PR Training

Three Tips for Writing a Better Boilerplate

A boilerplate is the short “about us” paragraph at the end of each news release that describes your organization. So what goes into a good boilerplate? Make it interesting. Keep it short. Stick to the 5Ws (who, what, where, when, why).

Join Ann Wylie for “Anatomy of a 2.0 Release” on June 28, 3–4 p.m. EDT, and find out how to take advantage of online distribution to get your release posted on portals, help Google find your site, and reach customers, clients and other stakeholders online. This public relations writing training sesssion is free to PRSA members.
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Boilerplates:  We can’t live with ’em; we can’t get a decent one through the approval process.

A boilerplate is the short “about us” paragraph at the end of each news release that describes your organization.

The boilerplate’s ubiquity makes it important.  An organization uses the copy over and over again. Depending on the scope and reach of your media relations efforts, reporters and editors might publish your boilerplate thousands of times, exposing it to thousands of consumers.

So what goes into a good boilerplate? To decide, think like your reader.

Focus on the 5 Ws

For the most part, you’ll want to stick to the 5 Ws.  You might want to include:

  • WHOM you help. Do you help investors? Cancer patients? Start with them, not with the company.
  • WHAT you make or do. AllianceBernstein, for instance, says that it provides “investment vehicles including mutual funds, college savings (529) plans, retirement products and separately managed accounts.”  Drop the “innovative solutions in a diverse line of products and services” and get right to the main point.
  • WHERE you’re located. City and state.  Don’t forget to include where readers can find you online.  Add your URL and boost your Google optimization by creating inbound links to your website.
  • WHEN you were founded, if notable. American Express, for instance, says that the company started in 1850. Wylie Communications, on the other hand, doesn’t mention that it began in 1996.
  • WHY you’re an industry leader. Don’t just call yourself a leader. Deliver a compelling proof point.

For example, Rosetta Stone’s boilerplate says, “Teaching 29 languages to millions of people in over 150 countries…”

You might also include your stock ticker symbol, if applicable, and your size in annual revenues; assets under management; number of employees, clients, members, outlets or products sold.

Leave out vapid marketing slogans and bloated adjectives.

Make it interesting

Use creative techniques that reflect your company’s culture in your boilerplate.  Try approaches such as:

  • Storytelling:  “Founded in a garage in 1938…”
  • Wordplay: “Organizations like NASA, Nike and Nokia turn to us…”
  • Startling statistics:  TELLABS notes that “43 of the top 50 global communications service providers choose our… solutions.”

Keep it short

Get to the point quickly. I’ve seen boilerplates go on for as long as 400 words.  That’s too long for the average news release.

Keep your boilerplate to 100 words or less. Even better: Keep it under 50 words.

Copyright © 2012 Ann Wylie. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Public Relations Tactics.

Ann Wylie, president of Wylie Communications, serves as a PRSA writing trainer and presents writing workshops throughout the country. She is the author of more than a dozen learning tools, including “Writing for Social Media” and “Writing That Sells.”.

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Ann Wylie

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