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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Press Release Boilerplate

This is my first marketing-oriented post, but I think it's a pretty good example of how important cutting principles can be in my day-to-day work.

Press release text is notoriously dull. Cutting excess or redundant verbiage can help.

Here's a boilerplate -- the stuff about the company that ends every press release -- suggested for my company's releases. It's 218 words.

Information Builders, an innovator for more than 30 years, provides a unique combination of software solutions for business intelligence and enterprise integration. WebFOCUS, the world's most widely deployed and utilized business intelligence platform, provides organizations with a comprehensive and fully integrated platform whose architecture, integration, and simplicity permeate every level of the global organization -- executive, analytical, and operational. WebFOCUS is the most scalable, secure, and flexible solution in the market and helps organizations build applications that have no barriers, meeting all the reporting needs of the extended enterprise, ranging from a dozen users to millions of users. iWay Software is the company's multi-purpose integration software, comprised of the industry's leading adapters and state-of-the-art engines for integrating and managing all enterprise information assets. iWay Software addresses all SOA, application, data, and information management integration requirements and has been adopted by the leading software platform providers. Together, these products give Information Builders' customers the ability to access information from any data source and uniquely solve complex problems for today’s real-time business.

Information Builders' award-winning technology has successfully provided quality software and superior services to more than 12,000 customers, including most of the Fortune 100 and U.S. federal government agencies. Headquartered in New York City with 90 offices worldwide, the company employs 1,600 people and has more than 350 business partners.
There are several things to notice here.

Redundant words. We used "platform" twice here: "WebFOCUS, the world's most widely deployed and utilized business intelligence platform, provides organizations with a comprehensive and fully integrated platform..." And "ranging from a dozen users to millions of users" is a little clunky; there's no reason we can't say "dozens to millions of users." "iWay Software is the company's multi-purpose integration software," also sounds a little off, since "iWay Software" is actually the name of a subsidiary company (although it's sometimes, confusingly, used to refer to the software itself).

Too many adjectives. There's little benefit to saying that WebFOCUS is the world's most widely deployed and most widely utilized BI platform. Now, unlike some forms of writing, in marketing conciseness isn't everything. You really do want to say a lot of those positive words, even though they're somewhat redundant, because the text looks bald without them. But where there are opportunities to pull things out, you should.

Cramming. There are a lot of things we want to convey quickly here, but unfortunately the sentence structure can become too convoluted to handle the semantic load. "Scalable, secure, flexible," "executive, analytical, and operational", and a few specific highlights for our company: "simple" and "no barriers" are ideas in this boilerplate. I tried to make the sentence structure cleaner, even though it meant breaking up the sentences somewhat.

Notice the structure of the boilerplate:
  • We're an innovator of software solutions that involve BI and integration.
  • WebFOCUS is the BI product, with the following characteristics.
  • iWay Software is the integration product, with the following characteristics.
  • We have lots of customers and credibility.
It's a decent structure, so I kept it and reshaped the text inside it. Note, however, is that the first and fourth bullets are about the company rather than the products; it's reasonable to move text between those two to emphasize key points.

Here are some of the ways I changed the text.
  • I wanted the reader to see "award-winning", the number of customers we have, and our longevity early on. My company is privately held and doesn't do a lot of awareness marketing (e.g., advertising), so people might not know who we are. These three facts prove that we're no fly-by-night.
  • I thought that calling us an "innovator" wasn't strong enough: an innovator of what? I wanted to say what we do first (BI and integration software), and then differentiate us from all the other people who do the same thing. Well, the combination of world-class BI and world-class integration is unique in this market, and we're well-known for both, so I highlighted the combination.
  • We've been pushing how innovative we are, so I wanted to keep the word in the boilerplate. "Innovative solutions" isn't much stronger than "innovator", to be honest, but it has the merit of pointing out that we provide customized solutions rather than just shrink-wrapped software. I acknowledge that we're bordering on the subliminal, but I guarantee you that, if nothing else, the phrase will help get the darned thing approved.
  • I cut a few things. (Remember cutting? It's a blog about cutting.) The "global organizations" we refer to are also the "extended enterprises" we support, so I refer once to "global extended enterprises". I omitted the word "architecture" because the architecture is what provides the security, scalability, and flexibility that our users need; in other words, I followed the conventional marketing wisdom that the benefit is more important than the feature that gives it. (If there's one cut that our Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) will want to put back in, though, it's probably "architecture". Our architecture really is superior, and we compete based on it all the time.) I cut the "for integrating and managing all enterprise information assets" from the iWay Software description because that's encompassed by "addresses all SOA, application, data, and information management integration requirements".
  • The last paragraph is a little messy. It has "successfully provided quality software" is either redundant or pedantic. The subject of the first sentence is "technology", and it has apparently "provided quality software and superior services" -- but really it's the company that provides software and services. (Plus the parallel structure of "quality software and superior services" got to be a little much for me.) Restructuring and cutting helps.
  • Instead of paraphrasing our "No Barriers" slogan, I stated it, taking it on as a rallying cry or an elliptical mission statement -- and in the process added to it, as my CMO and I have been discussing for a little while. It's "Your business, no barriers" now.

Here's the final version, which clocks in at 154 words, a 29% cut.

Information Builders' award-winning combination of business intelligence and enterprise integration software has been providing innovative solutions for more than 12,000 customers for the past 30 years.

WebFOCUS is the world's most widely utilized business intelligence platform. It provides the security, scalability, and flexibility needed at every level of global extended enterprises. Its simplicity helps create executive, analytical, and operational applications that reach dozens to millions of users.

Information Builders subsidiary iWay Software provides state-of-the-art, multi-purpose integration engines that address all SOA, application, data, and information management requirements. Its integration adapters have been adopted by the leading software platform providers.

Together, these products give Information Builders' customers the ability to live up to the company motto: "Your Business, No Barriers."

Information Builders' customers include most of the Fortune 100 and U.S. federal government agencies. Headquartered in New York City with 90 offices worldwide, the company employs 1,600 people and has more than 350 business partners.
There are other temptations, too. For example, the "has been providing" in the first sentence screams for a re-write: it could be "Information Builders' award-winning combination of business intelligence and enterprise integration software has delivered innovative solutions to more than 12,000 customers for the past 30 years." I honestly like that better except that it feels over, like this track record has been completed. "Has been providing" is less definite, and thus -- unusually -- better. But I think this is good enough.

Happy writing!

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