White Papers For Dummies
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A kickoff conference call is one of the magic bullets in a successful white paper project. This can save weeks of stress, communication breakdowns, wasted effort, scrap, and rework. Holding a kickoff conference call creates shared expectations among everyone on the project, promotes harmony on a team, and dramatically reduces one of the most common problems writers report: changes in direction partway through a white paper.

Several significant things happen during this step:

  • The client confirms the availability of all reviewers; this reduces the chance of someone being absent for much of the process but emerging at the end with different views.

  • The whole team reviews all the key parameters of the white paper, including the audience, purpose, call to action, scope, and title; this begins to create a shared vision of the project.

  • The client and writer gather the best thinking from the whole team, not just one person. Pooling everyone’s knowledge and experience can help create a more effective white paper more quickly.

  • The team uncovers any differences of opinion early, when they are much easier to deal with; this reduces the chance of anyone naysaying the white paper drafts later on.

Gathering everyone together to visualize the ultimate white paper follows one of the so-called seven habits of highly effective people: “Begin with the end in mind.” And giving everyone a chance to have his say at the start eliminates any surprises and second-guessing that can drive a project off a cliff later.

The client and writer can schedule the kickoff call for any time that makes sense. In fact, the client often schedules the kickoff call as soon as he commits to paying the deposit.

Step Who What
2.1 Client Starts making notes on the white paper
2.2 Client Schedules conference call with writer and all reviewers
2.3 All Hold conference call with all reviewers
2.4 Client and writer Resolve any differences during conference call
2.5 Client and writer Keep notes during call and compare notes afterward

What the client does for the white paper kickoff

The client thinks about the scope of the white paper, including the purpose, audience, flavor, call to action, keywords, and so on. Then the client schedules a conference call with the writer and reviewers to discuss and confirm these details. Having all the reviewers on the line enables the client to make sure everyone is on the same page.

If any differences of opinion surface during the call, the client tactfully probes to give those areas a proper airing and resolves them to everyone’s satisfaction. Then the client gives everyone a final chance to raise any concerns when the white paper plan is circulated for comments during Step 3.

Both the client and the writer keep careful notes during the call. The client, the writer, or both often record the call in case they need to re-listen to any parts later.

What the writer does for the white paper kickoff

The writer participates in the conference call with all the reviewers, helping to discuss and resolve any differences. The writer takes notes during the call and then compares those notes with the client to confirm their impressions. The writer uses these notes to complete the white paper plan in Step 3.

Resolve differences during the white paper conference call

Either the client or the writer can lead the phone call. If any differences of opinion emerge during the conference call, the best practice is to explore these differences thoroughly to let everyone have their say.

Developing a shared consensus is better than letting one person pull rank and overrule everyone else. After all, if one person is just going to make unilateral decisions, what’s the point of the conference call in the first place? Instead, keep talking and try to get everyone to pick the most sensible alternative.

For example, the VP of Sales may say that the purpose of the white paper is to generate leads at the top of the sales funnel. But the product manager wants the paper to highlight the competitive advantages of the product and help cement sales at the bottom of the funnel.

In other words, they’re each proposing to address a target audience at a different point in the sales cycle, which are such vastly different goals that they may require two different types of white paper.

In rare instances, the differences between reviewers are so fundamental that they can’t be resolved; the gap is too big to be bridged. In such a rare case, the client and the writer must figure out what to do next. Here are some possible options:

  • If only one person has a dissenting view, drop that person from the reviewing team and proceed without him, if at all possible.

  • If the reviewers are split into opposing camps, escalate the issue to a higher executive who can make the decision on which way to proceed.

  • If no higher executive is present, or the project is hopelessly deadlocked, simply cancel the white paper. If you hired a contract writer, you can expect him to keep the initial deposit as a 50 percent kill fee, which is standard in the industry.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Gordon Graham — also known as That White Paper Guy — is an award-winning writer who has created more than 200 B2B white papers for clients from New York to Australia. Gordon has written white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, and for everyone from tiny start-ups to Google.

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