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Your Paper Trail to Success
The White Paper

By Sally Strackbein

I was amazed when a White Paper catapulted me to success.

A few years ago, I attended monthly information and strategy meetings about disaster planning jointly sponsored by the Washington Post and George Washington University. The registration table outside the meeting room always had a bunch of stapled-together handouts for people to pick up: collections of information and listsof resources. Every month I read them with interest.

Those handouts were White Papers. According to Webster's New World Dictionary, a White Paper is, "any in-depth, authoritative report." After attending several meetings, I asked if I could add my papers to the stack. I was toldto bring them and put them on the table. Aha! Put my papers on the table at the Washington Post!

I wrote my first White Paper. That paper was "The Bean Theory." It was a serious, but tongue-in-cheek paper about how government may not provide for all of your needs in an emergency. People picked it up, read it and enjoyed it. It even changed a few minds and influenced their behavior. You can read it on the Internet at:

For me, that White Paper was a great way to showcase my knowledge and insight. I didn't need to have my work formally published. Putting it directly into the hands of people who were interested got me instant recognition.I wrote more.

My White Papers made me an instant authority. I soon created a website to for my collection of White Papers and reporters began contacting me for interviews. My opinions were cited in newspapers such as The Chicago Tribune and the Arizona Republic. I appeared on television and radio shows including NBC Nightly News, NPR Marketplace and Dennis Wholey's This is America. All because I took the time to put my thoughts on paper.

A White Paper can be an informational piece on the features of a new widget, an overview of a new technology, or an opinion on a current issue. A White Paper can also be a list of tips for making sales, an overview of a new cooking technique, or a look at industry trends. Any article that a magazine might print can be labeled a "White Paper." It must not be a marketing piece with a veiled "buy me, hire me" message. It must provide valuable information your readers can use to make their personal or business lives better.

Write your own White Paper. Before you start, you need to know why you are writing it. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you get started:

  1. What topic can I write a White Paper on?
  2. What makes me an authority?
  3. Why should readers spend valuable time reading my paper?
  4. What meetings can I attend to find people interested in    my topic?

My White Papers established me as an expert. I got visibility and recognition within a few months.

Your White Paper can promote you like mine established me.Your White Paper should be engaging in style and never boring. Hire an editor, if you need to. Your facts must be accurate. Consider hiring a college student to do research.Your paper can be any length, from a single page to as many as you need to make your point.

Once you write your paper, put it out at appropriate meetings. Continue to go to those meetings. Ask people if they have read your paper. Listen to their replies. Use what you learn from them and modify or clarify your paper. Your readers' comments will inspire new papers.

Put your papers on your website with a note giving permission for others to reprint and publish in their magazines, newsletters and websites on the condition that they give you credit and refer their readers to your website. Pretty soon, you can be a recognized expert, too.

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copyright (c) Sally Strackbein.

Permission is granted to reprint this article in your newsletter or magazine with the following byline:

 Sally Strackbein is a speaker and author.
To find out more about her programs and services,
 or call 703-262-0361.

Ray and Sally Strackbein
PO Box 710540
Herndon, VA  20171

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