Boilerplates From Hell

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on January 17, 2009

I am constantly writing or editing or managing press releases. And the sad thing about writing press releases is that the reason you are doing this – informing “the press” of something you feel is newsworthy is the thing you spend the least amount of time on.

Hours and days and emails and phone calls and an insane amount of angst is spent on things that either are secondary to the actual news (and I say that because I’m kind) or very minor details or entirely pointless because they will never show up anywhere than in the wholesale reprinting of the entire press release. And that usually only happens on the website for the people that put out the press release in the first place.

So it’s like putting on a play in your own living room for yourself. Then you oftentimes have to figure out a way to include a quote from someone just so they can “come to the press release party” and then justify it by weaving in some points you had hoped to make in the first place. So you write something and send it to them (because rarely can they write their own quote), basically saying, “This is what you (pretend) said.” And then they change it to something that really has little constructive use whatsoever. But they think it sounds great. Or they have a PR person that needs to balance their scouting of Overstock.com that day so they change it. So you offer up another way for them to say what you need them to say in a way that sounds like they would have said it out loud without you broadcasting it directly into their ear ala Holly Hunter to William Hurt. I was struck by this recently as I worked with that rare person that took great pains to craft their quote for the reading enjoyment of someone other than their immediate family.

But the best part is the boilerplates. A boilerplate is a tasty little paragraph or paragraphs at the end of the press release that gives you the basic “need-to-know” info about the organizations involved and the companies sponsoring the organization or event.

If I had a boilerplate, it would look like this:

About John Wildman
John Wildman is a publicist, writer, filmmaker and unlimited arc softball pitcher who writes blogs giving insight into his experiences doing entertainment PR and whatever the hell else strikes him at the moment. Wildman is dedicated to publicizing the work of the filmmakers at his film festivals, finding the funny and the scary in the unlikeliest of places and consuming enough chocolate chip cookies to give a person toxic sugar shock. Wildman’s blog is read by more than 7 people worldwide. For additional self serving background info, please visit his Facebook or My Space sites and just make sure you don’t confuse him with the Canadian actor with the same name.

What’s wonderful about these (and when I say wonderful, I mean something so far from wonderful that if you sent a postcard from wonderful to that place where it actually is – it would take weeks to get there)… Anyway, what’s wonderful about boilerplates is that the organizations, companies, sponsors, etc. twist and turn and stress over every single word in them – yet no one ever reads them. No one. No one cares. Except maybe the company’s grandma – who will read every word. Because, you know – she’s so proud.

Why?

Because it’s not part of the news.

But God forbid an older version goes out with your press release because it can be very upsetting. To someone. Somewhere. I mean it can be damaging to a company. Seriously. Damaged. Beyond repair. It’s usually irreparable. The uhmm…damage. In fact, it is entirely possible that the financial crisis was set off by an errant boilerplate from some rogue press release. And it could easily have been a line in Iraq’s boilerplate that said the country housed WMDs that started the war we’re in. Could’ve happened.

I would check Iraq’s website.

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