By Gordon Graham
Ideally you create one white paper for every segment of an audience. But what if you can’t swing that? What if, for some reason—time, money, or whatever—you need to reach more than one audience with the same white paper?
In a previous article, I described how to “clone” one basic document for various segments of an audience (link to: http://www.whitepapersource.com/writing/how-to-clone-your-white-paper/).
But what if you can’t even do that? What if you have to write one white paper for people in two very different roles, such as technical versus financial or top executive versus line manager? What if you know that your white paper will go to people with vastly different levels of knowledge or experience?
In this case, your white papers need two “layers” of information, one for each segment of your audience. Here are six possible tactics for doing this (you can mix and match these as needed).
Layering tactic #1: In-line definitions (brief asides that define a term or acronym, just like this) are used after the first occurrence of a term that not all readers will know. You can see this every day in any newspaper.
Layering tactic #2: A glossary of terms may be useful if your white paper is peppered with terms that one segment of your audience may not know. In this case, gather together all of your in-line definitions on one page at the end of your paper.
Layering tactic #3: Hyperlinks to background material can be useful. For example, if you’re discussing virtualization, you can include a link in your white paper to a good background article from a credible source. You can even link to an illuminating discussion on a blog, as long as it takes the same dignified tone as your white paper. If you’re distributing your white paper as a PDF, make sure to make the clickable text visible, and test it before you send it out.
Layering tactic #4: Sidebars are short pieces set off from the main narrative, often as tinted text boxes. These are useful for presenting background that more knowledgeable readers already know, or a list of bullets, steps in a process, or a mini case study. A sidebar can be as short as a single sentence, or as long as a whole page.
Layering tactic #5: Quick summaries are small text boxes that sum up an entire section or page in a few quick points. Scientific American uses a little text box labeled “Key Concepts” with each of its major articles. This has the double benefit of boosting the “scanability” of your white paper.
Layering tactic #6: An appendix is a separate section tucked in at the back of a white paper. While we don’t often see these in white papers, there’s no reason not to include one to help reach a second audience with the same document. An appendix can present more or less technical information, procedures, describe the methodology used in your paper, or any other information that you think not every reader will want or need to know.
One or more of these tactics should help your white paper communicate to your different audiences. And they may be useful in almost any white paper, because they provide different pathways through your document for readers who want more or less information.
About the Author: Gordon Graham helps B2B software and clean tech firms tell their stories with crisp, compelling white papers. He’s the founder of www.thatwhitepaperguy.com and a frequent poster on the WhitePaperSource Forum.