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Four Tips for Writing an Effective Bio [Slide Show]

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120614-1 Intro

"Does your bio tell a story?" ask Simon Glickman and Julia Rubiner of Editorial Emergency. "Is the main character someone you'd like to know more about? Does the plot keep you interested?"

We'll wait for a second while you peruse your current bio... and... the answers are probably no, no, and no. Let's face it, most executive bios are deathly boring—a list of career highlights delivered in the driest corporate-speak imaginable.

Don't despair, though, if your own bio puts you to sleep. Glickman and Rubiner know how to fix it.

120614-2 1. Your bio should sound like you

1. Your bio should sound like you

Glickman and Rubiner make generous use of "quotes" when they write bios for their clients, and so should you when writing your own. Interview yourself about your career—the successful product launch, the "light-bulb" moment, the risky gamble—and use those stories to tell your story. Quotes that accurately reflect how you speak give your bio personality, authenticity, and immediacy.

120614-3 2. Your bio should read well

2. Your bio should read well

Model your bio on well-written magazine profiles—where you will never catch a writer using an "and then this happened, and then that happened" structure. Move your story forward without making it feel like bullet points on a resume.

120614-4 3. Your bio should be hype-free

3. Your bio should be hype-free

It's fine if readers infer from your anecdotes that you're a fearless visionary who has created shockwaves in your industry. But describing yourself in such absurdly superlative terms actually hurts your credibility.

120614-5 4. Your bio should be jargon-free

4. Your bio should be jargon-free

Industry jargon makes you sound professional, but it also interferes with your ability to reach a general readership. "If they can't access your story, they can't make an emotional connection with you," write Glickman and Rubiner, "and if they can't make an emotional connection with you, they can't care enough about you to take action on your behalf."

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Christian Gulliksen is a writer who has authored several of the Get to the Po!nt newsletters for MarketingProfs. A former editor at Robb Report, he has also contributed to Worth, Variety, and The Hollywood Reporter.

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  • by Ernest Nicastro Thu Jun 14, 2012 via web

    Nice tips overall, Christian. But it would take more than "a second" for me to "peruse" my current bio. That's because peruse does not mean "to read quickly." To the contrary, its traditional meaning is "to read or examine with great care."

  • by Trisha Thu Jun 14, 2012 via web

    This was interesting, but it would be helpful to have had some examples.

  • by Lynn McFarlane Thu Jun 14, 2012 via web

    Good points, but I would love to see some examples your picks of great bios.

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Thu Jun 14, 2012 via web

    Hi, Trisha and Lynn. This MarketingProfs article might help:

  • by Ted Simon Thu Jun 14, 2012 via web

    Good topic. Agree with others; the high level observations/guidelines would be enhanced by some tangible examples.

    @Vahe, thanks for trying to help. That article link you provided relates to company professional bios and the examples read more like boilerplate or copy selling points for an ad or collateral piece. This post, and reader requests, focus on personal executive bios. Apples and oranges, I'm afraid.

  • by Ernest Thu Jun 21, 2012 via web

    Duh! Just another long advertisement. No examples? Not worth the time it took to read.

  • by Peggy Fri Aug 10, 2012 via web

    Intriguing topic, however, the content never delivered.

  • by Sandor Wed Oct 31, 2012 via web

    I've spent another two minutes for something fancy and completely useless. Good bio is that, which gets a positive pass after 10 seconds of view by some overwhelmed assistant, and then makes your way to an interview. I just don't believe new recipes without any tests and metrics attached.

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