Writing Look Like Dead Grass? Fertilizer for Your Fingers.

By Michael Stelzner

Has your writing dried out? Feel like your creative energy has been leached? Are you growing?

Whether you are writing white papers, web content, blog entries, brochures or any other copy, you MUST be fed. Eventually your writing will turn from healthy green to an ugly shade of brown if you do not take regular and proactive steps to fertilize your writing.

Like healthy grass, a good writer needs fertilizer, regularly applied. Here are few ideas to keep your writing crisp and green:

  • Apply fertilizer: Once every few weeks, seek out excellent writing and get inspired. Look to industries outside yours to find examples. Think outside the garden. An excellent place to add fertilizer is the Successful Blog. Read some of the entries on writing and start turning your writing green again.
  • Mow regularly: Be sure to cut, hack and edit your writing on a regular basis. By trimming away the extra words, your writing becomes tighter. Always force yourself to sit on your writing and revisit it—even when you think it is complete. Good editing results in more enjoyable words for your readers.
  • Avoid too much sun: Take a break from your writing. Come back fresh and new after a small rest. Walk around for a bit. Listen to some tunes. Grab a snack. Forced distractions often result in creative bursts.

What are some of the strategies you use to keep your writing green?

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All White Papers are NOT Created Equal

By Michael Stelzner

Just like personalities, a few white papers are witty, some are attractive and many are just plain boring. A boring white paper is like a wallflower.

You—the reader—must force yourself to get to know the paper. Unless you have a real good reason to spend some time with a boring white paper, you will most likely pass it by for the attractive one smiling at you.

John Diffenthal of Business Developing Blog said the following:

White Papers can be very important in helping Buyers to clarify their thoughts during their Buying process. But all White Papers are not the same. Some White Papers are so ineffective that they act as a barrier between the Buyer and the product or service being sold.

I could not agree more John.

So let’s talk about why some white papers draw folks in and other encourage them to run the other direction. Is it all about makeup and good looks?

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Listen and Learn: A Podcast on White Papers and Podcasting

By Michael Stelzner

Do podcasts and white papers have a promising future? Is this a match made in heaven or an arranged marriage?

To find out the answer to these questions, check out a new podcast on this very subject.

John C. Havens, podcasting guru from About.com, discusses white papers and podcasts with KnowledgeStorm—one of the leading white paper syndication outlets.

In a very entertaining fashion, Havens interviews Matt Lohman and Amber Reed from KnowledgeStorm about some new research that reveals podcasting should not be ignored.

Listen to the podcast (Be sure to click on “Listen to this episode here”).

Check out some of the other articles I wrote about podcasting and white papers.

What do you think about podcasting?

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Do You Write Content or Copy? Wisdom from Liz Strauss

By Michael Stelzner

Ever wonder down a side street and come across a gem of a place? Well, that happened to me today. I was just surfing away and I found Liz Strauss’s Successful Blog. Seems I am not the only one who got hooked on this gem.

I was drawn in by this story:

The Pigeons and the Preacher?

When we were first married, my husband I were walking through a city park. The lawn was filled with pigeons. He voiced the most unusual thought. “Why are pigeons always the same size?” he said. “What if they are all baby pigeons and a great mother pigeon lives up on the roof of one of those buildings?”

Shortly thereafter we passed a young man in scruffy clothes who told us that the world was ending. He asked us to change the way we were living. He offered us the reasons and joys of how living his way would make our lives wonderful and give us peace forever. I wondered whether he’d heard the conversation about the pigeons.

If the two messages had been written as text–one would be content; the other would be copy.

Do know see the difference? I don’t mean to hold you hostage. But ignore the difference at your own risk.

This story really hits home. Do you know which part is copy and which is content?

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Jobs require “white paper” experience, are you prepared?

By Michael Stelzner

I was looking around the Internet today and was SURPRISED how many employeers are looking for people with experience writing white papers.

These were jobs ranging from engineers to chief technical officers for companies as big as Microsoft and for many I have never heard of.

Here is a sampling of some of what I found:

  • “Opportunities to get involved with writing white papers…”
  • “Experience with White Papers”
  • “Development of white papers…”
  • “Writing white papers and FAQs is a must…”
  • “Business development activities such as writing white papers…”

A Monster.com job search on the term “white papers” produced more than 800 jobs that are looking for folks with white paper writing experience.

This begs a question. Do people really know how to write white papers? Clearly there is a demand for the skill. Do you have a job in the corporate world that requires you to produce white papers? What is your job title and how did you learn to write white papers?

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Angelic or Needing Improvement: A Look at an HP White Paper

By Michael Stelzner

HP has published a white paper on its video collaboration solution, code named Halo. Meant to be a time machine for video collaboration, Halo is actually really cool technology.

What happens when a great technology is promoted in a not so great white paper? You be the judge.

In its white paper, titled Halo Collaboration White Paper, HP puts forth the business case for Halo. (Full disclosure: HP is a client, but this is not my work).

One of the first problems that grabs me is the ultra boring title. However, what really disappointed were the huge blocks of text you see when you open up the white paper. Unfortunately it makes it a burden to read. Like you, I am a skim reader. I look at subheadlines, pictures, callouts and captions.

The opening paragraph paints a good picture with words. But the story ends abruptly with the introduction of social collaboration. Feels a bit disconnected to me.

Take a look at this paper and let’s talk about ways it could be improved.
I want to shout out to Eric Rosen for first writing about this.

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Writing White Papers to Influence the “Few”

By Michael Stelzner

Often we think about white papers that are targeted at large groups of people with the intention of persuading them to act. However, it is not uncommon for a white paper to be written to a single person or a very small group (say 3-10 people).

These types of white papers might be focused at a selection committee, a small executive team or some other key decision making body. For example, let’s say you are an engineer who has developed an idea that you want your business to adopt. A white paper is more than appropriate in these circumstances.

A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Clearly identify the unique disposition of this small group of readers
  • Start by focusing on the problem your idea will solve
  • Mention some market drivers or research
  • Write as if you were targeted a much larger audience (keep the language professional)

Writing to the few can be rather challenging because you only have one delivery of your document. Make sure it is very polished and professional.

For more tips on writing white papers, be sure to check out “How to write a white paper: A white paper on white papers.”

If you have written white papers to very small groups, let’s hear about the challenges you faced.

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Leveraging New Marketing Tools, Special Report

By Michael Stelzner

Small Business 2.0I recently had the pleasure of meeting Stephanie Diamond of MarketingMessageBlog.com. She is the former marketing director of America Online (and was key to AOLs incredible growth in the early years).

Stephanie has written an excellent white paper on the future of Internet marketing, titled Small Business 2.0: How New Online Marketing Tools Can Skyrocket Your Business.

The paper is an attractive and easy-to-read look into the future of the small business marketing. However, businesses of all sizes can benefit from reading this piece. In includes some amazing resources that can help any business tap new mediums.

Much of the advice in this document could be easily applied to campaigns that involve white papers. Diamond explains, “People don’t save brochures and white papers any more, they expect to find them online.”

I could not agree more. Give this a look by visiting

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Big Ships Move Slow: The Perils of Working With Big Companies

By Michael Stelzner

Voyager of the SeasI remember the first cruise ship I ever stepped foot on. It just so happened to be the largest ship in the world—The Voyager of the Seas, by Royal Caribbean. This thing was literally a floating city. It was 15 stories tall, the length of four football fields, and even had an ice skating rink (yes in the middle of Caribbean).

When I looked into the control room, it looked like something straight from NASA. Every move was carefully planned based on dozens of factors, including wind speed, weather, wave height, expected arrival times, etc. Behind the scenes, more than 2,000 workers made everything come to life. When the ship moved, it did so gracefully, yet slowly.

Now for the link. Do you strive to add big name clients to your rooster? If so, I want you to know what you are in for.

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Attorneys and White Papers: The Common Thread

By Michael Stelzner

Legal DiscussionWhile working on a recent project, one of my customers said something that stopped me dead in my tracks. “You know, in my previous life I was an attorney, and what you are telling me about white papers is not all that different from what I would say when defending a case.”

Hmm. Things started connecting in my brain and then shazamm!—the light went on.

A white paper is not far from a courtroom legal argument. Interestingly, they are amazingly similar. Good white papers:

  • Formulate arguments
  • Interview witnesses
  • Carefully examine the opposing parties’ claims
  • Present a persuasive case, backed up by facts
  • Preempt objections
  • Help the jury make the right decision

Legal arguments are equivalent to the problems or needs faced by white paper readers. For example, “Knowledge workers are wasting precious corporate time recreating information that already exists somewhere within the enterprise.” Formulate good arguments and persuade.

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