It’s essentially the written equivalent of your ‘elevator pitch’ – the one minute summary of your business that helps people understand what you do.
It lives on your website and the bottom of your press releases to provide an ‘at a glance’ explanation of what you do, who you do it for and how you do it.
Although it may seem obvious to you, anyone arriving at your website can easily see whether the service you provide is relevant to them or not.
For instance, imagine you run a website selling chocolate. It’s pretty obvious right?
But your product could be specifically for the corporate market, bulk orders in branded packaging. Or it could be an online membership service with a monthly selection box of luxury chocolates mailed out to individuals. OR it could be cheap and cheerful party bags full of foil wrapped chocolate gifts.
Having a ‘boiler plate’ description has a couple of benefits. You can help customers see if it’s right for them – the added bonus is that you avoid wasting time dealing with enquiries that simply aren’t relevant for you.
Why ‘boiler plate’?
According to Wikipedia, “Boiler plate” originally referred to the sheet steel used to make water boilers.
The analogy between the curved steel used to make water boilers and curved metal used to print prepared text was based both on the curved shape of the plate and on the fact that it had been prepared elsewhere before being incorporated into a downstream producer’s finished product.
In the field of printing, the term dates back to the early 1900s. From the 1890s onwards, printing plates of text for widespread reproduction such as advertisements or syndicated columns were cast or stamped in steel (instead of the much softer and less durable lead alloys used otherwise) ready for the printing press and distributed to newspapers around the United States. By analogy, they came to be known as ‘boilerplates’. One large supplier to newspapers of this kind of boilerplate was the Western Newspaper Union, which supplied “ready-to-print stories that contained national or international news” to papers with smaller geographic footprints, which could include advertisements pre-printed next to the conventional content.
Some companies also sent out press releases as boilerplate so that they had to be printed as written. The modern equivalent is the press release boilerplate, or “boiler,” a paragraph or two that describes the company and its products or services.