Why You Need a Rock-Star Bio
Does your bio tell a story? Is the main character someone you'd like to know more about? Does the plot keep you interested?
Most executive bios are lifeless litanies of career landmarks (positions attained, awards received, articles published). They fulfill the basic requirement of cataloguing what the subject has done and won. But the only thing they inspire is drowsiness. If, on the other hand, your bio spins a compelling narrative, it can have a powerful impact, earning you media coverage, speaking engagements and job interviews, among other avenues of advancement.
We learned how to write bios from master image-makers. They spun the mystiques (and sponged up the messes) of giants like Led Zeppelin, Queen, Guns N' Roses and Nirvana. The facts of these rock stars' lives and work were fully arrayed, of course, but always as part of an account that read more like a smartly written magazine feature than an instance of flackery.
At this point you may be thinking, "But I'm not a recording artist — I need to sound corporate." What entertainment marketers understand that most bio writers don't is the cult of personality. Your personality is a critical component of your "unique selling proposition," the thing you have that no one else does, your core brand "equity." Your personality — absolutely indispensable to this endeavor — is not "corporate."
What entertainment marketers understand that most bio writers don't is the cult of personality.
Also consider your audience. Your audience is made up of people. People relate to — and are persuaded by — other people. What you perceive as "corporate" is what we here in the branding trenches call "institutional." People don't relate to institutions (which is why the most successful corporate communications emphasize the people behind the corporation).
Whatever industry you're in, then, creating a cult of YOUR personality — conveying your own rock-star sizzle — is essential to marketing the brand that is you. Your bio must zero in on the qualities that make you extraordinary rather than just the trophies those qualities have helped you claim. So how can you amp up your bio?
Make sure it sounds like you. The way to do this is through liberal use of quotes (see above RE: "smartly written magazine feature"). The audience wants to hear your voice.
We interview our bio clients, then build the bio around their responses. Even when we conduct these interviews via e-mail, without fail they yield quotes that (judiciously polished) lend the bio not only personality but authenticity and immediacy. When our clients share — in their own inimitable words — the details of a successful product launch, the inspiration that sparked a triumphant pitch or the "light-bulb moment" underlying a design innovation, we have everything we need to write a rock-star bio.
Connect the dots. Transitions matter; readability counts. A choppy "and then this happened, and then that happened" structure is guaranteed to make the reader's eyes glaze over. If every sentence in your draft begins, "In 1995 she ...," stop, drop and roll. These bullet points must flow into each other as part of a larger, more engaging tale, one that establishes what makes the subject special and thus THE person to cover, book or hire.
Tone down the hype and lose the jargon. Nothing sets off the bullshit meter like self-serving grandiloquence: "Jane Doe is the most influential executive in the casual-gaming industry, a visionary thought leader who blah blah blah." Better to demonstrate with an anecdote or two just how visionary Jane is than ask the audience to take your word for it. Sadly, when a bio lacks personality, hype is enlisted in an attempt to inject some energy. It doesn't, though it will undermine the subject's credibility.
And while we're at it, do you really want to resort to dorky business-speak like "thought leader?" Does your mother know what a "thought leader" is? Your bio should be written so that a general readership can fully appreciate the hero's journey you're relating.
Jargon is regularly used to make the subject "sound corporate," but as we illuminated above, sounding corporate makes your bio less accessible to your readership. If they can't access your story, they can't make an emotional connection with you, and if they can't make an emotional connection with you, they can't care enough about you to take action on your behalf.
You have a story worth telling — and worth telling in a way that will grow your fan base. Making sure it features an inviting narrative and a genuine voice will help you achieve the stardom you deserve.