Professional Bios: What to Include and What to Forget

Writing a professional bio

When it comes to writing about and promoting others, PR professionals excel. When it comes to writing about and promoting themselves, PR pros can struggle just like anyone else.  

You'd think writing about yourself would be easy. No one knows you better than yourself; your strengths and weaknesses, successes and goals. And yet, writing a professional bio for oneself can be a daunting exercise. Mistakes can be made. 

Many people want to showcase their achievements without sounding like an egotistical maniac. The best bios seem to find a balance, weaving storytelling with supplemental facts, instead of running down a list of every position and award someone has earned. Anyone can search Google to find a LinkedIn Profile or resume. A great bio will elevate those facts into easy-flowing prose. 

PRNEWS asked veteran communicators about what to include in a winning professional bio. 

Show Your Service: “I'd say that it's important to note community and board service to showcase areas where you are applying your leadership and experiences outside of your day-to-day role,” said Leslie Pitterson, global communications and public affairs at Google. “It's also good to consciously pull through the storyline of what's driven your career path—it helps to provide insight into how you make decisions and the kinds of challenges you gravitate toward.”

Keep it Professional: “Your professional bio should be ultimately, professional,” said Liz Allen Martin, VP, communications at G/O Media. “I don't need to know what college you went to, which section of Brooklyn you live in, or your dog's name. There are certainly companies or industries with a bit more personality where this can absolutely work, but generally these areas can be cut if you're looking to shrink your bio.” 

And Erica Smith, account manager with Porter Novelli, adds a very important point about sharing too much personal information.

“Leave off your relationship status (i.e. single, married, divorced) unless it directly ties into the work that you do.”

Find Your Voice: “It's less about what accomplishments and credentials you include (those are all on your resume) and more about the picture your bio paints about who you are, your personality, your energy, and how you communicate,” said Eric Yaverbaum, CEO, Ericho Communications. “Your bio is an opportunity to show that you can tell a story (in this case, your own), effectively communicate abstract concepts, capture an audience, and make people interested in what you're saying. So talk about what you're passionate about, what excites you, what makes you different, and most importantly, do it in a way that sounds like you.”

Write for Your Audience: “If you have the option, always think of your audience and who (the bio) is tailored for as that audience is likely more interested in hearing/seeing things most relevant to them that you've had experience with,” said Scott Dobroski, senior director, corporate communications at Glassdoor. “For instance, your professional bio may be slightly different for your LinkedIn profile, versus for a group of students you are speaking to or a set of customers.”

Avoid Generic Phrases and Buzzwords: “If you specialize in everything, you specialize in nothing,” said Jonathan Rick, president, The Jonathan Rick Group and adjunct professor of business writing at University of Maryland. Rick was referring to bios that include long lists of specialties and general expertise, such as “marketing powerhouse.” As Rick said,“Boasting is best when validated by a third party," such as an award from Forbes Magazine or PRNEWS. "Otherwise, you’re just another self-proclaimed guru in a field that’s long on salesmanship and short on specifics.”

Nicole Schuman is a reporter for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal