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The history of the boilerplate and 7 tips on how to write one

If you’ve never written a press release, much less read one, you might not know what a boilerplate is. So let’s take a look at the history, form and function of the boilerplate.

A Little History

In the mid-1800s, “boilerplates” were steel plates used to make steam boilers for ships. Fifty years later, the newspaper industry adopted the word, and its connotation of sturdiness and reusability, to refer to “a unit of writing that can be used over and over without change.”*

The Modern-day Boilerplate

Today, a boilerplate, in reference to news releases, is the last section of the release where you include general company information.  This chunk of text is usually reused for each news release and across other marketing channels so that messaging is consistent despite the type of communication that is being distributed. 

An example of a company boilerplate [1]:


Write Your Own Boilerplate

To see more examples of company boilerplates, visit the Marketwire website [3] and click on any of the recent press releases that were being distributed. If your company does not have a boilerplate in place, here are seven tips to help you write one:

  1. Keep the boilerplate to one to two paragraphs max, to make it concise and easily scannable.  Remember, you are able to tell folks much more about your company on an “About Us” corporate web page.
  2. Stick to verifiable facts.  Do not make any claims or insert any opinions in your boilerplate. Standard factoids might include: the date the company was founded, office locations, public or private status, etc.  Avoid statements that are open to interpretation.
  3. Include a link to your company website.  If you’re submitting a press release, there is a high probability that you have used an anchor text to boost your SEO campaign.  It’s a good idea to insert a full hyperlink to your company website.
  4. Consider a positioning statement or an added value statement.  In addition to the usual company facts, including a compelling fact about your organization attracts readers to a section of your press release that is often overlooked.  For example, if you’re a nonprofit organization, include interesting stats on research, volunteer participation, fund-raising or event attendance.  Reporters and media can take these stats and promote your news release even more.
  5. Avoid industry jargon.  Just as we recommend avoiding industry jargon in your press release, avoid it in the boilerplate as well.
  6. Use relevant keywords.  SEO still matters, whether it’s the first 150 words of a press release or the last 50. Be sure to insert the right keywords so that the boilerplate continues to flow.
  7. Keep it up to date.  Once in a while, re-read your boilerplate to make sure it’s accurate and, if it’s not, revise it so that it remains current and factual.

Do you have any additional tips on perfecting a company boilerplate?  Please comment below or Tweet [4] or Facebook [5] me.  Also, feel free to copy and paste your boilerplate (or link your press release) for others to comment and make suggestions.

*Source: Online Etymology Dictionary [6]

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