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Apr 25, 2003
How To

How Win an Award for Your White Paper

SUMMARY: Have you created a white paper to influence the IT marketplace?
There is no cost to enter it for the 3rd annual White Paper Awards, but more than 400 marketers entered papers last year so the
competition is tough. Here are some tips on what the judges are
looking for.
Last year more than 400 marketers submitted entries for Bitpipe's
annual White Paper Awards.

It is highly competitive. There are only four awards up for grabs: A best of white paper is named for hardware, software, IT
services and networking/telecom. Fewer than 1% of papers
submitted will get the coveted prize.

We called up head judge Nick Copley to find out how the process
works, and what can tip the odds to make your white paper a
winner.

-> Who judges the papers and how

Management-level staff at Bitpipe make the first pass, culling
down the giant pile of entries. They score each paper based on
three, equally important, attributes:
a. Editorial quality
b. Format and presentation
c. End-user utility

Papers that make the first cut then go on to be evaluated by a
group of eight judges who are outside experts, including industry
analysts and IT journalists. (Even if you do not win an award,
if your paper is pretty good, you stand a chance of impressing
someone influential with it.)

These judges then score the papers again on the same three
attributes, until clear winners emerge. Here is what they are
looking for in each category:

a. Editorial quality

The first thing is lack of typos and obvious grammatical errors.
"It's truly staggering. The basic levels of mistakes made,"
says Copley. "Often it's just not good English, and there are
spelling mistakes." Lesson: Get your white paper proofed by a
professional before publishing it.

Judges also look for smooth writing flow. "It needs a good
logical flow from the intro, through to setting the scene, this
is the technology, this is our view of the technology, these are
the marketplace pain-points, this is how to solve them. We
evaluate flow within paragraphs, paragraph by paragraph, section
by section, and through the document as a whole." Lesson:
Outline your white paper in detail before you start writing it.

Judges also review tone and voice. They are not looking for one
standard perfect voice so much as they are hoping to find that
your voice matches your target audience.

Copley says this can be the toughest part of writing a white
paper because most people write in their own voices, not that of
the reader. Lesson: Review columns, speeches, discussion group
postings, and anything else you can think of that your prospects
have themselves written to steep yourself in their word and tone
choices before you start writing.

b. Format and presentation

At the most basic level the judges want to see that your white
paper is clearly labeled with section numbers and headings. Long
areas of text should be broken out with sub-heads.

Also, do not let your marketing graphics get the better of common
sense. Nobody is interested in white papers with lots of four-
color pictures, or bold washes of color (not even on the cover)
unless those graphic elements are necessary to explain the topic.
Otherwise extra graphics and colors just make your paper slower
to download and open, and annoying to print out.

Copley says, "Use graphics if it helps tell the story and get
your message across in a professional way. If it's just
gratuitous early '90s PowerPoint, or clip art, it clearly
shouldn't be there."

He is definitely in favor of diagrams to illustrate key points
though, because they can be a great aid in getting your message
across. Just make sure they do not rely on color to make a point
because some people will print your paper out in black and white.

c. End-user utility

Copley's seen papers that were two pages long (!) and others that
are more than 100 pages. Frankly neither are actually 'white
papers,' one is a flyer and the other a book. If your length
is unusual, then rename your paper so people know what to expect
when they download it. Unexpected length does not equal
usability.

However, the biggest sin is the one we all know about already:
Sales pitches masquerading as white papers. It annoys the
judges, and it certainly annoys your prospects. They do not want
to just hear about how wonderful you are, they want to know more
about useful topic you promised in the title.

Lesson: Before publishing your white paper, give a draft to your
techies to review and ask them, "does it seem too salesy?"
Techies are renowned as the hound dogs of advertising. They can
sniff out an inappropriately marketing-ish tone from 1,000 feet
away.

Copley says the judges hope to see audience-specific white
papers, but these hopes are usually dashed.

"We don't see people doing it enough. It's key to write them for
whoever you're trying to influence. Potentially you could put
that in the title, 'The CFO's Guide to Wireless,' 'The CTO's
Guide to Wireless,' etc. You can re-use your core content for
this. A lot can travel from one paper to another. Just throw in
an ROI calculator for the CFO version, or a strategic overview
for the CEO version."

Lesson: Creating different white papers for different prospect
types is not as hard as you might think. To influence every
member of the purchasing committee, you may need a raft of
slightly different titles.


Now that you have read how tough the judges are, if you think
your paper has a shot at glory, the good news is there is no cost
to enter the contest. The bad news is you only have until Friday
May 9th.

Here is the link:
http://www.bitpipe.com/wpawards.html


P.S. Winners are announced in June. Nope, we have no connection
to the folks at Bitpipe and no way of influencing results. :-)

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