All new technologies, it seems, exist as toys for the corporate communicator, and I've definitely seen some brands and companies use these elements to their greatest potential. But these elements are most irrelevant if the Web site's core item is blundered. Of course, I speak of the boilerplate: the wordy, superlative block of text that takes four sentences to not only fail to disclose an entity's core mission and reason for being, but actually causes confusion for any reader subjected to its opacity.
Here is one that tripped me up recently (I'll redact the name, but you can look it up if you'd like):
“REDACTED helps businesses achieve a competitive advantage by delivering timely and actionable sales opportunities and information. More than 8,100 subscribers across the [US] rely on REDACTED as a comprehensive resource for industry-specific information needed to make intelligent sales decisions. REDACTED offers unparalleled coverage of government purchasing activity in addition to commercial and residential projects in development for markets such as architecture and engineering, IT/telecom, business consulting services, operations and maintenance, and transportation.”
If this is crystal clear to the average human, then companies must realize that journalists – or only me – must be less intelligent, and change wording accordingly. I'm sure a journalist who covers this company's sector grasps that description perfectly, but all organizations must accept that uninformed parties (non-industry journalists and other assorted humans) will come across their sites and boilerplates. Unless you're engaged in stealth mode, there is no reason to confuse people about your business. Here's how the boilerplate can be improved.
• Variable descriptions. Use the unfettered real estate on the Web by explaining your company differently to different parties. Offer the above to knowledgeable readers and a layman explanation to neophyte visitors.
• A cursory descriptor. Journalists often don't have time to distill the whole description into the three-word phrase that will precede the company's name. You can keep the paragraph – just give those on the go the three-word key they need for their story. Have fun with it. “In other words, we're a database management company.”
• Newfangled technology. If your company's mission statement is too complex to distill into a paragraph or the written word, why not use video, audio, or a presentation to get the point across? With a static paragraph, the reader only has one shot to “get” the company. A/V boilerplates can describe the company in many ways.
The boilerplate is the foundation to any Web site. Construct it poorly, and the rest won't matter.
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