’s a technical subject, then the content is probably best suited for an industry trade publication. Publication editorial calendars can be beneficial in planning story pitches. For example, a “Technology” focus in ENR could benefit from a story idea pitched from a white paper on the application of newly developed software.
Social Media Posts
With any communications piece, the question should always be, “How can we package and share this with our social media networks?” If a white paper is presented at a conference, share the event, topic, experience and photo (within the various format requirements of social channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram). Short stories or experiences that give the subject matter real-world relevancy are all excellent post considerations.
Looking at a white paper with a new lens provides ample marketing communications and public relations opportunities. Maximize those efforts!
— Melinda Hepp