The story of you
People often meet you first through your online bio. An intriguing professional bio can lead a potential client or employer to connect and consider working with you. It should show your competence, accomplishments, and likable personality. It’s a simple idea, but so many great people (like you?) aren’t taking full advantage of their public bios.
An effective executive bio isn’t a summary of your resume or your LinkedIn profile. It’s the story of you – available on your company’s website or provided when you have a speaking gig. There are a few basic elements that are traditional, but creative bios now reflect the company’s culture and your personality. If you haven’t updated your company’s bios recently, here are some things to think about.
The basics of an executive bio
Whether you’re the CEO or in another leadership position, you need an engaging biography that expresses who you are and why you are the best person to do business with. Your profile should include:
- your first and last names,
- your position at your firm (your job title),
- the name of your company,
- a sentence or two about your contribution to the big picture,
- your education,
- a brief description of your personal life (where you live, spouse or family information).
For some highly traditional companies, this is the standard template. It safeguards the executive’s privacy and makes his qualifications and status clear. I’ve written dozens – no, hundreds — of bios like this, and they are completely appropriate for the situation. But there is more to consider, and more that might be right for you.
Your story shows you are the right person to work with
Everyone wants to feel comfortable with their business connections. We’re wired to connect with people we think we will enjoy. How can you show your qualifications and likability in your story?
1. Passion – Show that you are deeply engaged in your industry or profession. For example, if you are a financial advisor who is deeply committed to debt-free living, cite a few helpful statistics about your work, show that you counsel working-class families on debt reduction on a pro-bono basis, or name the articles or books you’ve written or the podcasts or blogs you’ve appeared on.
2. Professional accomplishments – Are you an active member or leader in your field’s industry groups or professional associations? Do you lecture or teach classes in your specialty? Have you earned certifications? Clients want professionalism that goes beyond the 9-to-5.
3. Be likable. How’s that for a broad mandate? In most cases, you want to be seen as a “real person.” Context is the key here. Select details that will endear you to your specific client type and prospect base and will not shock or repel them. Do you kayak with your family? Volunteer with disadvantaged schoolkids? Have you hiked the Appalachian Trail, or do you attend all of the football games of your alma mater? Showing your common humanity is great. On the other hand, if you’re an amateur taxidermist or you won a college scholarship for baking a worm pizza, don’t mention that. (Yes, I’ve encountered both of those people in my work!)
An outdated bio can cause embarrassment or put you in a bind when someone needs your corporate bio by end of day. Put these practices on your agenda:
- Have a long and short version. Provide both versions on the same pdf document. It will make life easier for publicity purposes, among others.
- If you’re in a position to influence your company’s or division’s website, be sure that all bios follow the same format. In this case, value consistency over creativity. (That consistency includes headshots, too. Use the same photographer and background for all execs or team members, to the extent that it’s possible.)
- Get a professional headshot taken. Even if you have a decent photographer on staff, or you have a great shot from your sister’s wedding, a specialized headshot photographer can make a huge difference. I’ve had a lifetime of corporate headshots taken, but I was recently blown away at the skill of my new headshot photographer. (And be sure your digital headshot file is labeled clearly with your name and a company name and date, or whatever is relevant.)
- Check your professional bio every year. Set an appointment on your calendar for the same time every year, or more frequently, if your company is fast evolving. In a larger company, your PR or HR departments might be in charge of this, but it doesn’t hurt to stay on top of it yourself.
- Change happens, so change your bio. If you are promoted or transferred, if you take a new job, if your family status or location changes, make a point to update your corporate bio. Know where all the versions live – your company website, blog, professional or industry associations, social media, HR department, and marketing department are some primary locations. Add an effective date to the document for reference.
Before you finalize your corporate bio
Before you hit send, PROOFREAD YOUR BIO. Ask your most detail-oriented colleague, your accountant sister, and your HR department to look for typos, inconsistencies, or lack of clarity. Better to find problems before they become public.
Pamela Evans of Storyteller Business Communications has written hundreds of corporate and executive bios. Many have been for C-suite or key executives in large enterprises and others have been for creative professionals or small business leaders. Most unusual were the bios she wrote for theatrical actors including Amira (a young Dromedary camel), Thistle (a skunk with a passion for Froot Loops), and Erika (a Flemish Giant rabbit). We’re always ready to talk about your corporate bio needs.