Preparing a Professional Bio

Don’t underestimate the importance of your bio. This short summary of your professional credentials is often a client’s first introduction to you. When set alongside those received from competitors bidding on a project, it provides the client with an easy basis for comparing your experience and intellectual horsepower to theirs.

If you work for a big firm, colleagues will review it to determine your suitability to work on a project or receive a referral. It is also used by association program committees to assess your suitability as a speaker. In short, it is a critical marketing document.

In spite of the bio’s importance, it is often thrown together in a rush, seldom updated and delivered in one form to all parties, regardless of their reason for wanting it or yours for giving it. This cavalier treatment of your bio must stop. The time to update it is now. You can then review it annually and before each use to update and customize it.

You want your bio to make your case as compellingly as is consistent with honesty. You want it to be accessible, meaning that it must appear easy to look at and engaging to the reader. To the degree possible, you want to make it memorable. You want it to stand out, even while adhering to the format designated by your firm.

One format to accomplish these ends is provided below with content kindly donated by an old friend and master publicist for professional service firms, Meg Wildrick. We have created two versions of her bio, directed at her two major markets, professional service firms and financial institutions.

Immediately after her name, title and firm comes a short statement of the value she provides her clients. Here it is in the form of a quote—quite acceptable at a public relations firm. A tax, estate and trust attorney might do better with something more staid. Then there are brief summaries of work she has done, emphasizing the benefits the clients received from her efforts. She can develop many of these to plug in and out and so adapt her bio to different clients.

After that comes a client list, also adapted for the use of the bio. So, for example, knowing that the readers of this blog come from many professions, she chooses to emphasize the breadth of her experience with professional firms, rather than the depth. If you can’t identify a client by name use a description like, two large, New-York-based banks.

Because all of her former work history is relevant to financial institutions, each employer gets a single line in Version #2, but in Version #1 only McKinsey & Company gets this honor.

In contrast, she has done more publishing directed at professional firms than at financial institutions, so publications are noted in Version #1 but not in Version #2.

Note, finally, that both versions are dated, allowing readers to quickly determine its currency. One of those readers should be you, reviewing and adapting your bio each time it is used.

Each version creates a compelling case for Meg’s experience and competence. But this is only one format and there are many that work. Do any of you readers have suggestions for how to make a bio compelling?

Version #1

Bio: Meg Wildrick Title: Managing Director
Firm: Bliss PR Email: meg@blisspr.com

Quote: Professional service firms sell their services with stories, which is why they are among my favorite clients. Stories fascinate me – what makes them interesting? memorable? effective? After studying literary stories in school, I moved to the business world. There, I refined and adapted my storytelling skills. In 1998, I landed at BlissPR where I get to tell the greatest stories imaginable—such as stories about building new businesses or turning around troubled companies—to the people who need to hear them. I also help clients hone their storytelling skills through strategy sessions, messaging workshops and media training.

Sample experience:

Build Name Recognition: Helped a large consultancy expanding rapidly in North America increase firm-wide name recognition and build visibility for senior consultants in healthcare, financial services and new media.

Support Lead Generation & Increase Valuation: Helped a small firm develop a publicity-based lead generation system which substantially increased its value, captured by the partners when they sold it a few years later.

Attract Employees: Worked with the New York office of an executive search firm to help them attract mid-career professionals for their Board and Financial practices.

Increase Credibility: For an international accounting firm, worked to position key professionals as experts on business trends and accounting issues.

Representative
Clients:

Accounting: Deloitte & Touche
Consulting: Roland Berger & Partner, Strategic Decisions Group
Architecture & Engineering: RTKL
Executive Search: A leading firm

Prior
Experience:

Consultant at McKinsey & Company

Strategic Marketing Positions at Brown, Brothers Harriman, Bankers Trust, GE Capital’s Financial Guaranty Insurance Company

Speeches &
Publications:

Meg has spoken to Association of Management Consulting Firms and published in Consulting to Business.

Education:

University of Edinburgh, M.Litt. in Comparative Literature
(Marshall Scholar), Williams College, B.A. (Valedictorian)

September 17, 2008

Version #2

Bio: Meg Wildrick Title: Managing Director
Firm: Bliss PR Email: meg@blisspr.com

Quote: Stories are the real currency of financial services. Financial firms sell products (many of them quite technical), but what customers buy are results. Stories that demonstrate these results make complex products more tangible. I’m a born story-teller. After studying literary stories in school, I moved to the business world. There, I refined and adapted my storytelling skills. In 1998, I landed at BlissPR where I get to write tell the greatest stories imaginable—stories about retirement, health & wellness, savings/investment and philanthropy—to the people who need to hear them. I also help clients hone their storytelling skills through strategy sessions, messaging workshops and media training.

Sample experience:

Increased Name Recognition: Secured company and product profiles for an asset management firm, which has a solid reputation in the institutional markets but was relatively unknown among consumers.

Launched a New Service Area: Worked with an insurer to define a cross-company retirement strategy – and promote that strategy in the media.

Raised Credibility: Worked with a national network of financial advisors to position their estate planning and retirement experts as authorities on personal finance issues.

Attracted New Members/Clients: For an investment group of high net worth advisors, secured profile stories and national business coverage. Membership doubled as a direct result.

Positioned Company as Industry Leader: Helped a large benefits provider build and implement a thought leadership platform, establishing itself as the expert voice on workplace issues.

Representative
Clients:

New York Life MetLife
GE Capital Key Bank
Deloitte & Touche AIMR
Sentinel Capital Management

Prior experience:

Brown, Brothers Harriman, Strategic Marketing
Bankers Trust, Marketing
GE Capital’s Financial Guaranty Insurance Company, Business Development
McKinsey & Company, Financial Services Practice

Speeches:

Meg recently gave a speech on Marketing and PR at the Securities Industry and Financial Management Association (SIFMA)

Education:

University of Edinburgh, M.Litt. in Comparative Literature
(Marshall Scholar), Williams College, B.A. (Valedictorian)

September 17, 2008

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2 Responses to “Preparing a Professional Bio”

  1. Ford Harding Says:

    I find there is a website devoted to preparing a bio: http://howtowritebio.com. It has template for all kinds of people, from pet groomer to podcaster, from rabbi to real estate agent. The professions are mostly covered, though I don’t see a bio template for an executive recruiter. You can buy access to a template for about $50. This is not an endorsement, because I haven’t seen one of the templates. But it shows, once again, that you can find anything on the web.

    Ford

  2. Ford Harding Says:

    Barbra Sundquist of http://www.howtowritebio.com/ kindly gave me a look at one of the templates. When I commented that it didn’t seem to leave much room for creativity, see replied:

    Hi Ford,

    You bring up a good point. I do agree that a template would be too restricting for some people. For others, it clarifies their thinking and helps them to focus on what’s most important.

    I think it depends on the individual and how good they are at writing and how much they enjoy writing about themselves. The folks who use my templates are either in a hurry (they need a bio right away) or they find it difficult to write about themselves. People can tweak the template as much or as little as they want – at least they have a framework.

    Here’s the feedback I got from one executive, who said that the template provided plenty of flexibility for him to make it his own.

    Leveraging the “How to Write a Bio Templates” made developing an executive bio easy. I’d been working on it unsuccessfully for some time – the tool allowed me to quickly wrap it up in an evening. I found it helped to shape my thinking, but provided plenty of flexibility to ensure it is truly my bio. The overall experience was very positive. I had some specific questions, and Barbra was both responsive and supportive.
    D. Ross Patterson
    Senior Director, Corporate Real Estate
    Capital One Financial Corporation

    You mention that professionals are highly educated, and wonder if this approach is right for them. My experience is that even highly educated people find it difficult to write about themselves. In fact, despite the fact that I write for a living…even I find it difficult to write my own bio!

    And of course, most professionals are pressed for time – so anything that helps get a task done quicker is a welcome tool.

    Thanks again for your interest,

    Barbra
    http://www.contact@howtowritebio.com

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