Be honest with yourself, have you ever read a whitepaper in its entirety? What about a corporate sustainability report? Have you ever even read half of a corporate report that isn’t one of your own?
I’m willing to bet the answer to all three is: no.
With attention spans at an all-time low, are the longform whitepapers and reports regularly published by corporations, governments, and NGOs a dying format? Of course not; they just need a bit of attention and some multimedia ambassadors.
Whitepapers are, more often than not, valuable pieces of research containing insights, information and ideas that should be communicated in fully-fledged reports. Corporate reporting on progress regarding sustainability, inclusivity, and other key corporate initiatives, for example, is absolutely essential—particularly for investors.
Many corporate reports are published as a regulatory requirement and a lot of information still needs to be written in full and at length—but it’s this format that blocks engagement. Ten years on from the World Bank’s startling discovery that nearly a third of their PDF reports had never been downloaded from their website, many valuable documents are still being published in this manner alone.
So, how can we help them stand out and disseminate the valuable information they contain? Here are three ways to transform your next whitepaper:
1. Build a user-friendly, searchable microsite
Consider a microsite for your report with clear navigation from the landing page onwards. By making the information easy to journey through, you rapidly enhance your reader’s chances of finding what is relevant to them and engaging with it.
Searchability is vital—through keywords, yes, but also through the hierarchy of messaging and the quality of the content.
Whitepapers and reports are often valuable troves of data. Graphs and charts—visuals which can tell a clear and powerful story—need to be meta-tagged to align with search terms.
When a report becomes a searchable resource, your information will travel to third parties who are writing articles, researching papers, and briefing governments. When someone googles the topics contained in your report, you need to make sure they find it.
2. Be creative with your formats
When it comes to content formats, consider your audience. How are they consuming content on their favourite platforms? Take your cues from the publishing industry and consider presenting your information using not just text but photography, illustration, video, and animation. Present data in contextual infographics, not just plain graphs.
Pull out the key arguments or insights of your overall piece for smaller pieces of multimedia content. Whether these should be short films, executive thought leadership articles, animated infographics, or all three depends on who your audience is and where they can be found.
3. Attract attention with social media
Perhaps most importantly, your longform content must not be a shrinking violet that only hides on its microsite (or somewhere deep in your .com). It should live there, but the information it contains also needs to get out and about. You’d never catch a special report from The Economist or FT residing purely in one channel and format.
The most impactful pieces of information—whether they be key findings, exciting proposals, or astonishing data insights—should be packaged individually, for social media, in-person presentations, and mailouts to known audiences within your database.
These shorts films, articles, quotes, and animated graphs will become your multimedia ambassadors—assets that allies and advocates for your position can share and use to make your point to others.
Whitepapers convey your deep research capabilities and expertise; they lend you credibility. Atomizing them across formats and channels makes the most of the work that goes into them—and sets your insights free to inspire and move many more people to action.