White paper definition

Need a white paper definition? I just did a search on Google and came up with these on Google’s first page:

  • An authoritative report or guide helping readers understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.
  • An informational document issued by a company to promote or highlight the features of a solution, product or service.
  • A white paper is an article that states an organizations position or philosophy about a social political or other subject or a not too detailed technical explanation of …
  • A government report on any subject; especially: a British publication that is usually less extensive than a blue book. 2. : a detailed or authoritative report.
  • A white paper is a certain type of report that is distinctive in terms of purpose, audience, and organization.
  • Prelude to the final policy document, it contains proposals for the specific policy area suggested during the consultation process …

That’s quite a range of definitions. I don’t know about you, but some are downright confusing. I don’t think I’d click to find out more.

My two favorite white paper definitions are from books

  • This is from Michael A. Stelzner’s Writing White Paper: A white paper is a persuasive document that usually describes problems and how to solve them.
  • This is from Gordon Graham’s White Papers for Dummies: A white paper is a persuasive essay that uses facts and logic to promote a certain product, service, or solution to a problem.

As you can see, both definitions are similar. The common thread is persuasive problem solving.

No one reads a white paper unless there’s an important reason to spend time doing it. Typically, that reason is to solve a problem. Businesses succeed by solving problems and by anticipating future problems.

Providing a solution is meaningless unless the solution is persuasive

You can start reading a white paper and quickly loose interest for a number of reasons:

  • The writing is confusing.
  • It’s all about the company.
  • It doesn’t talk to your specific problems.
  • Poor formatting and layout.

The persuasive part is just as important as the problem solving part.

Here’s my own definition: a white paper as a persuasive document that talks to a specific audience about a specific problem.

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