How to Write a White Paper When You Have No Time (3 Proven Methods)

how to write a white paper

Sergei Rachmaninov was one of the greatest pianist-composers of his time. 

An incredible piano virtuoso, he fled Russia with his family during the revolution and settled in New York City. Abram Chasins recounts (in his book Speaking of Pianists) how he showed up for a piano lesson with Rachmaninov one day and heard him practicing. Standing outside Rachmaninov’s door, Chasins was shocked to hear him practice Chopin’s etude in thirds at such a slow pace it was barely recognisable.

This ultra-slow practicing of music is a common way to improve playing ability. And it’s an amazing technique for serious pianists who have the time to put in the work. 

But as a marketing director, time is often not on your side 

You have deadlines looming constantly, and often need content created yesterday. So what do you do if you need something like a white paper created ASAP? 

In this article, you’ll learn how to create a white paper fast

The three methods we’ll go over are:

1 -Repurpose from a webinar 

2-Create a white paper foundation first 

3-Transcribe from subject matter expert interviews

Let’s begin with method number #1…

How to write a white paper fast – Idea 1: Repurpose

This is the first thing you can do to create a white paper fast. Instead of writing one from scratch, which can take weeks, you can take a webinar and repurpose the slides and audio into a white paper. 

For the audio, you can use a transcription service to get it converted into text. You’ll then need to have someone run through the text and clean it up.

Next, format the text so it flows naturally from one section to another. These sections will depend on the kind of white paper you need. But a typical white paper used for lead generation at the top of the funnel will have Introduction, Problem, Previous Solutions, New and Better Solution, Conclusion, and Call-to-Action sections. 

How to write a white paper fast – Idea 2: Use a Foundation

The foundation for your white paper is your plan or outline. Planning out a white paper first is always a great idea for several reasons: 

– It gets all project stakeholders on board and in agreement before writing the full piece

– It helps streamline your thinking

– It saves time when you write. Time management experts say that every minute planning saves 10 minutes in execution

– It ensures you get your full paper off the ground with minimum hassle

– It helps your white paper achieve its goal

A useful foundation for your white paper will outline the business goal, the target audience, SEO keywords, potential titles, a list of official reviewers, where the paper fits in the sales cycle, the call-to-action, the timeline, and sources for research. 

So that’s the first two techniques. What’s the third?

How to write a white paper fast – Idea 3: Transcribe

According to a recent article in MarketingProfs, there are several things you can do to extract great content from your subject matter experts (SMEs). 

First, your SMEs are likely involved in calls, interviews, and conversations regularly. So why not take advantage of this? 

Take a recent interview or call that your SME was on

And use a transcription service to convert the audio into text. Have someone run through the text and see if there’s anything you can use for a white paper.

Obviously, you’ll want to use a call or interview that was specifically related to the subject matter of the white paper you want to write. Or you can jump on a future call the SME has scheduled. Beforehand, make sure you confirm with everyone that it’s OK to have the call recorded and transcribed. 

Finally, you could interview the SME yourself and make sure they’re aware that the content will be transcribed and used for a white paper. 

Now… two common objections tend to pop up at this point.

The first is, “won’t outlining a plan for my white paper take even more time?”

Yes, this is true. Planning your white paper first will take a little more time. But it will actually save you time in the long run.

When you have a plan, you can get all project stakeholders in agreement before writing the full piece. So there won’t be any surprises for anyone when the draft is finished, saving you time-consuming and costly revisions. And as mentioned above, every minute planning saves ten minutes in execution. 

Which brings us onto the second objection…

You might be thinking that using these “quick fix” ideas to create a white paper fast will result in lower quality.

But this doesn’t have to happen.

Here, we’re talking about using shortcuts to gather the material for the paper. But the material itself should still be high quality. You usually won’t have to worry about this if you’re gathering data from SMEs or transcribing a webinar.

Time is our most valuable resource these days

And as a corporate marketer, your time is precious since you’re always up the walls. But you can save a lot of time when creating content like white papers by using one or more of the ideas above. These include:

1 – Repurposing from a webinar

2 – Using a Foundation or plan first

3 – Transcribing from SME interviews

Practicing ultra-slowly might have worked for Sergei Rachmaninov, but you probably don’t have time to slow down your writing. Use one of the above methods instead :). 

Your next step…

Struggling to keep up with your marketing education. There are so many resources out there and not enough time to read them. Who wants to subscribe to another email newsletter, right?

Well, Science Marketer Weekly is designed to save you time, not take up more of it. Each month, you’ll get the best hand-picked marketing resources for scientific technology delivered straight to your inbox. Enter your email address below, and click Subscribe.

How Do You Make Science Marketing Content Exciting?

How do you make science marketing content exciting?

I vividly remember having to sit through drab, boring seminars during my time as a PhD student. 

If you’ve ever attended some of the research presentations at scientific conferences, you can probably relate to this. And if you haven’t, take a break from the tradeshow exhibit and wander on over to the talks at your next conference.

You’ll find session after session of long-winded seminars where the presenter seems determined to bore the audience to tears.

Of course, they’re not all like this 

Some talks can be interesting, engaging, and informative.

But we can all agree that scientists aren’t the best at creating excitement or engagement during a talk.

I should know, I’m one of them! And yes, I’m a little guilty of this myself.

When I would give a scientific talk, I would normally launch into a detailed presentation of results and data… without showing why this was important or why the audience should listen to me.

I got a lot of yawns and folded arms. A lot of people would be texting or doing something else with their phones!

Eventually I figured out my mistake

I needed to open with why my talk mattered and why the audience should spend the next 15 to 20 minutes listening to me. I needed to give valuable information and share a story that appealed to the audience.

So what does this have to do with science marketing? 

How do you make science marketing content interesting?

Well, as a marketer responsible for promoting this technology, the burden falls on you to get your message across.

There is still a need to convey your story to an audience.

Technical people get bored like everyone else, and if they can’t relate to your presentation, they switch off. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Technical buyers want and need to see technical information. This stuff is important because they want to know if your solution solves their problem.

But this is more important at the end of the sales cycle, when a buying decision needs to be made.

Don’t drown potential customers in technical data too early 

This will just turn them off. Lead generation and awareness at the beginning is better achieved with a combination of technical copywriting and persuasive storytelling.

And just to be clear, the persuasion I’m talking about is not the exaggerated hype and persuasion that you see in consumer copy. We’re not trying to play on emotional triggers here.

You don’t need to convince a technical or business buyer that they need a solution.

But you do need to tell them why they need YOUR solution

It’s possible to blend technical details with subtle persuasion in such a way that gets your message across… and shows how you can solve your prospects’ problems.

An example of this is a white paper

Sadly, many scientific tech companies see a white paper as an opportunity to regurgitate a pile of research data. Then, they throw it up on their website and call it a day.

But those who do this are leaving opportunity, leads, and revenue on the table.

Instead, a white paper should be seen as an opportunity to present a solution to a business or technical problem.

As an added bonus, it can position your company as a provider of valuable information. The benefits of this alone should be enough to convince you to incorporate a story-driven approach into your marketing.

But I’m selling complex scientific products. Will this work?

If you’re wondering if storytelling will work when you’re selling complex technology, you can rest easy. In fact, I’d argue that scientific products need a story even more than non-scientific products. 

Remember, scientists are people too. They have their own problems, needs, desires, and stories in their heads about why they do what they do.

It’s your job to understand these needs and these stories. And then use this info in your communications, so you can speak to them in a way that really captures their attention.  

Nothing captivates an audience like a great story

It doesn’t matter what industry you work in. To quote a recent Zoominfo article, “It can help your prospects and customers see your company as more than just a faceless corporate entity building complex products–instead, a collection of real people solving real-world problems”.

So remember this when crafting your next marketing campaign.

Leave the deep, technical information for later in your sales cycle. And try not to fall asleep at your next scientific conference :).

Your next step…

Need more information, or looking for help with a project? Check out my About page and Services page. Or you can sign up for Science Marketer Weekly and stay up-to-date with the latest in marketing to scientists.

How to Market to Scientists: 5 Steps for Moving Scientific Buyers Through Your Sales Cycle

Marketing to scientists

If you’ve ever followed a cooking recipe, you know that a step-by-step process can make preparing a meal much easier. A recipe or plan is supposed to help you create an enjoyable meal as easily and as quickly as possible. It can also help you when planning your content and marketing to scientists.

Marketing to scientists with content can work the same way

Not with food (though the jury might still be out on that one), but with a great marketing “recipe”. 

An example of a great “recipe” is what’s known as “the motivating sequence” in copywriting circles.

This sequence can be used in any piece of marketing content you put out to guide people through that content to the end. And motivate them to take the next step in your sales cycle. The recipe grabs your prospect’s attention and entices them to keep reading so they take that next step. 

So what does this motivating sequence consist of?

It has five basic steps 

These are:

-Gain attention

-Highlight the problem or need

-Position your solution

-Prove what you’re saying is true

-Ask your reader to take the next step (call-to-action).

Of course, there are other “recipes” for copywriting. But for now, we’re just going to focus on this one.

So let’s start with the first step.

The first step is gaining attention

You gain attention through your headline… which can be the first few seconds of a video, the title of a white paper, an email subject line, the headline in an ad, etc.  

It goes without saying that your headline needs to entice people to read the rest of the copy. Otherwise you’ve just wasted your time. So you need to write good headlines. 

And the fastest way to write a great headline is to include a benefit 

When it comes to marketing to scientists, a range of possible benefits could be used. These benefits might include saving time, improving productivity, getting things done faster, complying with regulations, improving their research process, getting published faster, etc.

By the way, you could also highlight a problem in your headline. This works because the human brain is wired to respond to problems. 

Want an example of a “benefit-oriented” headline? How about this white paper title:

Increasing Solar Cell Conversion Efficiency using Silicon Thin Film Technology: A Resource Guide for Solar Quality Control Managers

This title pulls double duty because it’s also specifying the target audience.

Get it? Ok then… let’s move onto the second step.

…which is to highlight the problem 

The first two steps (headline and problem) often blend together. What I mean here is a well-written lead (the opening sentence or paragraph of your copy), like a great headline, will also gain the attention of your readers. 

And like the headline, you need to spend a lot of time writing the lead. One of the best ways to write a great lead is to focus on the main problem that your solution helps to solve. 

Of course, there are other ways to write a compelling lead

But my advice is to focus on the problem. This is the easiest way to do it and it’s guaranteed to get your reader nodding along and interested in learning more. And if you decide to open your copy with another technique, make sure you still highlight the problem after the opening paragraph.

Now what was step 3 again? Oh yeah..

Step 3 is positioning your solution

Now is the time to introduce your solution as the best way to solve your prospect’s problem – which you highlighted in step 2, remember?

Specifically, you want to tell your readers what your solution is, how it works, the features and benefits, and its advantages when compared to the competition. 

The best way to give the features and benefits is to provide a list of bullet points. Now, scientific buyers respond best to features… so it’s vital that you include all the features in your copy. Don’t leave anything out. 

But, here’s a big mistake that’s often made

That mistake is forgetting about the benefits. State the feature first and then state the benefit your reader gets because of this feature. Sometimes called the “what… so what” technique or the “cause and effect” technique, your reader gets all the info needed when you include benefits. 

Ok nearly there… onto step 4

Scientific buyers are a skeptical bunch – more skeptical than your average buyer. It comes with the job. So you need to back up what you’re saying with proof… and lots of it. There are various ways of doing this through what some copywriters call ‘belief builders’. 

These might be testimonials, verifiable facts, hard specifics, case studies, customer quotations, product reviews from third parties, credentials, proven track record, academic papers, etc.

Testimonials from previous customers are probably the best way to show proof 

But depending on what content type you’re writing, you can include other forms. In a white paper (where you have more room), you could include one or two case studies of how the technology solved a very specific problem for someone else.

And finally…

Step number 5 is telling them what to do next

A call-to-action tells your readers what they need to do after reading or watching your marketing content. You don’t want to go to the trouble of creating a marketing piece, only to have your readers do nothing at the end. 

Now, there are bad calls-to-action and good calls-to-action.

An effective call-to-action is made up of 3 parts: the how, the why, and the what. Simply put, the call-to-action tells scientific buyers exactly what you want them to do, how they should do it, and why they should do it.

Here’s an example for marketing to scientists:

“Visit www.ABCSolar.com/solution right now for your FREE copy of the white paper:

Increasing Solar Cell Conversion Efficiency using Silicon Thin Film Technology: A Resource Guide for Solar Quality Control Managers

You’ll learn about a remarkably cost-effective solar-cell technology that is saving companies in your industry 10% on their annual energy costs.”

Let’s bring this all together with another example…

Your headline gains the attention of your prospects (step 1). After clicking on the headline, the prospect is taken to a landing page. This explains the problem and the difficulties faced (step 2). 

The landing page then offers a free white paper explaining how a particular technology solves the problem – positioning a solution (step 3). The reader’s skepticism is overcome when they see the testimonials given by your previous customers – the proof (step 4). At the end of the page, the reader can fill out a form and then download the white paper (the call-to-action, step 5).

And guess what? The white paper itself will follow the exact same sequence. 

You see how this whole thing works?

The five steps to writing any piece of persuasive content that moves your reader to take action are:

-Gain attention

-Highlight the problem

-Position your solution

-Proove what you’re saying is true

-Ask your reader to take the next step

The motivating sequence is just like a great recipe – guaranteed to give you a terrific result every time. You just need to take the time to plan out your content first and figure out where each step in the sequence is going to happen.

Need more information, or looking for help with a project? Check out my About page and Services page. Or you can sign up for Science Marketer Weekly and stay up-to-date with the latest in marketing to scientists.

Struggling to Find Time For Content Planning? Here Are 5 Ways to Make it Easier…


Creating a content calendar is hard work. In fact, if there’s one problem I hear over and over again from my clients, it’s a lack of time to get their content planned out.

Everybody is swamped and they have 101 things to do and countless fires to put out. So if that’s you, how do you find the time to create a content calendar? 

You probably don’t want to hear this..

But the marketers who manage to plan out their content in advance don’t have more time than you do. And they’re not any less swamped than you are either. 

These marketers have simply found creative ways to get their plan or calendar done – even with everything else they have to do. 

Unless you MAKE time for planning, then nothing is going to happen. 

So I’m going to give you some options you can use to make time to plan your content. And remember, every minute planning saves 10 minutes in execution. So this is time well spent!

5 options for finding time to create a content calendar

A word of caution before we start. You might think these 5 tips are too simple or obvious. 

But that’s the point. It’s often the case that the most effective solutions are also the most obvious. There’s genius in simplicity. You don’t need some complex time management tool or fancy technique to finally find time to get this done. You have to make time. 

With that said, here are 5 different ways that can help you squeeze in the time you need to finally outline that calendar:

1. Schedule a half day once a week for the next 2 weeks. 

Can you take a half-day to create your plan? You should be aiming for 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time where you can focus completely on planning your content. 

One tip here is to use Friday afternoon. Let’s face it, if you work Monday-Friday, then chances are that you’re probably not working very hard on a Friday afternoon anyway (or is that just me?). So you may as well use this time to your benefit and use it for planning the next few months of content. Do this on a Friday afternoon for two weeks and you’ll have a calendar ready to go. 

2. Put the job in your calendar. 

Again, this might sound too simple, but many people don’t bother to schedule their priorities. For me personally, if it’s not in my calendar then I’m not going to do it. Period.

So take 5 minutes and figure out the day and time you’re going to do this. And put it in your calendar. I use Google calendar, but use whatever system works for you. 

One useful piece of advice I was given a while back was to use time-blocking. This is where you divide up your calendar into blocks dedicated to specific things. So for my own business for example, I block off the hours of 05:00 – 08:00 for marketing and writing. And then I block off 13:00 – 16:00 for client work. I’d also have specific blocks for exercise, relaxing, etc. 

It’s a useful tool that can help you control your time. 

3. Dedicate one whole weekend to get it done. 

Yeah this one isn’t ideal – who wants to work on the weekends, right? 

But here’s the thing: sometimes we’re putting out so many fires during the week, Saturdays and Sundays are the only times we have to get the important stuff done. 

Someone told me this recently… they’re so swamped during the week, they have to wait until the weekend to tackle their priorities. And planning out your marketing content should be a top priority. 

4. Do it early in the morning

This is my personal favourite. If something is a #1 priority for me, I get up a couple hours earlier in the morning – before I start work – and I get that #1 thing done before anything else. 

I did this when I was working as a scientist full time and wanted to start this copywriting business on the side. I’d get up at 5AM (sometimes 4AM) and put 2-3 hours into my business before working my 9-5 science job. And I still do this today, where I focus on writing and marketing first thing in the morning, before moving onto client work. 

So… if you’re struggling to find time to plan your content, maybe consider getting into the office an hour or two earlier in the mornings and doing it then. 

5. Delegate it. 

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just offload the entire thing. Give it to someone else. Once it’s off your plate, you can focus on other priorities. 

And if you can’t delegate completely, can you get some help? Are there other people on your team you can bring in? Turn it into a game where the first person to get their calendar done gets a reward.

A content calendar helps you in several ways.

It can help you feel motivated, confident, and clear about moving forward. And it’s much easier to create content once you have it planned. It’s also easier to get buy-in from key people when you have a plan.

If you’re wondering which one of the above tips to start with, I’ve found the time-blocking strategy to be universally effective. This might mean putting everything else on hold for 3 hours so you can get your calendar finished.  

Your next step:

For more information on my services, take a look here. I offer a full content planning and calendar service for science & technology marketers. You’ll get 3 months of content planned out in less than 3 hours. For more information, email me at colm@sciencecopywriting.com  

You can also subscribe to Science Marketer Weekly – a curated email newsletter with hand-picked events, technology updates, industry trends, and educational resources for science & technology marketers. Subscribe here or enter your email in the box below and click Join Us.