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How Not to Craft a Professional Bio

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • What makes for a compelling, descriptive professional bio
  • Five real-life examples of ineffective professional bios

In this era of the endangered attention span, the professional bio remains an important tool for cultivating relationships, trust, and profit.

Professional bios offer you a chance to stand apart from the competition, foster a personal connection, and convert prospects into customers

Abstract Advice. Concrete Context

This isn't just another supposedly how-to article with abstract advice. This article will provide concrete context in the form of a side-by-side comparison of five dentists' bios. My intent is to help you craft professional bios that build business and reputation, gain clients, and generate income.

Bio No. 1


We strive for excellence in providing comprehensive dental care for the entire family. Patient satisfaction and comfort are of great importance to our staff, and we work hard to ensure all our patients leave our office smiling. We focus on preventive and restorative care, but we're a full-service practice. Oral and IV sedation are also available.

Critique: That bio could be posted on the site of any other practice, and you wouldn't know the difference. All practices "strive for excellence." That is an archetypal attempt to appeal to everyone, which classically fails to attract the attention of anyone.

Dental care takes place in an inherently intimate setting; our conventional personal space has to be breached to get the job done. Considering such closeness, shouldn't the bio at least speak to the reader, addressing her as "you?" Instead, it's all "we" and "our." No personal connection in the bio might imply similar service in the dentist's chair.

Bio No. 2

We are great listeners! Our family-friendly office makes quality time with the dentist a top priority so you can have all your questions answered. The staff offers self-care tips to make sure you're doing all you can to care for your teeth in between visits. Plus, we're great with anxious patients, providing nitrous oxide and oral sedation to ensure a relaxing dental experience.

Critique: The use of "you" enriches the message immediately. If only "you" had been used sooner than "we" and "our."

The bio does a nice job of defining several promises for the reader. "Great listeners," "all your questions answered," and "great with anxious patients" all specifically address common concerns. It's better to define a few particular promises than to speak in generalities.

Bio No. 3

A friendly office that is ready to take care of your dental needs, we strive to bring the people of Princeton the best in preventative and restorative care. Our doctor is great with children, so bring your entire family down and we'll make sure you leave smiling.

Critique: The first sentence is generic, though it's good to tie the practice to the community that it serves.

Explicitly mentioning "great with children" does a nice job of differentiating the practice from its competitors. Competing practices may also be wonderful with kids, but it can't be left up to the reader to make that assumption.

Of the all the bios, this is the only one that closes with something resembling a call-to-action. Though it could be stronger, the closing sentence is still better than the others.

Bio No. 4

Let us show you how sedation dentistry can change your dental experience. We can fix your teeth, restore sore gums, and brighten your smile without discomfort. You can relax while we provide years of work in just a few visits. We provide general dentistry for all ages, plus several treatments to give you the smile of your dreams. We also provide emergency dental care.

Critique: I have mixed feelings about this practice opening its bio with "sedation dentistry." On one hand, it distinguishes the practice and its services (Need sedation dentistry? Come to us). On the other hand, is it safe to assume that readers will understand the term?

My initial thought upon reading that bio: Sedation = Anesthetics. Don't all dentists provide anesthetics for some procedures? Sedation dentistry doesn't mean much to me, so this practice won't stand out in my mind.

It might've been more effective to speak to the benefits of sedation dentistry. For example, the bio could've read, "Can't keep calm in the dentist's chair? Discover how our gentle practitioners will change your dental experience with sedation dentistry."

Compared with bio No. 1's "strive for excellence" and "work hard," the promises made in this bio are more specific ("fix your teeth," "restore sore gums"); therefore, the bio effectively establishes an expectation in the reader's mind.

Another strength of this bio is that it includes the word "you" in its first few words and it keeps that personable tone throughout.

I'm not so sure about ending the bio with "emergency dental care." Who reads or remembers bios in an emergency? Why not use the space to make a clear call-to-action instead?

Bio No. 5

Our family dentistry practice features preventive, restorative, and cosmetic care, including Opalescence take-home whitening trays and one-hour in-office teeth whitening. We make every effort to ensure your relaxation, providing amenities such as chair massages and stereo headphones. We also offer needleless anesthesia, oral sedation, and nitrous oxide for anxious patients.

Critique: This bio half-heartedly attempts to define the practice's niche. Removing "preventive" and "restorative" would put more emphasis on "cosmetic care." Though that might cost the practice some general-interest clients, it'd go a long way in differentiating the practice from all the generalists out there.

Unless Opalescence is a term the average dental customer is familiar with, mentioning it might cause confusion. And tossing in another brand name draws attention away from the practice.

Quick Summary

  1. Use "you" language. Speak to the reader, not just about your company.
  2. Be specific, even at the (perceived) risk of losing some readers. Better to set yourself apart from the pack.
  3. Confidently set expectations. Clear promises will grab more attention than vague promises, such as "superior service" and "gentle care."
  4. Resist the temptation to mention every service offered. A laundry list in paragraph form will likely bore the reader into clicking away.
  5. Close with a call-to-action. Offering an incentive might be appropriate.

Fact: People Read Bios

Sesame Communications, a dental-industry pioneer in online patient-connection systems, found that the first information prospective patients seek is on the "About the Dentist" page.

Could that be true for other small business websites? To be safe, wouldn't it make sense to take a little time to compose a well-written, engaging, and persuasive professional bio?


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Mike Russell is principal of Pivotal Writing, LLC, which specializes in writing clear, compelling professional bios. You can reach Mike via mike@pivotalwriting.com and find before/after analyses of professional bios at pivotalwriting.com.

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  • by Dandelion Fri Dec 16, 2011 via web

    I love the critique-style specifics in this article. It really drives home the message to have these examples to illustrate your points. Thanks!

  • by tinagleisner Fri Dec 16, 2011 via web

    Great examples as everyone can relate to a dentist, and I honestly never considered that a bio should end with a call to action so goot tip for me.

  • by Wonderer Fri Dec 16, 2011 via web

    The critiques are valuable. But how about creating a Bio that you really like?

  • by Sally Erickson Fri Dec 16, 2011 via web

    Just when I decide we were reading something good, Mike tells us what's wrong. I enjoyed the critique, especially the idea of a call to action in the bio. I agree that a couple of examples of good bios would have been good, too. Thanks for the article, Mike.

  • by Mpursuit Fri Dec 16, 2011 via web

    I liked the article and the examples but what you are really talking about is a description of (dental) services, not a "bio". A bio would be about the dental practice and practitioners including a little history - not about what the patient will experience.

    Thanks for the article, it certainly brings home the importance of putting the end customer at the center.

  • by Allan Kent Sun Dec 18, 2011 via web

    We ran a seminar on precisely this topic earlier this year, although I think your 5 examples are better than the ones we had!!
    Ever heard of the We We test by Future Now Inc? (easy enough to Google).
    We found this on the web some time back and now make the suggestion that all our clients run this simple test on their sites to see how often then use self focused words against customer focused ones. We have found that sometimes the test doesn't work, in which case we get the client to manually count "We, our, us" words against "your, you" etc. Might not be as precises but it still gets the point across pretty well.

    Great article. Thanks

  • by Jim Gallant Sun Dec 18, 2011 via web

    Insightful but incomplete.
    The article explores what not to do accompanied by critiques of common missteps and suggestions for improvement. But like many Marketing Profs articles, this one never provides a soup-to-nuts example of what a successful appeal would be. Therefore, 2/12 out of 4 stars.

  • by Amber James Tue Dec 27, 2011 via web

    Hey Mike,

    I always love reading more about your specialty. Your step-by-step critique is extremely useful. Whenever I write any B2C copy for a client, I always try to do what you suggest in your summary: talk to the reader instead of about the company, emphasize specific distinctions between the client and their competitors, and end with a clear call to action. Not listing every service offered is a little trickier. I'll work on that in the future.

    Thanks for reminding me! Do you happen to have these tips in a video format? Would love to have you walk me through it.

    Cheers.

  • by Mike Russell Mon Jan 30, 2012 via web

    Thanks for all the compliments and constructive criticisms, folks.

    For greater detail, you'll find before/after analyses of professional bios at http://pivotalwriting.com/category/how-to-write-a-professional-bio/. There, I deconstruct different professionals' bios and explain how/why I rewrote them.

    Mpursuit and Mr. Gallant, you make an excellent point. I'll ask MarketingProfs if they'd be interested in an analysis of one longer bio.

    Amber, you'll find some complementary tips in "How to write a Professional Bio - 1" on the URL above. Best of success!

    Thanks again everyone.
    I'm looking forward to more comments and conversation.

    -Mike

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