By Linda Tancs • March 03, 2015•Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Other Career Issues
Biographies are increasingly important as part of a digital toolkit and make compelling introductions for book covers and speech presentations. So why do so many lawyers treat biographies like the literary equivalent of canned soup?
To best maximize its effect, understand what a bio is—and isn’t.
A Bio is not a Résumé
Avoid thinking of a bio as a short-form résumé. A bio provides context and texture to your work and overall life experience. Of course, you’ll list your accomplishments—but you’ll highlight your most compelling attributes.
A Bio is not a Novel
Research indicates that the general attention span of a human adult is nine seconds. As a result, you need a single page, focused piece that will convert a reader’s general attention span to one that is active and engaged. Otherwise, you risk putting your readers into a sleep-inducing haze and losing them.
A Bio is not Self-Serving
A bio is written with a target audience in mind, illustrating how your experience is best suited to their needs. There’s an adage in marketing that stories sell and facts tell. You need to understand how your story advances your position in the mind of the target audience. You won’t win consumer attachment if the statements you make are self-serving.
So how do you write a succinct, audience-targeted piece that survives a digitally-induced short attention span? Here are some pointers.
Ask yourself probing questions:
If you could write your own testimonial, what would it say?
Professionally speaking, how would you want to be remembered in an obituary?
What makes you special/better/unique at what you do?
What would your family/friends/colleagues say is one outstanding thing about you? (Better yet, interview them yourself.)
Then think like a journalist writing an article and work the who, what, when, where, how and why of your background into the narrative:
Who are you?
What do you do?
When did you start doing it?
Where have you worked?
How do you stand out?
Why should the reader care?
Think Like a Landing Page
A landing page is arguably the most important of all web pages on a website because that’s where conversion events take place. However, visitors don’t provide information on landing pages unless they’re captivated by the offer—the content—on the page. You need to think of your bio the same way, and capture the audience before their attention span wanders. Save the education, industry certifications and affiliations for the end.
Know Your Audience
Every bio should be written with a target audience in mind and a statement of a unique selling proposition—something that you want to “own” in the mind of the target audience. A list of credentials that reads like alphabet soup or a narrative of subject matter expertise is not unique. Interviewing yourself bears fruit here. What makes the target audience tick? What are their pain points, and what makes you the best one to help them?
A compelling bio or backgrounder is a constantly evolving document that establishes your brand promise in the mind of the reader. Probe your background and the needs of your clients to uncover what makes you unique enough to establish your value. These writing techniques will help you craft a story that’s worthy of generating buzz for your business.
This post is an adaptation of the article, “Create Media Buzz with an Attention-Grabbing Biography or Backgrounder.” The article appears in PR News' first edition of The Writer's Guidebook.