As previously discussed in the article Research Is the Key to a Successful White Paper, a white paper project can take up to two months to complete. And it may involve many stakeholders at your client’s company. This can make the process more complex than other writing projects you may tackle.
The following three steps will help you work with your client to keep a white paper project advancing smoothly towards completion.
1. The Power of One for Any White Paper Project
Have your client identify your primary point of contact (POC). It is this person’s role to manage internal expectations and keep the project moving along. Often, it’s the person who hired you.
However, sometimes it may be an account manager or department supervisor. While there may be several people at your client’s company offering input on the white paper, you don’t want to be receiving direction from all of them. You want your point of contact to collect the opinions of everyone at their company and convey that information to you.
There are two key times this is critical — when determining the white paper’s topic and when going through revisions. Sometimes, companies bring in the writer after they’ve determined what the topic will be. That would make the process easier for you.
However, for other companies, you may be involved as they go through the process of selecting their topic. If that is the case, you want to provide them guidance on what may be the best topic and why. But, once they select a topic, you want to make sure there is buy-in from everyone involved, particularly the chief decision maker.
Without this agreement, your client could change their mind midway through the process and you might have to start over.
When you submit your draft and your client returns revisions, you don’t want to receive edits from two, three, or more people. If this happens, you may have multiple people telling you different ways to revise the same copy. If that happens, you may not know which revision you should make.
Instead, you want your point of contact to collect all the recommended revisions from their team and submit one collated document to you with all the changes. And set this expectation up-front: it’s your point of contact’s responsibility to resolve revision conflicts.
2. Handling Revisions… Tactfully
Handling revisions is often the part of a white paper project that can cause the most internal conflict for your client. Because there may be many people involved with the project, you want to be prepared to explain your approach to writing the white paper — why you included certain things and left out others.
You may also run into issues with revisions. You may get vague comments, like — “I don’t like this,” referring to a particular section. However, those types of comments don’t tell you anything. You need to get your point of contact to give you specific information. For example, did you omit something? List the facts wrong? Do they dislike the quotes, etc.? Without having specific edits, questions, or revision requests, you won’t know how best to resolve your client’s issues.
When you originally submit your copy to your client, set a deadline by which you want their revision requests. The length of time you give them for this review depends on the number of people on their team who need to review it. If there are multiple people, you may want to give them a week to 10 days.
Once you receive the revision requests, give them a date by which you’ll return the copy back to them. Depending on the number of revisions they want, this could be anywhere from two to four days.
Make your client’s suggested revisions. If you disagree with a revision, be sure to note it, why you disagree with it, and what your recommendation is. However, if one part of the revision is to add new content, you need to make sure it fits within the scope and theme of the project. If not, you may want to propose a second white paper based on the new topic.
3. What to Do about Late Revisions…
You may get revision requests well outside your established calendar. Within your contract, you should specify when revision requests must be submitted. Typically, this is within 30 days of submitting the original draft.
If your client submits revisions at the 45-day mark, you need to decide if you’ll proceed with that as part of the original contract. But, if the client submits revisions 60 days or more later, that request is now outside the scope of your contract. You’ve probably already booked other work and don’t necessarily have time to handle this request. Since your client is outside the scope of the contract, you can propose a flat fee for making their requested revisions and completing the project.
The main takeaway to managing a white paper project is to have clear lines of communication and clear expectations set from the beginning with all the parties involved.