Schedule Straight Talk
In a word, that’s how I would describe the nature of most white paper production schedules. It’s not an indictment. It’s simply an acknowledgement that there are often factors at play that lead to frequent schedule shifts. If you’re working with a reliable writer, the culprits are generally availability of SMEs for discovery calls and review team size and/or time constraints.
Compressed schedule reality check
When a white paper is on a comfortable timeline, it’s usually easy to adjust the schedule without eliminating any important tasks. With tight timelines, however, the elimination of drafts and shortened review cycles can lead to suboptimal quality and a lower ROI from your investment and efforts. For context on why review cycles are important, read Lessons from FBI Negotiators. The basic idea is that a deliberate writing and review process gives you more opportunities to tailor a reading experience that will help your business stand out in your readers mind.
Since that’s the entire point of lead-gen white papers, it begs the following question.
What’s an ideal production timeline?
Before we consider an ideal timeline, take a quick look at the days allowed for key white paper production steps and review cycles across four theoretical timelines.
In my experience, six- to eight-week timeframes work well for most white paper projects. When your review team is large or especially busy, more time is better.
If the three or more drafts and three layouts included in the example timelines seem excessive to you, I get it. I even agree that it sometimes makes sense to go to layout after a first draft. When a timeline is shorter than six weeks, however, it’s much harder to ensure a thorough review process. Even with the 10-week timeline above, the review windows are pretty tight and could easily slip. That’s why I recommend aiming to allow for at least six weeks to produce any paper, keeping in mind that a realistic/comfortable review process across many parties will likely take more time.
The scheduling dance
Rest assured, this post isn’t simply meant to be an excuse for running up hours or padding my schedule. I’m open to rush projects, and I bill by the paper rather than by the hour (I even factor in multiple revision rounds). I just want to do everything possible to set us both up for success. Anything we can do to get on a manageable timeline is an important first step, so don’t hesitate to contact me with questions about your white paper project.