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Whitepapers, originally, were how legislative documents explained and supported solutions in politics. Today, they are authoritative, convincing and in-depth documents or presentations outlining a problem and supporting the solution - often with evidence - across any industry that wants to produce them.

Fundamentally, they are about educating an audience, and ‘gated’ whitepapers for marketers now embrace many formats. Research reports present data and research findings, and ultimate or buyer guides offer content that covers a topic in-depth or holistically. Then there are ebooks or long-form content that can cover anything, and case studies that present the how, what and why of complex business outcomes. They come with support links, images, graphs, infographics and other media enhancements.

Hours, days, and, in some cases, weeks are spent researching, cross-collaborating, writing and editing these illustrious pieces of content. They are valuable documents and, in the past, we were encouraged to put our most valuable online content behind a form or a ‘gate’ to convert our equally valuable customers and visitors into qualified leads.

Whitepaper Whitewash

One of the realities in 2022 that begets the opening question is that the internet is inundated with ebooks, ultimate guides, checklists, infographics and every other type of content garrisoned behind forms. The result is many buyers or customers are fed up with shelling out their personal details to receive content that doesn’t help them, doesn’t answer their question or doesn’t solve their problem. Producing content is now a central aspect of marketing for many businesses, which has resulted in mountains of questionable online content not worthy of being gated.

To add insult to injury, the frustration of the customer or buyer increases with an onslaught of incessant email pitches and phone calls trying to push even harder for a conversion. Buyers are now smarter, more web-savvy and view forms like a black cloud. With increased levels of suspicion towards forms, and the secreted content that’s behind them, they’ll often abort engagement or use fake personas to gain access.

To Gate or Not to Gate?

The glaring overarching question should be: is your content valuable enough to be gated? Is the content worthy of someone paying for it with their contact and related details?

Most experts on content believe that long-form content - including whitepapers - is the most suitable to sit behind a form. A whitepaper can also include images and infographics to complement. Topics that are presented should be developed for the specific audience that you want to attract and engage with. Whitepapers and content that’s gated should be unique, as should be the lead you are aiming at. A great whitepaper or eBook can be a lead magnet, in some cases those who seek this type of content are a step closer to deeper conversations or even conversion.

Whitepapers should also serve the company or business that produces them. If the content is on topic - it’s researched properly, includes meaningful and relevant data, and is organised and structured logically - it can offer the business that puts it out there credibility, authority, and trust.

While the benefits of gated content for the publisher can be increased sales, analytics and insights into your audience and better segmentation for marketing, there are also a few downsides. Benefit to your SEO when content is behind forms is varied, depending on the type of content and gate. Coupled with form abandonment sitting at around 67% in 2021, benefits from page views or increased traffic is redundant.

B2B Behaviour is Changing

The overuse of gated material, as mentioned before, has made consumers - especially businesses and professionals - more suspicious of content promotion behind forms. Under-delivery of promises has abused the trust of end-users, as forms for gathering data became a default content marketing strategy.

In a LinkedIn (ungated) report, only 25% of B2B customers were willing to share their contact details to access interesting content. It’s definitely worth taking the time to consider why you are gating your content, and if it’s justified. Buyers and users are now very aware of the value of information, so the value of that content should be justifiable before you consider it a fair trade for an email address or mobile number.

Valuable or Not?

Making the right choice will increase your qualified prospects. If you are publishing original research with insights and thought leadership pieces, odds are your audience will part with their details. Look at the performance of existing content; if you have gated content that's doing well, leave it alone. What about the traffic on your ungated content? Repurpose it in more depth, make it more valuable, more targeted and gate that.

If you need to generate more traffic to your website and business, don’t put your content behind barriers, because search engines at this stage won’t rank it. It needs to be out there front and centre. Those whitepapers, ebooks, and ultimate guides that you spent so many hours sweating over and creating could be just the right content for search engines to find. Let somebody actually read your whitepaper to start generating qualified leads that are closer to conversion.

As buyers get smarter and content marketing trends adjust to accommodate user behaviour, some say that gated whitepapers and content may have outstayed their welcome. In the interim, being guided by your data and applying a little common sense is the best way to decide whether you gate your content or not.

Many companies looking to raise their profile in targeted media often believe a PR campaign positioning them as a thought leader is the best way to achieve their goals. Through regularly monitoring sought-after media outlets and identifying opportunities for involvement through company news, expert comment, insights and opinion articles, a good PR campaign is seen as a way to expedite your brand awareness goals. But there is a significant flaw to the traditional PR model, and that is that small businesses need content in front of eyeballs and credibility - not endless press releases and fruitless pitching. It’s frustrating, and tough to justify.

When an agency bills for hours worked for a client, the accrued time isn’t necessarily indicative of a tangible result; media exposure is never guaranteed. The account’s team can spend a considerable amount of time brainstorming concepts, approaches and ideas which never see the light of day. Editorial content of a very high standard may be written, but not approved and therefore never published. Consequently, having no media exposure is seldom indicative of ideas lacking merit or efforts made not being noteworthy.

The secondary issue is that many media outlets are cutting down on free PR because they are trying to sell sponsored content and native advertising, so it’s better to shape yourself to be of value to the audience than aiming to simply advertise your product/service.

There is another way.

The answer is not to avoid PR, but to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket.

The key to a successful engagement with an agency is the knowledge that they can be reactive to news, trending topics and buzzworthy stories of note, and can adapt the message to suit the needs of a client in real time, translate the message into shareable content and therefore see tangible results.

Here are some examples showing how The Big Smoke did it.

Smart Company:

Since Alex Burke took the reins at Education Perfect 12 months ago, it has expanded into 42 new countries: Here’s how he did it

The Canberra Times:

Welcoming nature into your house through biophilic design

Smart Company

Job ads have hit a record high, but businesses are struggling to fill vacancies

Business Insider

16 Australian Entrepreneurs Share Their Most Valuable Life Lessons

Kochie’s Business Builders:

How to Zoom like a pro in 8 easy steps

The media exposure matters, but if you aren’t paying the outlet you can't guarantee they will cover you or get your message exactly how you’d like. An alternative is to continue putting together great article ideas that audiences will love but also working to get content published in credible places that are outside of pitching.

PR in and of itself is great, but it’s equally as important to also have the right messaging on third-party-credible websites.

You have in these, an opportunity to craft a message through a well-received article that can be shared with clients and the broader industry, while bolstering your digital footprint in a positive manner. The Big Smoke has done this in an expert manner over the years.

Xero CEO Steve Vamos spoke about the Cloud, change, and the challenges in encouraging emotional intelligence in business. Marie Mortimer, of spoke of how merging a background in investment banking and IT brought about a way to get customers more directly involved in the wholesale mortgages market. Canva’s Head of Marketing Zach Kitschke spoke about his industry, the future, and managing change in a $3.2 billion company.

Among our clients’ profiles include Peripheral Blue Founder and Managing Director Mellissa Larkin, and Director of Policy and Compliance, Kara Birch. Our client Education Perfect (EP) teamed up with the South Australian government to help international students studying within the state. We covered the ADMA Data Day, and spoke to leaders from Telstra and The Iconic.

These clients also had their profiles amplified across Linkedin, via EDMs and other social media, ensuring reach across targeted B2B audiences. Content posted on The Big Smoke is also an effective way to leverage great content and competitions, as we found when we asked several industry leaders to reflect on Fathers’ Day.

A business’ digital footprint is the complete expression of how the brand is represented online. Everything that you've said, or everything that others have said about your company or brand on the internet. Managing your digital footprint is a kind of online reputation management.

At TBS, we work with clients to bolster their digital footprint through generating content such as CEO profiles and through leadership pieces on our website, as well as blog posts on company websites as well. Improving a company’s digital footprint outside of the traditional PR machine helps support your company’s overall PR push by increasing your online presence, and through properly executed backlinks and optimising certain words and phrases, place you atop Google search ratings for your business type or field.

Changing attitudes and increasing market awareness throughout a community or industry require substantial insights, as well as the skills inherent in broad mass media coverage in the digital era. Businesses should always be focused on the ‘endgame’ of any given campaign.

This is best achieved with PR as a key part of an engine, constantly influencing your digital footprint and market share. Book a time to speak with us today about how media placements and thought leadership articles can impact your digital footprint.

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