The Art of Writing Executive Biographies

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

If you had to write your professional biography, what would it include? How would you describe your role? What have you accomplished? What sets you apart?

Whether you are writing for yourself or a colleague, composing a short biography can be challenging. The Internet, along with tools like LinkedIn, enables us to learn more about each other than ever. Flooded with information, we often make judgments before we even speak to people.

An executive bio is no different than any other marketing tool. It is a vehicle to reinforce your organization’s unique position and credibility. In your bios, you must convey each individual’s capabilities, commitment and integrity. You are selling competence, even visionary genius. Even more, your decisions on what you include (and exclude) are strategic. These decisions, coupled with your tone, reflect your corporate values and culture.

In writing any executive bio, consider including the following:

  • Job Responsibilities: What do these individuals oversee on a day-to-day basis? While responsibilities may vary, hone in on three or four key items. Similarly, consider jazzing up these duties without sliding into MBA speak. For example, a sales manager could be responsible for “building long-term partnerships” and “ensuring total client satisfaction.” In addition, share accomplishments that these individuals have made (“Under her leadership, the operations team opened 10 locations in 18 months, earning a coveted Schmitt Award for team building and service excellence.”).
  • Previous Experience: What did these individuals accomplish in past positions, both inside and outside the organization? What leadership posts did they hold? What teams were they a member? Summarize the initiatives they developed and launched. Show what their divisions accomplished – and be specific. Explain how large their team was. Share how much they increased revenue or production in real terms. Outline the long-term implications of their achievements. In short, show their career pathing and depict the results of their efforts.
  • Industry Honors: How have these leaders been recognized in their fields? Have they been profiled or interviewed in any print or broadcast channels? Have they published any articles or conducted presentations at recognized events? Do they sit on any boards? Have they won any awards or honorary degrees? Have they been responsible for anything pioneering, such as a study or patent?
  • Community and Industry Involvement: How do your executives show leadership outside the office? What charitable activities do they participate in, both locally and nationally? Do they hold any special positions in these organizations? Conversely, are they involved in any broader industry initiatives or panels? What is their significance?
  • Education: Where did these individuals attend school? What academic honors did they earn? What types of advanced degrees, certifications or trainings do they possess?
  • Family: If an employee is married and has a family, it suggests stability and trustworthiness. Leverage it.
  • Personal Viewpoints: Consider including a statement from each individual that reflects their long-term vision for the company and industry. Similarly, add a sentence or two reflecting their personal business philosophy.

Here are a few additional suggestions:

Length: Bios can range anywhere from 150-1000 words. Generally, bios should be relatively succinct. Otherwise, the fluff will distract. Worse, the subject could come across as pretentious.

Branding: Look for opportunities to integrate your brand image into the bio. Allude to what makes your organization so respected and innovative. For example, tout your organization’s scale by referencing the industries, countries, clients or number of customers you serve.

Chronological vs. Functional: On longer bios, such as those for senior executives, employ a more chronological approach to provide unity. Otherwise, compress the information, focusing more heavily on responsibilities and achievements.

Numbers: Can you provide any data to validate their successes? Do you have any hard numbers on percentage of growth? Market share? Dollar volume? Put this data in context by contrasting it against previous results, larger industry trends or peer performance.

Links: Include links to white papers, magazine articles or audio and video interviews. Set up your page so your audience will access this information without leaving your website.

Hobbies: What do your leaders do outside the office to relax and re-charge? Do they run marathons? Play the cello? Scuba dive with sharks? Humanize your subjects and illustrate their zest for life. Create a conduit where readers can forge a connection to your company representatives. Don’t forget to mix in unique life experiences, such as a Peace Corps stint. Always be looking to make your subjects more real.

Jeff Schmitt is a consultant specializing in copywriting and marketing strategy. He lives in Dubuque, IA and his e-mail address is jschmittdbq@mchsi.com.

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