What’s on your plate? Using boilerplates to tell your story
Published on August 2nd, 2012 by Renee Sylvestre-Williams
Ask anyone what makes for a good press release, and the likely first answer is, “a catchy headline.” After all, an engaging headline is what captures people’s interest and makes them want to read a presser in the first place. Headlines are important. However, a slick headline isn’t the only ingredient needed to create a compelling release. It’s not enough to start strong; a release also has to finish strong. Which is why every release needs a clear, simple and informative boilerplate.
One of the last items in a release, the boilerplate (or ‘boiler’) is a standard chunk of text, usually a paragraph that briefly describes who a business is and what it does. It’s a designated space where readers get a chance to learn more about the company issuing the release. At its core, the boiler seeks to capture the essence of a business by describing how its products and services help solve real-world challenges.
At first, ‘boilerplate’ may seem like an odd name for such an integral part of a press release. That’s because the term originated in an entirely different industry. ‘Boilerplate’ was first used more than 100 years ago to describe the thick iron sheets used to create steam boilers. As the years passed and technological advances in the printing press were made, ‘boilerplate’ jumped industries and found its way into the lexicon of media pros to symbolize any piece of copy that can be used with little or no changes in a variety of corporate materials, namely the “About Us” section of press releases.
Separate from the iron sheets used in making steam boilers, the name plate affixed to a newly minted boiler is also called a ‘boilerplate.’ Listed on the boilerplate is basic information about the unit, such as who built the boiler, when and where it was built, and its ID number.
Using the boiler name plate as a guide, a presser boiler should be simple and direct, supplying readers with the most relevant details. For example, the boilerplate on a steam boiler only lists the most important information. There is no room for superfluous minutiae. It’s short, straightforward and simple. In corporate releases, this commitment to simplicity is what separates a clear, effective boilerplate from one that’s muddled and hard-to-follow. This scalpel-like approach is what allows a boiler to be both informative and descriptive while staying relatively close to the 100-word range.
An effective boiler is concise and easy to follow, striking the right balance between providing enough details to make it informative, but not so much that it overwhelms. The goal is to focus on key company facts while highlighting the problem-solving orientation of the business and its products. This information should be easy for readers to locate. Don’t make readers work hard to find the information they want. Boilers should inform, not frustrate. After all, everyone likes a good ending.