Establishing your authority in your subject area and industry should form a core part of your brand strategy. How can you expect to be a market leader if you’re not vocal about the space you occupy?
White papers are nearly always part of a brand’s strategy for asserting this authority and expertise. These long-form reports express your viewpoint persuasively and help demonstrate how well you know your industry. Taken from the political sphere, the aim of a white paper is to present a problem and then provide the solution.
From a brand’s perspective, it’s a way to showcase your knowledge of a specific topic that’s part of your core offering and help shape the direction of the industry you’re in.
White papers are usually presented online in lead magnet format. Before you share a guide that’s going to solve someone’s problem, they have to give you something first such as their contact details. Just be very sure you’re operating within the rules of GDPR.
International white papers
But is a white paper a good way to assert your expertise to multiple global audiences? That really depends on you. White papers may be a great way to present your solution to a problem your audience is facing – but not every market faces the same problems, or can accept the same solutions. For example, if you’re writing about workforce management for SMEs, the challenges will probably vary a lot according to local labor market conditions and regulations.
When you’re writing your white paper it’s essential to convey empathy with your reader’s position and show you understand their challenges – and can help solve them. It’s easier to do this if it’s targeted at a specific audience rather than a broad one.
You need to realize that not every reader will face the same challenges. If you cast too wide a net, you won’t serve anyone well with your approach.
Remember also that different audiences have different cultural expectations for how they are sold to. A white paper should never be a product pitch and should never try the hard sell. It’s really not the same thing as a sales manifesto.
It should inform and persuade rather than bully the reader into adopting your solution. But different markets will have different expectations for how assertive you are.
Being overly critical – of regulators, competitors or consumers – will go down extremely badly in a non-confrontational market such as Japan, but it’ll be accepted in one like the US where it’s more acceptable to criticize publicly.
White papers let you make your mark on an industry and state your view of things and where they are going. It’s a chance to assert yourself in your competitive space. That’s one good reason to factor white papers into your global content strategy – helping you assert your brand in every market you’re in.
Translating your whitepaper
If you’re writing or commissioning a white paper that’s likely to be translated at some point, you can help minimize translation costs at the point of writing the first version. Help your translation team be more effective – and reduce the time they need to spend working on the project – by writing your paper in a way that makes it translation-ready.
Top tips include avoiding references to local matters (such as using sporting analogies that aren’t easily picked up by foreign readers).
That doesn’t mean your white paper should be bland or colorless. Just avoid making references that are culturally very specific. Concepts such as ‘rude’ or ‘expensive’, ‘family-orientated’ or ‘high-saving rates’ are measured to very different standards in other cultures, so you should be as specific as you can.
If you find it necessary to use these kinds of adjectives, aim to contextualize them for your audience. For example, ‘this is an ambitious project’ should be put into a context such as ‘this infrastructure project is the largest in the UK at present’.
A good translator should be able to understand your idioms and find an effective translation, but that job is harder if your white paper is highly dependent on them.
Translators may be tempted to color their own text with idioms that may not have the same precise meaning you intended. If you over-use idioms, your translated white paper may be changed far more than you expect and may not have the same meaning you intended.
Writing in plain English favors both your original audience and your translator. Keep sentences short, and don’t feel you must use flowery complex language to express yourself.
Overcomplex language is often received as a sign that you aren’t confident of your subject, so it’ll help you make a better impression. Tools such as Hemingway can help assess your readability score to help you understand how straightforward your sentence composition and word choice are.
You might also like to bear in mind that even your English language white paper may be read by an audience that isn’t American. Audiences in Australia, Canada, the UK, South Africa and New Zealand may end up reading it.
Try to write your English language white paper using language that’s as ‘borderless’ as possible. This includes avoiding idioms, being aware that British words such as ‘bespoke’, ‘freephone’, ‘spanner’, ‘fortnight’, and ‘barrister’ may confuse American audiences.
You should also adjust measurements such as time and date formatting, or clothing sizes and physical measurements or units of currency where appropriate.
It’s worth putting time into not only translating your white papers but also tailoring them to suit local audiences. Market conditions vary, and your observations in one market may not be as relevant in another.
If you have something that’s locally relevant to say, it’s a good way for your brand to assess itself in that competitive space and make a case for your brand’s relevance there.