Sunday, June 27, 2004

Boilerplate, Schmoilerplate

"Boilerplate" is that descriptive paragraph at the end of a press release that tells the reader "About the Company."

I've seen - and yes, I've been the criminally culpable writer of - boilerplates that were up to THREE PARAGRAPHS long. That's alotta jargon. From "J2EE" to "ASP", from "mission-critical, enterprise-grade" to that ol' stand-by of the mid-1990's, "paradigm shift". Yecch.

Look how some of the big boys do it:

About Oracle: Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) is the world's largest enterprise software company. For more information about Oracle, visit our Web site at http://www.oracle.com.

About Sun Microsystems: Since its inception in 1982, a singular vision -- "The Network Is The Computer" -- has propelled Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) to its position as a leading provider of industrial-strength hardware, software and services that make the Net work. Sun can be found in more than 100 countries and on the World Wide Web at http://sun.com

About Cisco Systems: Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), the worldwide leader in networking for the Internet, this year celebrates 20 years of commitment to technology innovation, industry leadership, and corporate social responsibility.

Lookee, lookee! - No more than a sentence or two, written in Plain English.

Granted, these are huge, brand name companies familiar to John Q. Public. Smaller companies like to argue that because they lack this level of recognition, a highly descriptive boilerplate ensures that the reader of the press release "gets it." Bah! I've worked in journalism, as have many SHIFT staffers. No one reads the boilerplate. The longer it is, the less likely it will be read. Short-n-sweet and Plain English, now THAT catches the eye.

By the way, it ain't easy to do. Distilling a company's products, market focus, benefits, etc. into a crisp sentence or two feels damn near impossible, actually. But it's mandatory in the long run, as the company grows bigger.

Why not start sooner? After all, if your company intends to dominate its space, shouldn't it start thinking and acting like the leader, today?

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