Is there any value to consulltants in writing "white papers"?
White papers are short written discussions of topics, usually about trends in a subject or (presumably) an authoritative guide of how to do something. Companies use them to describe their position in the market or about how their products or services work. A consultant may write a white paper to describe their consulting services but more often it would focus on developments in their industry or functional discipline. The intent is to show a command of the subject matter, an innovative perspective, or a solution to a difficult problem.
The problem many consultants have is that they think of this as a book report or summary of the literature on a problem in their area of specialty. Many also do not think they have enough information or perspective to write anything groundbreaking. This is OK, because writing white papers has other benefits and can take time to develop a skill in writing them.
Having white papers benefits you in two ways. First, it can focus your thinking about your industry or discipline by forcing you to articulate the key factors that are driving an industry or important current issues in your discipline. This makes sure you are on top of these issues and not just relying on conventional wisdom. You'll have to defend your conclusions and recommendations in the white paper, so they had best be on target. Second, a well written and insightful white paper is an effective marketing piece. Sent to a prospective or current client, a white paper will almost always elicit a comment, thank you, alternative perspective, or inquiry about your services. In any case, you win by engaging a client in a discussion about their business, with your insight as the topic of conversation. Tip:
Pick three topics: one about the primary industry you consult to, another about an emerging issue in the general economy likely to affect this industry, and a third of how your primary technical discipline is undergoing changes (these are illustrative so you can choose others). Commit to writing a white paper on each in the next three months. Develop an outline, ask colleagues for feedback, conduct a short survey or some research, and then draft a 3-5 page version. Have colleagues or clients review the draft. Look for alternative or contrary views on your selected topic. Tighten the writing. Take the best of these three papers and identify colleagues, clients or prospects (or media) you think would appreciate hearing from you and discussing the topic. Based on the resulting exchange, refine the paper and post on your website. You now have a good first white paper - and some perspective on how to make the next ones even better. Having five to ten white papers enhances both your credibility as an expert but also makes sure you are on top of emerging trends in your industry. © 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA