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How to build a great bio

Your bio is the cornerstone of your personal brand

“I used to walk down the street like I was a superstar … I want people to walk around delusional about how great they can be – and then to fight so hard for it every day that the lie becomes truth.” Lady Gaga

Knowing where to start when building our personal brand can seem a little overwhelming – particularly if its something we’ve ignored for our career so far.

Start with some simple quick steps – get some quick wins. Even if you go no further, you will be miles ahead of where you started and you will begin to reap the business benefits.

One of the most simple steps you can take in growing your personal brand is to write (or re-write) your professional bio.

What's a bio?

Your personal bio is a summary of your professional past with a glimpse of your future. It’s about capturing the essence of who you are in the workplace and how you want to be perceived. It’s not simply your resume, or a long list of your achievements.

Typically, a bio is about 4 - 5 paragraphs long. Any longer and you risk losing your reader.

To write it well, you need to let go of how you are perceived currently or what your job title is and open up to future possibilities. Don’t be limited purely by your formal employment experience – every thing we do contributes to who we are professionally, even work experience and hobbies. And if you do identify gaps when putting together your bio, note these and make a conscious effort to gain that experience in the near future even if it means contributing our time or volunteering.

A former boss used to make his team re-write their CV the way they wanted it to look in five years time to stretch their vision of what’s possible and accelerate their progress towards it. It worked. Many of us feel trapped within the perceived limitations of current market opportunities and our current experience. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine where all of that could lead. (Of course, some people are light years ahead of themselves – they have little difficulty thinking big, but tempering that with the credible foundation of their current experience is important. And, once again, a personal bio can help with this.)

In summary, a great bio fuses together your current career status, weaves in elements from your past experience, including highlights of your personal passions or interests and introduces your future focus.

It helps if you’ve identified your ‘signature topic’ or theme (see my other post on this). This can be woven through your bio to reinforce your positioning in that specific area. For those still working that out, take heart. Writing or re-writing a bio is a great way to find that elusive thread or theme you may be searching for. And it can remain a work in progress as your personal identity evolves.

Pull out your current bio or your CV and current job description – anything you have that represents what you do and what you have done in the past. This will form the base content for your new bio.

The first sentence of your bio is the most important. If people read no further, they should have a clear sense of who you are and why they would contact you. This should be both concrete and aspirational. As an example: I am a businessperson who is transitioning into a more creative role as a writer and presenter. Where my previous opening sentence might have read:

Fleur Brown is a PR professional and founder and CEO of the Launch Group.

As I’ve shift some of my interests towards working in the area of personal brand, I could say something more along the lines of:

Fleur Brown is a creative entrepreneur and author, specialising in personal branding.

Here are a few descriptive words you might like to consider when identifying how you characterise yourself in that first sentence. Don’t limit yourself to one word, choose several as appropriate.

Power positioning

Own a business? Entrepreneur (or couple it with the industry for example: media entrepreneur, creative entrepreneur, real estate entrepreneur etc)

Started a company? Founder or co-Founder

Have started multiple companies? Serial Entrepreneur

Sit on a board(s)? Board Director or Company Director

Run / manage a company? Use your title: CEO, MD etc

Own a company or companies? Businessman, Business owner

Senior manager? Executive or ‘Head of …”

Early stages of career? Professional “xyz” (name whatever the area is)

Artistic pursuits? Creative, Artist (creative entrepreneur?)

Published? Author (best selling author? International author)

Executive coach? Business leader, business advisor

Freelance / work for yourself? Entrepreneur / Solopreneur

Have years of experience in a particular field? Expert, specialist, specializes in, an authority

Have a media profile? High profile, leading voice, commentator or social commentator, authority

Public speaker? Expert commentator, leading authority, global authority etc

If your first sentence didn’t specifically capture what you actually do, or what the business you run does, fill in this detail in your second sentence.

Your second sentence should describe your most relevant and significant areas of experience to-date. You could either spell out the number of years experience within that field or use terms such as: ‘significant experience,’ ‘a depth of experience,’ or ‘a leading voice,’ or ‘an industry leader.’

If you lack significant experience in your chosen field, you could instead describe yourself as having a ‘focus’ or a passion for that particular area.

Your subsequent paragraphs should cover all or some of the following points.

Bio must-haves:

  • A one-sentence description of what you represent professionally – not just your current title, but what you actually do.
  • Reference to past employment highlights.
  • Reference to any public engagements – whether these be holding a community or industry role, speaking, acting as a media spokesperson or writing as an expert commentator etc
  • Some reference to educational pursuits, past and current
  • Reference to your professional passions or particular areas of focus
  • A few points or facts which give a glimpse of your personality and unique angle into industry initiatives or pursuits

The tone of your bio will vary depending on the audience you are targeting. If you are aiming to establish yourself as a professional, take a more formal tone and focus on conveying credibility and expertise. If you are in a more creative field or aiming to convey a dynamic or charismatic presence then make sure you infuse the profile with your personality – even a little self effacing humor.

People often wonder whether to use first or third person voice when writing a bio. That's a personal choice, and often comes down to the tone and style of your intended audience. Keep in mind it's much easier to give yourself props in third person than first person voice. Once you have achieved a certain level of professional success, you can more easily transfer to first person as your achievements often speak for themselves and don't require the same kind of promotional build.

 

I've just published the book The Business of Being You — Personal Brand Secrets of CEO's and Celebrities. You can order a copy on Amazon.com or any good online or real-world bookstore.

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