5 Tips on How to Draft a Killer White Paper

writing tipsSo, though I write for a living (case studies, white  papers, blogs, tweets, etc…) I sometimes forget that I am writer. Truly. So yesterday, when a good friend and colleague asked me for some tips on writing a white paper, I was flattered and also a bit unsure of what to tell her.

BUT once I got to thinking I came up with some pretty good advice, if I do say so myself. So here they are, in all their glory: my top 5 tips on how to draft a killer white paper.

1. Assuming you already have a topic, you should be set to dive right in. IF you don’t have a topic, well my best advice is: make it relevant to your industry or expertise and make sure it’s not a topic that has been done to death. If I read one more article on the “changing workplace” I might go crazy. Yes it is changing, folks. It has changed. Let’s move on…

2. Create a Thesis Statement. This goes back to english 101, but you should always create a thesis statement that you can base your whole white paper on. Just think about the main point you’re trying to make with the piece and craft a nice well worded sentence around that. BAM. Thesis created, and the tone for your work is set.

3. Place your thesis in the last sentence of the intro paragraph(s), so that it is clear what you’re going to start talking about in subsequent paragraphs.

4. Each following paragraph should make a point that supports the thesis.

Again, english 101, but for example let’s say my thesis is this: “Spacesaver shelving can help support your green efforts through the incorporation of alternative materials, the inclusion of recycled content and the ability to reconfigure the product on site to meet changing space needs.”

My first follow-up paragraph would be about alternative materials. My second would be about recycled content. My third about the flexibility… make sense? It helps guide the direction of your content as you write.

5. Cite some outside sources. This is not only to look like you actually did research (which you should do when writing a white paper) but so that the paper is not just you ranting on and on about your exclusive knowledge  You want to appear to be an expert, not a product pusher. A few customer or industry expert quotes can also make quite an impact.

So there you have it, friends. My tips for writing a white paper. Now if you want to know about blogging… I’ll have to cover that next week.



The Seven Sins of Greenwashing

Over the last few months I have attended several courses on the prevalence of questionable environmental claims, greenwashing, and eco-labels in the marketplace today. As green design and sustainability become a part of our everyday lives, appropriate marketing continues to become more and more important (and regulated by the FTC).

I remember what it was like to be an interior designer trying to weed through all the sustainable product options available. It was difficult to decide whether you wanted a rapidly renewable resource integrated into your product, or a material that would be recycled at the end of its useful life. Or both! Or neither!

On the other hand, environmental marketing can be tricky! It’s challenging enough to tell your company or product’s story in a way all of your competitors haven’t already done so, but you must also do it without unintentionally misleading your customer (because most of the time people are not trying to lie, they just don’t know any better).

For those of you struggling with how to navigate this slippery slope, I give you:  The seven sins of green washing. These “sins” have been around for a few years, but I still find them relevant today and each presenter I listened to cited them as a great resource for marketers everywhere.

  1. The Hidden Trade-Off: Focusing on only one environmental impact at the expense of, or while ignoring others.
  2. No Proof: A claim that cannot be easily substantiated or is not backed by a third party certification.
  3. Vagueness: a claim that is poorly defined, too broad or easily misunderstood.
  4. Irrelevance: a claim that is truthful but unimportant.
  5. Lesser of two evils: A true claim that distracts from the environmental issues of the product.
  6. Fibbing: A claim that is simply false.
  7. Worshiping false labels: The use of fake or meaningless labels that imply a third-party certification when none exists.


This blog has been called “Tales from an Unemployed Interior Designer” and “Tales from a Former Interior Designer.”

And the name of this blog is changing again.

I started this journey as a recently unemployed interior designer, desperately searching for a new job–maybe even a new career. You followed me through sickness, health, and the adventures of living with my parents at the ripe old age of 28 (going on 40). You followed me through some part time gigs and finally to my dream job… a job in marketing that related to my past career and held amazing opportunities for the future.

Then I left that job. Yep, I did.

In the three years since I started writing this blog a lot has changed. I am not just a “former designer.” I am a true blue marketing professional, who just happened to practice interior design for seven years. I am still passionate about the unemployed. I am still passionate about interior design. I am full of ideas and opinions and I intent to keep sharing them with you!

I am me. I am jewliweb!

Employment for Kristin

There has been much happening in my work life these days, which I intend to share when I have some time and ability to put it down on paper, but for now I am happy to share the latest guest blog from Kristin Raymond! Read and be inspired!!! And CONGRATULATIONS KRISTIN!


Guest blog by Kristin Raymond

I got a job!!! Finally, after one year, 8 months, and 18 days of being unemployed…

Work is amazing, and has also made me incredibly busy. I got out of practice with the whole “40 hour work week, get your other life stuff done whenever you can” routine. Making lunch the night before, figuring out what I’m going to wear the next day, heading to bed much earlier, and the morning making sure I remember everything before I leave checklist. But I wouldn’t give it up for the alternative of having nothing going on and sitting around all day.

I was hired on as a “temporary” advocate, to fill the spot left by a long-term medical leave. But I’ve come to understand that it might not be so temporary… and the fact I was able to sign up for benefits kind of validates that suspicion. In either case, the woman that hired me has wanted me to work in the office for quite awhile but was never able to get it all figured out. Moving into the county as we did back in June allowed her to get me in finally. And she basically told me that if the woman that is out on medical leave would come back for some reason, she would either be put somewhere else, or they would move me somewhere else, but I wouldn’t be completely let go. I appreciate SO much what she has done to help me get in the door, it’s refreshing to have someone actually HELPING you get a job, instead of making it impossible to do so.

I love my job. It is going to be intense some days – but it is crisis response, after all. The job description is a bit schizophrenic; we do a lot of different things as needed — responding to crime scenes to handle the families of victims, the victims themselves when not needed for statements for the police, and just handling general scene triage. Keeping people informed, finding out what the police or emergency personnel need, etc. If it is determined we don’t really need to be at the scene but maybe a day or two later the family has some questions, we are the information source for them. We make cold calls to victims based on the police reports we receive each morning, seeing how they’re doing, if they have any questions, concerns, if there is anything we can do to help. And then we have the office portion of the job – data entry, statistic generation, keeping track of paperwork for reports to the grant we are partially funded through. I am in a unique position where I’m not just filling someone else’s shoes but helping to restructure the position as well. There used to be more funding available and there were 5 people doing what I’m now doing; over time it went down to one person, and now we’re able to have two again. I’ll be working days 8a-5pm and my coworker will be handling the 3pm-midnight shift.

It feels really good to be able to provide that kind of service to a population that traditionally is not well served, or to those who just don’t know where to go for information.

Each day brings something new, training, learning more about the area and becoming more settled. Good stuff.  🙂

Guest Blog #2 from Kristin Raymond

Well, let’s see… Last time I wrote I was not in a very good place. I was being “nicely” asked to move out of my living situation (while not really given any alternatives), unemployed and facing no further extension of my unemployment. Suffice to say I was really panicky, angry and somewhat resentful that I was being put in this position. I am sure I had just been rejected from another few jobs, adding to the growing pile of no’s I’ve received over the past year and a half and only making the situation oh-so-much better…. (note the sarcasm).

 In fact, I know I had been rejected yet again, which still baffles me, if I can be honest. I had applied for a position with a government agency, one that completely suited my background, education and desired career field. The volunteer coordinator with the District Attorney’s office wrote me a really amazing letter of recommendation that she submitted by email as well as regular ol’ snail mail. I was called for an interview, went prepared with great questions and felt like I had knocked that one out of the park…

… Until I received rejection letters for the 2 positions they were hiring for. Something about someone with closer qualifications for the job. Hm, ok. Heard that one a few bazillion times…

Well, the search hasn’t ended quite yet. Still applying, still searching every day. I have, since the April post, started working for an area restaurant doing catering deliveries, which at least provides some extra money for gas, groceries and other incidentals. It gives me something to do almost every day, other than pour over job listings. In some strange twist of fate, I received a letter saying I have another extension of my unemployment available, so at least I can contribute my portion of rent – thus avoiding living in a cardboard box, which I was starting to think was going to be my only option. (Oh, yeah, I found a place – a GREAT place – closer to Milwaukee and within Milwaukee County to help with being able to apply for county jobs. Everything about it is working out really great, including the whole ‘living with the boyfriend’ part).

 So, as usual, I face this icky situation and just when it seems like there are no other options, something works out and I muddle through. I like to think I’m resilient this way, somehow. At least I have that going for me… now to get some employer to jump on the bandwagon as well.

~Kristin Raymond


Top Ten NeoCon Bags of ALL TIME!

After every NeoCon I go through the process of adding all the new bags I accumulated at the show to my existing stash. Some get sorted into the “grocery” category. Some are hung in the coat closet to use for beach going, weekend trips or carting large items to work.

I have such a great collection of bags from attending NeoCon for the last seven years, that I though it would be fun to rate them.

The top 10 NeoCon bags of ALL TIME:

#10: Momentum bag, 2008.

Great pattern. Could be used to carry file folders, swatches and sketch paper. Not really large enough for groceries or sturdy enough for a lap top, but shoulder worthy for sure!

#9: OFS Bag, circa 2005.

Made from plastic, this bag can withstand wet towels, leaky pens, or heavy metal tile samples (yes, I have put this bag through hell and back).

#8 and #7 AIS bags. 2008 and 2011.

AIS has been making this cute bag for several years now. I only have two, but I think they have four or five versions and colors. This bag is perfect for beach or picnic days. It is vinyl and easily washable, and sturdy enough to stand upright. The blue one has sun block stored inside from last summer, eagerly awaiting future use. (Come on Wisconsin weather… it’s June)!

#6: J+J/Invision bag 2011

Though new to me this year, I’m already in love. This bag is perfect for groceries! With the large handle and thicker fabric, I am able to leave the store with only one bag slung over my shoulder. Great for lugging goods up to my second floor apartment!

#5: Safco, 2011

Another newbie this year, this bag is also perfect for groceries, but with the added versatility of a more durable material. I think this could be a beach goer as well.

#4 and #3: Dirtt bags from 2006 and 2007

Like AIS, Dirtt made more than just these two colors over the last few years. These really are the ultimate multi-functional bag. Groceries, check! Beach bag, check! Small and light, but with a lengthy and sturdy handle, check! Durable and easy to clean, check! They also have great inner pockets for smaller items.

#2: Neutral Posture 2011

New this year, this bag has already made it to the number two spot for three reasons.

1. The fabric is thick, shiny and easy to clean (not to mention a beautiful shade of blue).

2. It has a zipper!

3. It has all the qualities of the #1 ranking NeoCon bag of ALL TIME! (drum roll, please)!

#1: Shaw, circa 2008 (2007)?

I am so in love with this bag I can’t even remember which NeoCon it came from. This bag has been to NYC, Atlanta, Chiacgo… etc. It is the perfect weekend trip bag. It is also great for the beach. It could be used for groceries. The canvas material is able to withstand heavy use. Not as cleanable at bag #2, however it seems able to withstand any plane, train, sandy beach or dirty closet. I heart this bag.

For it’s ultimate versatility, zipper, perfect size and shape this bag is ranked the #1 NeoCon bag of all time!!!!

NeoCon 2011: Recap

Well, I look forward to an entire year passing before I need to do THAT all again. I am exhausted, no doubt about it.

In fact, too exhausted to recap the show in words, so here are a few pictures to tell the story of Julie’s SUCCESSFUL return to NeoCon.

The first ever “Mini Meeting,” held at the Sofitel, Chicago (organized by yours truly):

Dinner @ Tavern on Rush with the Mini Meeting Attendees:

The Spacesaver Showroom 11-117, newly updated and fabulous:

My short break from working to explore the other showrooms. Some of the highlights were Antron (really creative showroom concept):

J&J Carpet (great bag and some fun cocktails)

Neutral Posture. Not only are they a PROUD woman owned business, they color matched their bags, shirts and even drinks:

End Break. Begin Night at the Museum.

End Night at the Museum. Begin Tuesday (Oh yes, I was already exhausted).

Spent some time @ Steelcase (sitting as you can see):

Then back to work!

So there you have it, a glimpse into my personal NeoCon Experience. Until next year… (thank goodness).

NeoCon 2011: Here we go AGAIN

It’s crazy to think that two years ago, during this very week, I lost my job as an interior designer. I went to NeoCon that week anway, due to a previous commitment to see Dane Cook (very important, I know). You can read all about my experience here: To be or not to be at NeoCon 2009.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with Neocon. It’s a blast. You get to see so many new and innovative products. The parties are killer, and the cocktails are free and abundant. There are lunches and dinners at fantastic Chicago restaurants, and late nights at Hang Ups. But it’s exhausting. You need to bring extra shoes, so your feet don’t give out on day one. People crowd the halls of the mart, so much so that you can hardly walk, and the line for the elevators is so long you usually end up climbing 11 flights of stairs out of desperation. By the end of two days I never want to see the mart again.

But, the next year roles around and I am just as excited to attend as the year prior.

Last year was the first time in six years that I did not attend. I was unemployed. I was unsure of my industry-to-be. I thought maybe I would never get to NeoCon again.

Well, it turns out I will be back! This year I am heading to NeoCon not just as an attendee, but as an exhibitor. This year I will be working in the Spacesaver showroom, explaining products, and giving away t-shirts (if you want one, click here). I have spent the last six months planning, promoting and stressing about the show.

New products, check.

New graphics, check.

Showroom painted, check.

Event planned, check.

In years past I have spent my time at NeoCon doing competitive research, attending events with reps, and usually partaking in some libations. This year I will be the one inviting and entertaining guests at our event. I will be capturing leads, I will be on the showroom floor standing in ONE PLACE most of the week. EEK.

Despite the changes, despite the stress around managing this show, I am thrilled to be back. NeoCon not only marks the two year anniversary of the biggest life changing event of my little life so far, but it marks my return to the industry! I’m back! I am working in a field where Neocon remains a part of my career. I am excited, and my love for NeoCon has returned.

If you’re curious about what I have been working on in preparation for the show, click here.

Guest Blog from Kristin Raymond

I’m sitting in a Starbucks, enjoying my free Earth Day coffee, trying to figure out how much financial aid I need to accept for fall semester so I can get a sizeable refund… enough to have some extra spending money to make ends meet.

I have been unemployed for a year and 5 months, give or take a week or two. My “job” has become looking for a job. Ironic, isn’t it? Days are spent researching the usual lists I keep tabs on for new postings, trying to be creative and thinking out of the box for non-traditional opportunities, editing my cover letter to fit the (very few) jobs I find to apply for, and emailing documents or packing up an envelope to mail off with fingers crossed.

The biggest hurdle I struggle with is in the application to jobs. I have both a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s, and am working on a certificate that I could leverage into a second Master’s if I choose in the future.  I have work experience, of all shapes and sizes, and for all intents and purposes, am more than qualified for every single position I apply for. Yet the rejection letters come flooding in, and the folder I keep is quickly becoming more no’s than yes’s or pending’s. Last letter I got said they had over 300 applicants and were interviewing 12. The letter promised that they reviewed my application with detail and were very sorry they couldn’t offer me a position but they’ll keep it on file for the next year. Just in case. The best part is the “Dear Applicant…” at the top of the letter. If you can’t even address a letter personally, how can I be sure that you really, truly reviewed my materials with any kind of consideration?

Of course I get the “just apply to wherever, I’m sure McDonald’s is hiring” response from just about everyone that already has a job and forgets what it’s like to devote so much time and energy to educating yourself, trying to be more competitive, only to be told you’re just not quite good enough. The trouble is, I’ve applied for the part-time jobs. I had a few interviews that I thought were “it”, that for once, things were going to work out. On the whole I don’t even get contacted because they see my education and work experience and I’m labeled a “flight risk”. They know they can hire someone for less pay that will stay longer and don’t even consider me. Ahh, the great Catch-22. Lie and don’t divulge my education and experience, but probably not be regarded as having marketable skills. Or tell the truth and not be considered because I’m over-qualified…?

To check out Kristin’s mad skills, check out her Linkedin profile here.

Inspiration Comes in Many Forms

I was catching up on my favorite blogs this morning, and ran across this great, inspirational post from unemployed brooklyn. Read and enjoy!

Sunday night, I saw something amazing happen. I watched someone I know win an Academy Award. I watched him accept his award in his usual, easy and funny way. I watched him tell his girlfriend she was his dream come true. I watched him become a trending topic on Twitter. I watched our mutual friends fill up his wall on Facebook and tease each other about who was and who wasn’t an extra in the film (your MatchGirl, gentle readers, *was* an extra). I whooped out loud when they called his name. I can’t explain the feeling of excitement when you watch someone’s dream come true. When it’s someone who you know.

Read the full post here.