Lessons From an Exceptionally Well-Crafted White Paper

By Michael Stelzner

If you write white papers, you will want to take note of what I am about to say.

Every once and a while I come across a simply excellent white paper.

I found one that really is over the top.

I was working on a project for one of my clients, regarding word-of-mouth marketing.

The paper is titled Consumer-Generated Media (CGM) 101: Word-of-Mouth in the Age of the Web-Fortified Consumer and written by IntelliSeek (now Nielsen BuzzMetrics).

This is one of the best pieces I have seen for a number of reasons:

  • It is highly educational and informative
  • It establishes the sponsoring company as a thought leader
  • It very subtly inserts sales messages
  • It’s formatting and layout is simply incredible

I would like you pay close attention to the following items when examining this paper:

  • The first page: Note the very large text in the opening sentence and large type on the rest of the page. Also notice how the problems are clearly identified.
  • Writing style: The words are very easy to digest in this paper.
  • Creative use of columns: I am not a big fan of multiple columns, but these guys did it right. There is space on the left for call outs and hand written notes for those who print the piece. Note that page one has no columns (an important point to draw in the reader).
  • Exceptional use of sidebars: Nearly every page uses sidebars (extra information to bolster the story). Note the full page sidebar on page 6 AND the “Consumer-Generated Chicken Buzz?” on page 9.
  • A quiz: What a quiz you say?? Yes, there is a quiz on page 9, titled “A Marketer’s Quiz: Questions to Ask Yourself.” This is an excellent example of adding valuable content for the reader.
  • Use of photography: Nicely done to add to the story in a few places (including the cover).
  • Case studies: Page 14 has a few simple case studies.

Folks, I suggest you carefully study this white paper. Much can be learned. It is one of the best examples I have ever seen.

What are your thoughts about this piece? Do you apply any of these tactics?

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  • http://nielsenbuzzmetrics.com/mouthpiece jonathan carson

    Thanks for the props Michael! I will pass it along to our marketing team, who produced that document, and i have doubt they will greatly appreciate it.

    Jonathan Carson
    Nielsen BuzzMetrics

  • http://www.whitepapersource.com Michael Stelzner

    Jonathan – You guys hit a home run with this piece. I am sure the results backup the effort. Do you know if it has been successful? – Mike

  • http://www.buzzmetrics.com Sue MacDonald

    Michael…as a former member of the Intelliseek/Nielsen BuzzMetrics marketing team (and the contributing author/editor for this white paper), I can tell you that the CGM 101 white paper continues to be one of our most popular and most-downloaded white papers. It’s been a great entry point to Nielsen BuzzMetrics for many business/marketing/brand professionals who want to understand this growing area of consumer-generated media and online buzz. It also launched a series of ongoing webinars, and “CGM 101″ continues to be one of our most popular and well-attended topics as well. Now that I’m a senior analyst for NBZM, it’s one of the first freebies I send to all new clients.

  • http://www.whitepapersource.com Michael Stelzner

    Hi Sue;

    I am hoping that folks in my world study this work. This will not be the last time I reference your piece.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  • http://www.whitepapercompany.com/blog Jonathan Kantor

    Hi Everyone,

    I agree. This is a very good white paper that will be a great example for the other white paper writers to follow.

    I plan on reviewing this paper next Friday, as part of my weekly White Light Review series.


  • http://www.whitepapersource.com Michael Stelzner

    Jonathan – Thanks for stopping by. Looking forward to that review. – Mike

  • Jacki Martin

    I’m disappointed to see that the links don’t work to two white papers referenced as “lessons learned” (Using the Internet to Build and Talent Pool, and Consumer Generated Media 101).


  • http://www.writingwhitepapers.com/blog/ Michael Stelzner

    Hi Jacki – It looks like they have removed the white paper. Bummer!! :( – Mike

  • http://www.writingwhitepapers.com/blog/ Michael Stelzner

    Looks like the paper is now here: http://www.nielsenbuzzmetrics.com/whitepapers

  • Jim
  • http://www.nielsen-online.com Sue MacDonald

    Now that BuzzMetrics is part of The Nielsen Company, all the white papers from the former BuzzMetrics and Intelliseek Inc. (which merged to form Nielsen Online) can be found here:


  • http://www.writingwhitepapers.com/blog/ Michael Stelzner

    Unfortunately the original paper had a much better layout.

  • http://www.knowledgecommunities.org Naava Frank

    I can’t find that paper, can you direct me?

    I am glad to discover your resources as I am just beginning to write white papers.


  • http://www.writingwhitepapers.com/blog/ Michael Stelzner

    Seems that the piece was changed.

    Here is the updated one (not as nice looking as the original)