You wouldn’t order a sundae without a cherry on top, wrap up a present without a ribbon or bake a cake without frosting, would you? Final touches make all the difference, especially when it comes to press releases.
In a world where clients issue press releases more than Taylor Swift releases songs about failing relationships – I was rooting for you, Calvin – PR pros need to keep in mind one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of these announcements: boilerplates.
PRSA Boston’s Writing Seminar I recently attended was a friendly reminder about the do’s and don’ts of writing press releases, including that powerful little blurb at the end. But just how powerful is the boilerplate these days? Should companies be putting more or less effort into these? Are they still the most important paragraph you’ll ever write in your PR career?
Where it’s been
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and of course, the boilerplate. The word boilerplate was invented back in the 1800s when Napoleon Bonaparte impressively reigned/failed to conquer Europe. Manufacturers of steam boilers attached a metal plate on their boilers in trademark fashion so people would know who made the boiler and where it was made. Around the same time, newspapers also coined the term boilerplates, even though they were technically printing plates. They used them for company descriptions they covered regularly to save time and easily accompany each story. The term gradually transitioned from newspapers to public relations and voilà, we have our final paragraph of a press release.
Where it is
Clients come to us asking for another set of eyes to look over their boilerplate, and for good reason. We recently caught up with Business Wire for an update on press release best practices and learned the average amount of releases companies send each day is about 1300. With that volume trickling out to press, releases need to be the cream of the crop – including boilerplates.
Just like press releases, boilerplates need to be thoughtfully written without any spelling errors. Small but embarrassing grammatical mistakes in a boilerplate can cause people and reporters to question the credibility of the company itself, including awards and prestigious honors the company has earned. As the standard “About us” company description, journalists often turn to boilerplates for a quick wrap-up about what the company does, who it serves and the values it embraces. Linked URLs to company websites are often included, but what about social media profiles that give journalists a visual snapshot of what companies are doing in non-jargon terms?
Where it’s going
Given today’s digital world where attention spans are limited and news is distributed like never before, more and more people are accessing their news via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. According to Business Wire, most people are receiving news early in the day through social media sites such as Facebook, rather than turning to original newspapers for their source.
When it comes to pitching reporters, it’s also more efficient and easier on the eyes to link to your client’s website and/or social media accounts in the middle of a pitch than attach the company’s lengthy boilerplate, especially from a thought leadership perspective. We’re starting to see more clients ease up on boilerplate language and include their social media channels for a more concise, visually pleasing source of information.
This way, journalists are encouraged to interact with more links and prompted to follow clients on social media for more details. With social media participation from journalists up by 34 percent from 2013, the best way for clients to get in front of reporters and the audience they want is to push social engagement.
Will ‘additional resources’ soon replace content within a boilerplate? Will Taylor Swift ever rekindle the flame with Joe Jonas/Taylor Lautner/John Mayer/Harry Styles/Calvin Harris/Tom Hiddleston? Stay tuned.