Great bios aren’t written, they are lived!
Many mompreneurs are working to brand or rebrand themselves and their businesses online and offline and the two pieces of marketing collateral everybody wants to have are a targeted, optimized, branded resume (or CV) and a biography.
If you have never thought about writing your bio, you should. Once upon a time, biographies were limited to celebrities and bigwigs who used well-written bios to generate publicity. These days, you would benefit from having an official long form bio, a short bio and a mini bio.
There are two main types of biographies. There is the obligatory introductory bio that appears in Who’s Who publications and is re-run as an obituary later on. Ho-hum.
Then there’s your real bio – the one that tells the adventures of your life, the one that makes every man the Dos Equis man and every woman Shirley Chisholm. THAT’S the one you want to produce. THAT’S the bio you want on your About page and it’s the one you want to appear in print as testament of your legend.
The Anatomy of a Great Biography
The anatomy of a great bio is no mystery. It may require you to shift how you view the events of your life – your successes and failures, your adventures and misadventures, your challenges and achievements. But each of us has a great bio somewhere in our stories. The trick is to find it.
So, Just What IS a Bio?
Your biography is the series of events that make up your life story. Every person has literally dozens of biographies in them. The story of how you wooed (or were wooed by) your spouse is usually different from the story of your career achievements. The story of how you ran for and won public office is another biography. The story of how you leveraged the wisdom you gained growing up on the south side of Chicago or the deep east side of Detroit to build a multi-million dollar t-shirt business is another biography altogether. Most of us have different biographies that we use in various mediums.
Your biography is a narrative in which you emerge as the heroine. Which of your many, many stories should you use to create your biography? That’s what you have to iron out in order to craft the most relevant, engaging and poignant biography.
Here’s What Goes in a Biography
As a general rule, the core content of a bio includes your academic and professional pedigree. It includes any awards, honors and accomplishments you obtained over the years. Information such as your age, date of birth, and graduation dates are not necessary but can be included. For anyone who has held public office, include your years of service.
- Include the most interesting and intriguing things about you. No doubt there are aspects of your life that are quite interesting. Sift through the catalog of your rich experiences and write about the ones that have been most interesting, most instrumental and most valuable for your development as a person, a mother, a wife, a thought leader, and a professional.
- Focus on making your biography a good read. As a general rule, you want to pick out the events, tendencies, and activities that will be most interesting to your readers. Not all interesting things will strike a chord with every reader. The people reading a print copy of your biography at a local event for women entrepreneurs may be different from the people who would read your bio on the About page of your website about mothering quadruplets. Pick and choose which stories to include.
- Make your bio more than a list of facts. Unless you’re writing your own article for Wikipedia, there’s no need to whittle your valuable experiences down to a series of dates and facts. Tell a story.
- Include your family. Families exist. Most of us have them. You don’t have to make your family the core of your biography, but there’s nothing wrong with including information about your spouse, children, hobbies and family life in your biography. In fact, it’s a good idea to include this kind of information. It makes you seem more relatable, likable and human.
- Smother the hype. Let your accomplishments speak for themselves. If you’re a member of Mensa, you really don’t have to tell people you’re intelligent. They gather that all by themselves. In the same way, craft your biography in a way that highlights your achievements and your reader will fill in the blanks about your value and virtue on his or her own.
- Voice and tone. The way in which you tell your story has as much to do with your actual brand identity as it does your intended audience. Your official biography – the one that goes to the media, community organizations and on the inside sleeve of your book – will likely be more formal than the one that shows up on your About page. Write your official biography in the third person even if you decide to go with a less formal, first-person narrative on your About page. The one that goes to the media
- Include contact information. Always include your name and title, company name, website, phone number and a business email address on your official biography. For your About page, you may want to provide a link to the Contact page so prospective customers can easily connect with you and keep in touch.
One more thing: Write bios of varying lengths. Here’s a quick exercise for you to do…
Log into your Twitter account and search for the hashtag #TED2019. Read the short bios beneath the user names for the first five users that come up. Now, find the hashtag #hair and read the first five bios of the actual people who have used that hashtag (skip over the ads at the top of your feed). You’ve read ten mini-bios that, in just 140 characters, allowed you to draw conclusions about the people associated with those bios.
If you ask the right questions, you’ll get the right answers. Complete the questionnaire below to eliminate the “what should I write?” dilemma.
What is the purpose of your biography? This is the area where you talk about your end goal and what you wish to accomplish by writing this biography. List 3 main reasons for writing it.
Who and what are you writing your bio for? This is the section where you talk about who will get each version of your bio and what should they do with it. Remember: Different people may get different bios. Be specific. For example, a job seeking college grad will pen a social media bio designed to woo prospective employers. A stay-at-home father may write a bio that encourages a support group to call him in to speak on the topic of gender role reversals. A young politician in a tiny, two-light town who is eyeing a more formidable post may write her bio with the intention of being able to parlay it into a position in the big city.
What three qualities do you want customers to think of when think about your brand? Your “brand” is the experience you want customers to have with you when they do business with you.
Take a quick poll: What three qualities are people who have experienced your brand currently associating with your brand? You may need to shift the way in which you present your brand if people are experiencing it in a different way than what you intended.
What are your qualifications?
Name three achievements.
What hobbies, personal interests support your brand?
Some Final Tips for Penning an Amazing Biography
There’s no wrong way to do it. You may be able to write a better version of your bio. You may be able to write a more interesting version of your bio. You may be able to write a more cohesive or engaging version of your bio. But keep in mind, most times it’s obligatory. It’s, by no means, New York Times best seller material.
Every professional should have at least three versions of his or her biography on-hand.
- A full-length bio can contain more than 1,000 words. Have at least one up-to-date, official version of your biography on-hand at all times for social media, your About Page, press releases, media inquiries and marketing in general.
- A short bio usually has up to 250 words. Use it to provide core information about your brand, but keep it interesting.
- A mini bio generally up 100 words. It bullet points the highlights of your career and clearly defines your value offering.
- A micro biography came to widespread appeal from its use on Twitter and Instagram. Here, you write between 140 to 280 characters of guts and glory.
Your biography is a reflection of your brand. I suppose the easiest way to demonstrate this is to look at a few bios for people you may know.
Arianna Huffington’s micro bio – Her brand is down to earth, helpful, progressive, and focused a lot of vibrancy and optimizing potential and resources. Check out her Twitter bio @ariannahuff.
Tyler Perry story – A storyteller. It makes sense that his biography is long. He’s influential, wealthy, and powerful. He is known for writing, directing and starring in inspirational movies with a spiritual influence. Read Tyler’s bio here.
Lisa Nichols – World-renowned speaker and motivator. She’s an author, lifestyle coach and trainer, having reached tens of millions of people with her brand of courageous, by-my-bootstraps motivation. You can read her bio here.
Checklist for Writing a Great Biography
- It’s up-to-date
- It’s a good read
- It properly positions you as the hero of the story and a trusted expert, leader or influencer in your space
- It matches your real identity
- It sells you.
What I know for sure about branding is it’s not what’s in your history that matters. What matters is how you tell your story. You can click
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