The value of a well-written personal or corporate profile

We’ve all taken a stab at writing our own profile or bio, and, trust me, no one can write your story as well as a professional writer who does not know you. The professional writer will research you online, interview your friends, colleagues and family members, and ultimately capture who you are and why you are who you are in a compelling, unbiased profile that will ring truer than the usual puff piece.

Most professionally written profiles are commissioned by news media and magazines who have no relationship with you. These may be downright unflattering. So, why not commission a profile of your own? This could be a piece of, say, 1,500 words to 2,500 words that you can repurpose in many ways, including:

  1. A blog post or article on your website. Upon publishing, your social media can distribute the link. And your short nuts-and-bolts bio on your “who we are” page can link back to this post or article.
  2. An article for your in-house communications channels. Staff and employees will have a better idea about who you are.
  3. Your Wikipedia entry. These now must be written by an outsider, not the subject.
  4. Fodder for your introduction or program bio at speeches and presentations.
  5. Distribution via charities, schools and nonprofits you or your company support. They have their own websites, magazines and outreach efforts that are always in need of fascinating content. Even if they decide to commission their own profiles (here’s a typical example of one for GGU Magazine), yours can get them started.
  6. Contract negotiations. For example, in a baseball player’s profile I summarized his community contributions as a case for a new multi-million-dollar deal.
  7. Research material for that news media/magazine profile that won’t be a puff piece and may even be unflattering, yet will reach more readers and bring them to your own website to learn more.

HERE’S HOW TO EMPOWER THE WRITER OF YOUR PROFILE.

If you decide to commission a profile or bio, consider scheduling interviews in settings that show you in your element. Here’s an example of a profile I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle that inspired the subject and one of her friends to write to me to tell me that I really captured her essence — and I can’t help but think that her choice of venues made an impact.

And if you are doing your interviews remotely (here’s one example of a profile done remotely), plan on a lengthy initial interview with easy followups by email and phone. Be generous with the writer on referrals to the people who know you best.

Plan on one round of revisions. I recommend showing the profile to a few of those who know you well and asking them if it captures you. If you would like to add material, get back to the writer and ask for that. If there is something you think you want to remove, say why.

Finally, I recommend resisting the impulse to do your own rewriting or to turn the profile into a lopsided puff piece. Before you know it, you’ll be coming across as pompous, or, at worst, phony. And there’s no value in that kind of personal profile.

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