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Boilerplate Language: The Bane of a News Release

by Wayne Travers

We’ve all seen phrases like “the leading agency and digital media network dedicated to (blank),” “(Blank) is pleased to announce…,” “the pioneering leader in global (blank),” and “a leading financial news and information portal for (blank).” But in a news release meant to capture the media’s fleeting attention, one of these phrases may have the opposite effect. 

This tired prose is called “boilerplate” language, which Merriam-Webster defines as “standardized text” and “formulaic and hackneyed language” and many companies use it in a news release’s opening paragraph. In a media environment where many journalists get more than 100 releases in a week and spend less than one minute reading the emails they actually do open, this can spell disaster.

In a Forbes column written several years ago but still relevant today, PR pro Robert Wynne shares journalists’ insights on the news releases they get and it’s not overwhelmingly positive. These responses are worth reading, especially those from Mashable Tech Writer Samantha Murphy Kelly, who observed that much of the news release language she encounters “is very dense and tedious to get through” and admits she “sometimes read(s) an entire press release and can't pull out the key takeaway.”

The goal of sending a news release is to secure media coverage, and Wynne’s column offers some useful tips for creating one that captures a harried journalist’s attention: “Write a great headline, avoid useless acronyms, keep the bragging to a minimum, and most importantly, start with the most important story angle.”

Add to the list the advice from Yahoo! Finance Columnist Rick Newman, who told Wynne a good news release should “Get to the point right away and let me know what it is in the subject line.”

 

Wayne Travers Jr., an account director at KNB Communications, is a former business reporter who covered the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.