The Professional Biography – a great way to promote yourself

Posted: August 9, 2013 in Words and communications, Writing advice
Tags: , , , ,

Effective self-promotion is an important element to advancing a career or marketing a business. To get noticed and build a reputation, you have to be able to clearly tell others what you do. The professional biography (bio) provides you with the opportunity to say something about yourself and present your expertise and experience in a carefully thought out, interesting manner. A bio highlights your career accomplishments, your mission, your goals. Writing one is simple but requires some thought and planning.

Think of a professional bio like the blurbs that appear on the back inside flap of a book jacket. It tells a concise story that portrays who you are and what you’ve accomplished. You structure your bio by starting with an overview statement, which provides a big-picture summary of your unique combination of skills and experience. Then you furnish the most pertinent facts that round out the picture. As a business marketing tool, the bio not only offers a story that makes clear your qualifications, but also is consistent with the way you position your products or services. 

Your bio is not a single static document. You need variations that are tailored to each PR situation, with contents projecting whatever image is appropriate. You will need 3 basic ones of different lengths: A long full version of your professional background from which you can cut information, a short one for the “100 words or less” requirement, and a 2 – 3 paragraph one where you specifically tell who you are but expanding on your background. 

Bios should be interesting to read. Make yourself sound like a “mensch”, someone the reader would like to meet (or hire). Don’t lie, but make it zingy. Use “action” words. They make you look like a “doer”. Also create a list of “keywords” that describe yourself, your industry, your skills, and your career. These are important for online “profiles” where you will want to include these words (rather than just the usual ones) so that you are picked up by the search engines.

Leave out the fluff i.e. you have a golden retriever named Sam (unless you are aiming this piece at a dog breeder), or saying something cute about your profession. However, do brag! Use superlatives. Mention the book or booklet you published, the articles you’ve written (even if they were only published in the in-house newsletter). Highlight a major accomplishment or award won (there are no such things as “small” awards!) Never say anything negative about yourself! Failures, self-flagellation, regrets, have no place in a bio.

If you mention your high school or College (have a reason, because the reference enhances something in the present) say something great about it! Why else would you be talking about it? List professional organizations only because they support the image you wish to project. Laundry lists of ANYTHING in a bio turns readers off! 

Depending upon the audience and the image you want to project, you will need to decide whether to write it in a formal voice, or take a more personal tone. A formal biography is written in the 3rd person (these are the ones we read most often especially in press releases)

“Jane Smith is a native of … and graduated from…..”

A bio written in a personal tone is written in the first person and has a more “chatty” voice to it:
“I live and work in…received a BA from…” (this one appears in artist statements, press releases that deal with emotional subject matter, and sometimes on websites)

Lastly, engage a friend, and also a professional acquaintance to give you feedback on both your short version and longer one. Ask them what impression they get about you, your career, your business after reading them.

Once you have your basic ones written, create variations and have them on hand so you can dash one out quickly.

Writing a biography to market yourself is not like writing one as a book. Your professional bio must be short, to the point. The bio is a great way to promote yourself and should be an important part of your marketing/sales arsenal.

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