A boilerplate is probably the most important piece of text you’ve never heard of. Of all your company communications, your boilerplate will receive the most comprehensive coverage, being read by journalists, investors, employees and clients alike. And yet, it’s just one paragraph long. As the single piece of text defining your company’s existence, you’d better get it right first time. Here’s everything you need to know.
A boilerplate is a single paragraph which sums up your entire company – who you are, what you do and why you exist. It’s essentially a condensed version of the ‘About Us’ section of a website, and is used regularly in journalism, marketing and recruitment to briefly describe your company. It’s a pretty versatile little piece of text, used in everything from press releases and case studies to white papers, conference programs and sales sheets.
The name has been lifted from the steel plate used to make ships in the 19th century. As an especially durable and recyclable material, the term leant itself neatly to describing a section of text used repeatedly and without change in media. And it pretty much sums it up: your boilerplate is a standardized text that’s used continually without change.
Sounds innocuous, but boilerplate copy is deceptively important. Get it right and your brand message will be consistent across all marketing; get it wrong and you’ll put of potential investors and media interest immediately. It also a pretty hand time-saver, as it can simply be copied and pasted whenever you need to describe your company.
To be effective, a good company boilerplate needs to include the basic facts of your business as well as a strong positioning statement. The facts are simple, and might include where your company is based, when you were founded, what services or products you produce, the size of your customer based, whether you’re public or private, the size of your workforce, and how quickly you’ve grown.
The positioning statement, however, has to weather the changing direction of your business. It’s the single piece of copy that will be used again and again to describe why your compant exists in the first place. Take this chance to show why you’re compelling. What drives you? What are you aiming to achieve? What makes you special? Why should people care? You want to come across as inspiring and impressive without leaning on tired superlatives or hyperbole!
An effective boilerplate usually contains these key components:
Be strict from the outset – set yourself a 100 word limit for your boilerplate. It’s all about keeping your reader’s attention and cutting out unnecessary information. Only include essential details – start off by explaining briefly what your company does and who your services are for. Eliminate jargon – write succinctly and factually, avoiding technical details that will go over most people’s heads without going too far the other way and sounding vague or generic. Include your company tagline, if you have one.
Speak in your brand tone of voice and include any facts that give you an edge over your rivals (e.g. if you’re the market leader, if you were the first to provide a particular service). Always make sure your copy fits within its host context: if it’s included at the bottom of a press release, make sure it’s not just mindlessly regurgitating the text above it; if it’s being used in a job ad, make sure it provides a meaningful overview of the company.
Remember: while boilerplate text is standardized and meant to remain unchanging, it should always contain the most important information for your business. If you’ve just won an notable award, or closed a crucial round of investment, update it. While your defining goals should remain consistent, hopefully your achievements will continue to grow!