Let’s get started with this.
At my current firm we have a client with whom we partner nationally (across Canada) to deliver a retail program. Our relationship is based on a series of contractual touch points that ensure that the level of commitment and quality of work are maintained through the duration of the contract. As part of that relationship we have developed a series of value add processes to assist our client in delivering their portfolio. These value add processes are based on three key tenets that drive the relationship; partnership, continuous improvement and accountability. Each is intertwined with the other and they drive the attitude that our firm takes toward the delivery of our responsibilities.
Finding ways to utilize these three tenets; partnership, continuous improvement and accountability to demonstrate thought leadership got me thinking about the static nature of a whitepaper versus the fluidity of blogging and whether there is any validity in developing some alternative ways to publishing the traditional whitepaper.
Here’s one way to look at it.
Since we primarily write opinion on this site we thought that it would be interesting to look at the idea of demonstrating leadership through blogging in lieu of a trade publication (or whitepaper).
In general terms, a commercial whitepaper can take two directions; a marketing approach or a technical approach and neither may be mutually exclusive. For example, a commercial whitepaper is meant to promote a product or service and is meant to solve a specific problem. If successful, the proposed solution can be applicable across a specific industry. As a matter of interest, the whitepaper started to become widely used as a corporate business tool and sales or marketing tool in the 1990’s alongside the advent of desk-top publishing tools which also slowly spawned, in the late 1990’s, the idea of creating weblogs (this, according to Wikipedia).
Why is that important in the general context of this piece?
Well, because our opinion is that a weblog, when written in a similar form, can certainly double as a commercial whitepaper. It’s simply an issue of format. The difference being that the ideas expressed in a weblog can be supported or refuted and the proposed resolution of the problem statement would then have the opportunity to be refined based on the discourse. The content of the piece can then offer context for varied insights in a forum of open discussion.
Do you agree? Or do you disagree?
Being able to get an answer to a question is the interesting thing about writing in digital form.
Maybe the question we should ask is “Do you feel that the commercial whitepaper can benefit from a weblog format for the express reason that discourse can occur in the public realm?”
To me, the published whitepaper is unlike a trade publication which requires the writer to garner interest from a corporation willing to publish the piece or a publisher seeking to influence its readership. We all know being published is an incredible feat. However, the fundamental difference between the whitepaper and a publication in a trade magazine is that a whitepaper, given the resources, is able to be written and published by just about anyone.
Because of that is the content devalued in any way?
Entertainment publications aside, I ask this because of the traditional attitude that if a piece is published (book, magazine or newspaper) it appears to gain a level of instant credibility regardless of its perceived quality. Would, by the same token, the whitepaper, if published in an on-line forum such as a weblog be treated in the same manner and seen as devalued over a print version?
Most publications these days are available on-line for download but none are currently structured in a way that allows the reader to reply with their own perspective or viewpoint.
How about this as an approach?
Building a resource of industry publications is not a new approach to demonstrate thought leadership and it is certainly not new to the A+D community. Building a resource in a way that is live, interactive and able to elicit contrary or opposing opinion would be an interesting way to evolve thought leadership and challenge the writer to think along the lines of partnership, continuous improvement and accountability allowing those three capabilities to become a primary part of the publication.
Here’s how I would relate these tenets to a weblog approach:
Partnership: through the willingness to share your ideas and development of like-minded alliances.
Continuous Improvement: through the learning gained from healthy discourse.
Accountability: through the acceptance of responsibility to refine and evolve the ideas and content.
- Which approach feels right to you?
- Would you participate in discussion if the published ideas in a whitepaper were open for discourse?
- Do you believe that publications should be open to opinion?