Avoid These Pitfalls When Creating a Life Sciences White Paper

If you are looking for a way to educate your readers on a specific topic while collecting valuable leads at the same time, a white paper might just be the way to go. With a typical length of at least six pages, white papers are long-form content pieces about specialized topics, such as individual markets or technological trends.

By creating a compelling life sciences white paper, you can establish your company as an authority in a specific topic area. As an expert, you are showing the industry that your company and your products are trustworthy without actually writing about them in the white paper. On top of that, with the help of a creative landing page, you will also be able to collect impactful leads.

However, as the guidelines for writing a white paper are somewhat blurred and different writers seem to have conflicting opinions on how to tackle the project, creating a life sciences white paper can be quite challenging. For this reason, we have collected some of the do’s and don’ts of white paper creation for you.

What not to do when creating a white paper

The six tips we have collected below will guide you through the white paper creation process. They include the most important – in our opinion – factors you should take into consideration when writing a life sciences white paper, or even when outsourcing your white paper creation to a life science writer.

1.) Don’t Forget Your Audience

audience, importance of readers, marketing strategy, biotech

Your audience is one of the most important parts of your white paper. Your audience should be considered in every heading, sentence, and word you write. The quality and success of your white paper, and consequently of the leads you collect, lives and dies with your readers’ interest.

Your readers are essential for choosing the topic, the title, the writing style, and the design of your white paper. Forgetting about your audience during the creation phase will mean that you lose readers and miss out on the greatest opportunity a white paper presents: generating credibility for your company amongst your readers and within the industry.

So what can you do to attract the right readers? First, define and understand your audience. Ask yourself: Who are you writing for? Are you writing for researchers? Academics? Business people? Are you writing for a wider audience or a very niche audience?

Once you have figured out who your readers are, choose a topic of interest for them. If you are writing for a relatively small and defined audience, you can focus on a niche topic. For instance, together with Gyros Protein Technologies, we wrote a white paper about nucleic acid therapeutics and their potential. We learned from this that a niche audience can be harder to reach and might take longer to reach, but the impact and quality of leads can be greater in return.

If you are writing for a larger audience that includes representatives from all walks of the industry, such as researchers, academics and other biopharma delegates, make sure to choose a topic that will interest all of them. This would inevitably be a broader and more popular topic. Together with CisBio, for instance, we created a white paper on immunotherapies that interested a very large audience. The key benefit of choosing a wider audience is that you get to collect a lot of valuable leads from all over the industry.

Generally, when defining your audience, keep in mind what kind of leads you want to collect with your white paper. This will help you choose a topic of interest for your readers and will prevent unwanted surprises after publication. Ask yourself: What are compelling, current topics? What are the problems my readers face in the industry? Can I help them with these problems? Or has my company acquired important knowledge that I could pass on to my readers?

2.) Don’t Try to “Sell” Your Company, Technology or Product

A white paper is not a sales pitch. Always keep that in mind. The content of your white paper should reflect your expertise in a specific area of the industry and essentially teach your audience something new. Remember, you want to present your company as credible and trustworthy.

Not mentioning your company, product or technology directly in the white paper, doesn’t mean you have to sweep your brand under the carpet. You can still create awareness around your company by placing a logo on the white paper and/or including a small introduction to your company at the end of the white paper. At the end of each of our white papers, for example, we place an “about the company” section and include a call-to-action that leads interested readers to the company website or contact page via a hyperlink.

3.) Don’t Underestimate the Research Effort

research, timelines, importance of research, inbound marketing strategy, biotech

When estimating the time it might take you to write your white paper, don’t forget about the research. A white paper should be carefully referenced and contain trustworthy sources. Research will take up a lot of the time that you have allotted to writing your white paper, so forgetting about it might mean that you run into trouble with your deadline.

Moreover, before starting your white paper, do some research into the topic, talk to experts, and lastly, write an outline. Basing your white paper on an outline can save you a lot of time wondering where you want your chapters to lead. Once you have created an outline, you can start writing your first draft.

While writing, keep in mind that every statement you make or every fact you mention, should be referenced. Including references in your life sciences white paper, will make your content more authoritative and believable to the reader. Again, remember that you want your audience to trust you and to present your company as credible to the industry.  

You can achieve this by using reliable sources, such as peer-reviewed research papers or reports from known and trusted organizations, basically anything from the WHO to EY. At the end of the white paper, include a list of references, stating the date, name, and title of the referenced publication and possibly hyperlinking it too.

4.) Don’t Bore Your Audience

boredom, readers, audience, inbound marketing, biotech

Chances are your readers are very busy people who don’t have the time to read page after page of scientific or technical information. Your job and that of your life sciences white paper is to make their lives easier. You can do this by limiting the length of your white paper and keeping it between six and twelve pages, as we do.

Also, keep your chapters and paragraphs short and give each a heading or subheading that represents what every specific section will talk about. You can also highlight important quotes or keywords to make them stand out from the text. When creating titles, be creative and make them intriguing. In short, deliver the information in bite-sized portions and make it easier to find.

Another way to support your readers is to include a content page at the beginning, which lists all the chapters and the pages at which to find them. This will allow readers to read only those sections they are most interested in, allowing them to skip parts and save time.

By visualizing the content of your text with images, graphs, and tables, you can catch the reader’s eye and allow them to take in information without reading all of the text. This brings us to our next point…

5.) Don’t Let Your Creativity Get Away, You Need It!

Be creative. Even while you are writing, keep in mind where you could place eye-catchers within your text, such as images, diagrams, tables, quotes, infographics, fun facts, etc. These visualizations will keep your audience engaged and intrigued to read more. They also give you the opportunity to convey information without having to include it in the text, which can save you quite a bit of your word count – take it from me.

One thing we have recently started implementing in our white papers is a “key takeaways” box at the beginning of each white paper. The box lists the most important – usually five – facts or statistics mentioned in the white paper. That way, people with little time on their hands can read the key points, skim through the quotes and diagrams and learn a lot about the content without having to read the entire white paper from cover to cover.

An important point to mention here is that even if you are “only” the writer and are passing the design on to someone else, always imagine how you would visualize the information you provide and share these ideas with your designer. If you have trouble coming up with ideas yourself, fear not, take a look at other white papers out there and collect ideas that way. If necessary, take screenshots of visualizations you liked and give them to your designer as examples.

6.) Don’t Miscalculate the Creation Time

creation time, white paper creation, timelines, biotech, marketing strategy

This point is closely related to the research effort, but also includes a few more facts. When writing your life sciences white paper, keep in mind that you will have to spend quite a lot of time researching, collecting quotes from experts, writing the outline, the first, then second drafts, as well as designing the white paper – whether this is outsourced or not.

At Labiotech, for instance, we allot approximately two months from the first explorative call to publication for the creation of a life sciences white paper. This time not only includes the research and writing, but also the design part and several revisions by the team and our clients.

Another key point that takes up a lot of time is the revision of the various drafts by yourself and your team. Make sure to give your colleagues enough time to review the outline and various drafts of the white paper. By allowing your team to review your content, you can ensure that all of the key points of the topic are included and that you have written in a comprehensible and interesting way.

Your team, in this case, represents your audience. So take their comments and suggestions to heart. Always keep in mind that feedback is the key to success, even if it means changing a few things around or adding some more facts. You’ll see, the effort will be worth it.

Lastly, you or somebody else will need time to design your white paper and include graphs, tables, images, and other visualizations. You might even consider hiring a designer. Don’t underestimate the importance of design. A colorful and eye-catching white paper will attract readers like moths to a flame.

Consider your white paper as a group effort. After all, you are not the only one involved in its creation. Keep in mind that you will talk to experts, brainstorm with your team, and work closely with a designer or other colleagues for the visuals. If you keep all of these things in mind, your life sciences white paper will be a success in your industry and will allow you to collect valuable leads.

How we create white papers at Labiotech Reach

CisBio white paper, Labiotech.eu, Elena Resko, immunotherapies, biotech

Creating a life sciences white paper demands a high level of commitment from our team, as well as the client, who will be involved in topic selection and reviews. We work closely together from start to finish to ensure a smooth process with the least stress possible for everyone involved.

First, we set up a call with the client to align on the topic and target audience and give them advice on how to choose a topic. If the client is stuck, our team can come up with content suggestions related to the client’s field of work, which the client can then choose from.

After the call, once the topic has been decided on, our team creates a white paper content outline that is passed on to the team and the client for review. As soon as the outline is approved by the client, we can start the writing process.

In this time, we might conduct a few interviews and collect resources. We will ask the client to send over any research papers, presentations or data they want us to write about. Once done, we take over and create a first draft. The first draft will then be thoroughly reviewed internally by the Labiotech team.

After an internal review, the first draft will be corrected and sent over to the client. Once reviewed, a second draft will be created taking the client’s comments and suggestions into account. The client will then be allowed to review the second draft before we create a final draft, which is passed on to our designer. The design draft is then reviewed internally by the team and twice by the client.

Overall, the Labiotech team creates three content drafts and two design drafts. The client is allowed to review the content and the design twice, respectively. In the two months it takes to create a life sciences white paper, the client is in constant contact with the dedicated campaign manager and writer of the project. This makes sure that the client is informed about each stage of the project and ensures a smooth process from start to finish, resulting in a white paper that everybody is happy with upon publication.

Check out the white papers we have done so far or book a call with our team to learn more about creating a white paper with us!


Images via tngqwh, Visual Generation, paper_Owl, VectorKnight, Iconic Bestiary/Shutterstock.com and via Elena Resko

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