Friday, April 07, 2006

Whiter Papers

A participant in a discussion group asked some timely questions earlier this week. Andrew Corcoran, Senior Lecturer at the UK’s University of Lincoln, asked:

Has anyone experience of webinars and their success, effectiveness or limitations? Lead generation? Qualification? Community building? In particular, are White Papers still an effective marcomms tool in comparison or as a complementary tool?

One respondent, Cleo Parker of BBDO, said:

Speaking as someone who's been close to a webinar junkie at different points in my life, webinars are much more engaging than White Papers. I have purchased and recommended books and vendors based on my impressions from webinars and also started some conversations with presenters who I will remember as category experts. White Papers, yes, I’ll download them and if they really grab me and aren’t too long, I’ll read them, but they by no means give the same sense of personality and credibility that a webinar does. I think adding another sensual element with the voice component adds a lot in terms of feeling you “know” the presenter.

Several other respondents (out of a very talented group) pointed out some of the challenges of webinars and the people who present them:

  • The commitment of time. You've got to be really interested to take the time these days.
  • How to find the right audience to invite to the webinar.

Having just completed and published a White Paper for a client, I think there are still some quite real advantages to this medium.

1. Many ‘endorsing’ consultants (in multi-faceted industries like software) use White Papers as proofs of intellectual leadership in a given niche. It’s something like publish-or-perish.

2. For young firms, White Papers represent a way to clarify their thinking…a well-written White Paper can be a useful tool for a sales force, and a more effective selling tool than a brochure (depending on the audience).

3. White papers are, by their nature (printed or pdf formats) relatively easy to distribute or place. This depends on the resources available to the producer-company to make the distribution happen.

4. They are quite a bit more portable than webinars.

Of course, a White Paper could be one of the handouts or follow-ups to a webinar. Conclusion (mine): White Papers aren’t buggy whips - yet. Heigh-ho for Friday!

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