Dress from the feet up: Why boilerplates are important and what elements to include in them

Photo by Camila Damásio on Unsplash

A killer headline? Check.

A newsworthy, logically crafted, grammar-free main body? Check.

So now, what’s missing? Right, the company boilerplate.

The inverted pyramid is the most effective and preferred structure in PR writing — so we are told. It might leave people with an impression that what is placed at the bottom of a press release is the most trivial. They might even want to do away with boilerplates entirely as most people believe shorter content is better content due to supposedly being easier to understand and convenient to share with friends on social media. That is too much of a generalization — just because a company boilerplate is put at the very end of the release doesn’t mean its importance should be underestimated.

Even household names like Apple and Unilever make sure to include their company boilerplates in press releases they send out. This isn’t just because boilerplates are a big part of press release writing 101; it is because boilerplates are important when it comes to providing essential information about a company to readers of interest. The people who read all the way down to reach the end of the press release are most likely very interested in your business and what you have to say, so why don’t you seize this chance to inform and impress them via a well-written boilerplate?

Here are a few ideas for you when you are crafting a boilerplate for your company:

  • Who you are and what you do
    This should be the aim of your boilerplate and tells the readers how the company views itself. If your core businesses/ brands are well-known, you may want to include information about peripheral businesses that are lesser known to show the true scope of your business. This does not only show you are an expert in a certain business but also paints a picture of a comprehensive, accomplished company whose reach is far extending.
  • History/ background/ belief/ vision of the company
    The most straight-forward and probably easiest way to show a company’s long-standing history is to include the establishment year, to put it in context, do not hesitate to complement it with a short description of how the company was inspired to come into existence. This could be followed by a statement regarding the values/vision of the company. In a world where businesses no longer only care about maximizing profits, the key to creating customer loyalty is showcasing your common beliefs.
    The same goes for start-up While history and heritage might be an advantage, don’t hesitate to reveal your start-up status as it could stand for the potential, innovation, flexibility your company represents, qualities not possessed by some long-established corporations.
  • Awards/ statistics — what makes you, an industry leader, proud?
    Numbers speak for themselves. Accomplishments are often included in the boilerplate to demonstrate the success and influence of a company. Major industry awards can be added to prove the company’s recognized leading position in a more objective light (in contrast to calling oneself the market leader like telling a tale which starts with “Once upon a time…” — words we know too well that no longer sound particularly meaningful).
  • Clientele/ big wins
    If you have a portfolio of clients whose names and scale are impressive, consider adding it to the boilerplate, as it adds to your trustworthiness and reputation. Big companies choose to use your products/ services for a reason, don’t they?

All-in-all, a boilerplate should be:

  • Think crafting a boilerplate is once-and-for-all? Not quite true, especially when there are numbers cited in it. Make sure the numbers are reviewed and updated on a regular basis and after major business moves, e.g. rebranding/ acquisitions.
  • Free from jargon. Jargon may confuse readers who do not have privileged industry knowledge and were just hoping to find out more about you.
  • Not too lengthy. Keep the boilerplate to 1-2 paragraphs. Encourage readers to explore more on your official websites, which leads us to the next point…
  • Include company links. Links drive traffic to your sites, where you can post the most up-to-date and accurate information about your company.

Let’s have a look at how Unilever does it all:

About Unilever United States, Inc.

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Food, Home Care, Personal Care and Refreshment products with sales in over 190 countries and reaching 2.5 billion consumers a day. In the United States and Canada, the portfolio includes brand icons such as: Axe, Becel, Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Caress, Clear Scalp & Hair Therapy, Country Crock, Degree, Dove, Fruttare, Good Humor, Hellmann’s, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, Klondike, Knorr, Lever 2000, Lipton, Magnum, Nexxus, Noxzema, Pond’s, Popsicle®, Promise, Q-tips, Simple, St. Ives, Suave, Talenti Gelato & Sorbetto, TIGI, TRESemmé and Vaseline. All of the preceding brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of the Unilever Group of Companies.

Unilever employs more than 9,000 people across North America – generating more than $10 billion in sales in 2016.

The Unilever Sustainable Living Plan commits to:

  • Helping more than a billion people take action to improve their health and well-being by 2020.
  • Halving the environmental impact of our products by 2030.
  • Enhancing the livelihoods of millions of people by 2020.

Unilever ranked number one in its sector on the 2016 Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

For more information on Unilever U.S. and its brands visit: www.unileverusa.com
For more information on Unilever Canada and its brands visit:
www.unilever.ca
To connect with Unilever U.S. via Facebook visit:
www.facebook.com/unileverusa
To connect with Unilever U.S. via Twitter follow: @unileverusa
To connect with Unilever Canada via Twitter follow: @unilever_Canada

In this 200-word boilerplate, Unilever firstly defines itself as a “leading supplier of food, home care, personal care and refreshment products”. The boilerplate continues by listing all the brands which are owned by Unilever and also impress readers by citing numbers that have great significance, e.g. market reach, number of employees and annual sales. Unilever also included a description on its Sustainable Living Plan to illustrate its vision to grow their business without compromising on environmental sustainability. To demonstrate Unilever’s leading position in the industry, the boilerplate ended with a mention that Unilever was ranked number one in its sector on the 2016 Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Links to Unilever’s websites and social media sites are also provided to allow readers to find out more about the company.

An outfit is not complete when you do not match it to a pair of shoes. Some of us hope that a good pair of shoes might spice up the look; more often than not we fear “bad ones” will ruin the entire outfit. The same holds true when it comes to writing company boilerplates. A crucial but often-overlooked part of a press release, boilerplates do not receive the amount of attention they deserve because we invest enormous efforts in crafting the “perfect” press release, focusing mostly on the headline and the main body. True that not every boilerplate will make your release “pop”, but a meticulously crafted one will certainly leave readers with a good impression, not purely because of the good writing, but also because you don’t miss the point – “the devil is in the detail.

By Abby Tsang, Supervisor (Editorial) of PR Newswire.

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