In the world of HIM, white papers are content marketing ‘gems’ that serve as informative reports or guides on oftentimes complex topics. They provide practical tips and strategies while subtly promoting a company’s products and services. White papers don’t overtly sell products–they covertly raise awareness of your company’s expertise. Following are seven tips to help you compose a white paper that educates, informs, and invites action that *hopefully* leads to a sale or two (or more) along the way.
1. Choose the right topic. Although a white paper shouldn’t overtly promote your products, it’s perfectly ok (and appropriate) to choose a topic that aligns with your sales goals. For example, if you’re launching a telemedicine platform, choose a topic that allows you to showcase your expertise (e.g., how to navigate telemedicine parity laws). If possible, ensure that your topic has a timely angle. For example, if you’re trying to expand your outsource coding business, consider a topic such as how outsource coders can help hospitals navigate value-based payment changes. Your white paper topic should be general enough to fill at least a couple of pages but not so general that reader walks away without any real practical information. It should also be a topic that will immediately gain a reader’s attention–especially if you’re hoping that they’ll provide contact information prior to downloading the content.
2. Know your audience. Brainstorm specific titles to target so you can write content with these individuals in mind. For example, a white paper on how to address common coding errors in ICD-10 will be very different depending on whether you’re targeting HIM directors vs. chief financial officers (CFO). HIM professionals may want a deeper dive into ICD-10 denials (and necessary coder education) while CFOs will want a higher-level discussion of how these denials affect the bottom line and what they can do about it.
3. Include a summary. Not everyone has time to read the entire white paper, so it’s always a good idea to include a short summary of the content. This is usually a short paragraph (5-6 sentences) that provides an overview of the topic and practical solutions.
4. Don’t overtly promote your products and services. As I mentioned, white papers are not sales sheets. With the exception of a call-to-action at the end of the white paper, they shouldn’t really even reference your specific products. The idea is that by sharing valuable information with potential customers, you’re building trust. That trust opens the door for potential sales in the future.
5. Give practical tips. After you provide some context for the issue at hand, switch gears into practical information that readers can use in their daily work. For example, when writing a white paper on how Medicare payment reform may affect small practices, provide tips on how physicians can choose MIPS quality measures that will most favorably affect their revenue. This should be the ‘meat’ of the white paper because it’s what readers tend to want the most — and it’s also what tends to inspire readers to reach out to you for more information about your products and services. The white paper should give them a taste of what you have to offer–not drown them in background information.
6. Use visuals and graphics. Visual elements add dimension to your white paper and can break up the text for ease of reading. For example, if you’re sharing CMS data, consider including it as a graph. Sidebars also work well — particularly for quick tips, at-a-glance statistics, or resources.
7. Remember that less is more. In the HIM industry, we’re all busy. Very few of us have the time to read a 10-page white paper, and even if we do, how much of it do we actually absorb? Potential clients want succinct and useful information that they can read in a matter of minutes — usually 5-7 minutes total. Keep this in mind as you draft your content. Longer isn’t necessarily better.