Your white paper gets one attempt to make a good first impression. The title of the white paper needs to clever, witty, interesting, odd, or different enough to stand out from the competition.
Last week we were writing a white paper about the mobile market in China. It just wasn’t working. We were sitting around the table reviewing the white paper but no one was happy with it. Parts of it were fine, but it didn’t click.
Maybe you’ve had this happen to you, especially if you’ve been asked to take over someone else’s document and try to jazz it up. It’s often better to start writing from scratch. However, internal politics and egos can dictate things, so you have to be flexible.
Finally I asked about the title.
‘Oh, we’ll come back to that. I just stuck it in’, he said.
That was it!
I knew something was off with the title but didn’t pick up on it at first. It’s a common mistake when reviewing and editing. You look at the small stuff so much – the phrasing, the value proposition, typos, and layout – that you forget the bigger picture.
Or maybe you assume that someone else is looking after it.
After a pause, I suggested, ‘Maybe we need to look at the title again.’
Note, I said ‘we.’ It’s a small thing but you want to deflect any blame or criticism if possible. He knew what I meant and agreed.
‘Ok, so what would you call it?’
Actually, I didn’t know.
But, I do know that the title is the centre of gravity of the document, any document. Case study, white paper, special report. It’s the root from which everything else grows.
It took twenty minutes to get the title right. Maybe longer. But we got it. Once that was in place, everything else clicked and we finished it in about thirty minutes.
Writing White Paper – Don’t Make this Mistake
Another way of looking at it is this.
You know when you’re watching a movie and you know that main lead is all wrong.
Wouldn’t it be great if Al Pacino was playing this role instead? you think to yourself. Casting the right actor in the right role doesn’t always happen.
It’s the same with writing. Get the title right first. Even if it’s a little off, you can tweak it later but don’t write first and then go back and try to come up with something.
Think about it.
The title is the first thing we see. If it’s vague, boring, misleading, or confusing, we sense it and look elsewhere
PS: When you see great titles, ones that really stick, write them down. Sometimes I just email them to myself or send a text. It doesn’t matter but make sure they don’t get away!