Note from Casey Hibbard:While I’m out on maternity leave until the end of July, this blog will feature a summer guest blogger series with content from experts in marketing, organizational storytelling and writing.
By Michael Margolis
Gone are the days of “Just the facts, M’am.” Instead we’re all trying to suss each other out in the relationship economy. Do I share something in common with you? How do we relate to each other? Are you relevant to my work? We’re exchanging stories all the time to determine if we belong in the same tribe.
That’s why the resume is on the out, and the bio is on the rise. People work with people they can relate to and identify with. Trust comes from personal disclosure. And that kind of sharing is hard to convey in a resume.
Your bio needs to tell the bigger story. Especially, when you’re in business for yourself, or in the business of relationships. It’s your bio that’s read first.
If you’re an entrepreneur like me – you probably haven’t been asked for your resume in a long time. Instead, people Google you – and quickly assess whether they like you, trust you, and might choose to buy from you.
To help you with your storytelling, your bio should address the following five question:
- Who am I?
- How can I help you?
- How did I get here (i.e. know what I know)?
- Why can you trust me?
- What do we share in common?
Your bio is the lynchpin for expanding your thought leadership and recognition, especially online. It frames the conversation and sets the tone. It’s your job to reveal a bit about yourself and how you see the world. Do this well, and people will eagerly want to engage with you further.
Here’s the challenge: who taught you how to write your bio?
Admittedly, most of us never got a lesson in this essential task. Even the most skilled communicators get tongue-tied and twisted when trying to represent themselves in writing. We fear the two extremes: obnoxious self-importance or boring earnestness.
It gets further complicated when you’re in the midst of a career or business reinvention. You have to reconcile the different twists and turns of your past into a coherent professional storyline.
The personal branding industry has only muddied the waters. It’s easy to feel turned off by the heavy-handed acts of self-promotion that the various gurus out there say you’re supposed to do. We’ve been told to carefully construct a persona that will differentiate and trademark our skills into a unique value proposition. That’s mostly a bunch of buzzword bingo bullshit.
Instead, share more of what you really care about. And then write your bio in service to your reader, not just ego validation.
Imagine that: A compelling reason to tell your story beyond bragging to the world that you’re “kind of a big deal.” Embrace the holy-grail of storytelling: tell a story that people can identify with as their own – and the need to persuade, convince, or sell them on anything disappears.
With all this in mind, here’s a few key pointers for reinventing your bio as a story:
1. Share a Point of View.
Having something to say is the ultimate proof. What’s missing from the larger conversation? Speak to that. Don’t be afraid to tell the bigger story. We want to know how you see the world. Show us that you have a unique perspective or fresh vantage point on the things that matter most.
2. Create a Backstory.
Explain the origin for how you came to see the world in this way. Maybe it was something that happened to you as a kid or early in your career. Consider your superhero origins. How did you come into these powers? What set you off on this quest or journey? What’s the riddle or mystery you are still trying to solve? When you tell the story of who you were meant to be, it becomes an undeniable story. Natural authority is speaking from the place of what you know and have lived.
3. Incorporate External Validators.
Think frugally here. To paraphrase the artist De La Vega, we spend too much time trying to convince others, instead of believing in ourselves. Nonetheless, if you’re doing something new, different, or innovative – you have to anchor it into the familiar. Help people see that your novel ideas are connected to things they recognize and trust. That might be your notable clients, press, publications, or things you’ve created. Just enough to show people your story is for real.
4. Invite people into relationship.
Now that you’ve established you’ve got something to share, remind people you’re not so different from them. Vulnerability is the new black. Share some guilty pleasures. Describe what you like to geek out on. Reveal a couple things you obsess about as hobbies or interests. This will make you more approachable and relatable. You’re human, too. Help people find the invisible lines of connection.
To revamp your bio, start with these simple storytelling principles and questions above. In the process, you’ll discover a greater potential to shift how you see yourself and how the world sees you. Your story sets the boundaries for everything else that follows.
If you’re having trouble being heard, recognized, or understood, it’s probably an issue related to your story and identity. The good news? It’s never too late to reinvent your story.
What’s Your Take?
Have you updated your bio recently? What do you struggle with?
Michael Margolis is the Dean of Story University and host of the Reinvention Summit. Visit the The New About Me, if you’re interested in reinventing your bio as a story. You can also connect with him on twitter, @getstoried
By Bill Metcalf
Note from Casey Hibbard:
While I'm out on maternity leave until the end of July, this blog will feature a summer guest blogger series with content from experts in marketing, organizational storytelling and writing.
One of the most powerful tools in any marketing arsenal is raving testimonials from your happy clients. So every time you haul out the old brochure to “spruce it up,” write a press release or develop a new website, you go through the painful task of begging for testimonials.
Asking for testimonials from clients – yuck!
Seriously, doesn’t your stomach turn just a bit and your throat become parched just as you are about to ask . . . no, let’s be honest here . . . beg, for a testimonial from a client?
Worst of all, most of the time, you don’t beg once. No, you have to beg continually. It’s embarrassing. Finally, you give up, write the damn thing for them, and carry it over for them to sign. You consider yourself lucky, if you haven’t lost your client’s good will due to all of your badgering.
Victory? Well, sort of. Except that your testimonials all have that familiar ring of your own prose. They literally drip with syrupy phrases like, “outstanding service,” “a true partner,” “a commitment to excellence.”
Maybe your quest for a testimonial was doomed from the start!
Read this typical email and ask yourself if you have not – in one form or another – said or written something like this to a client when asking for a testimonial.
Jo -- I was wondering if you would be willing to do me a favor. You recently told me how happy you were with our service to you over the years, especially after handling that big shipping problem you had. (Whew! That was a close one. So glad we could rescue that order for you.) Anyway, we’re putting together a new web page and would really like to have a couple of testimonials on the site. Would you be willing to help us out? Dinner is on me afterwards! Justin
Justin has just delivered this testimonial’s Kiss of Death. How? Well, first of all, he asked for a testimonial! What do you mean, “He asked for a testimonial?” How else would you ever expect to get one?
How do you feel when someone asks you for a favor? If you have teenagers, your knee jerk reaction might be to put your hand on your wallet. If it is a supplier you like, you certainly may want to help them out, since they gave you good service.
But either way you look at it, when someone asks you to do them a favor by giving them a testimonial, you do not put this request on the very top of your “To Do List” because there is no direct benefit to you.
What’s In It For Them? You see, in asking your client to do you a favor by giving you a testimonial, you have forgotten the cardinal rule of commerce – “What’s in this for me?” Take a look at this alternative approach:
Jo -- I am so pleased that our work is getting you the results you deserve! You know, the reason you are getting these great results is that YOU are an exceptional client. Not everyone "gets" the value of what we do, and how it can enhance their business. You do. And you take ACTION to really harvest the value of your investment. We like to showcase some of our best customers to demonstrate how they are using our services to better serve their clients. While these interviews will no doubt say some nice things about us, they are more "information-driven." That is, anyone who listens to this interview will discover ways that they, too, can improve their business through your successful experience. If you would like to be "showcased" to position your company as a market leader, then I will have someone call to arrange a telephone interview. He will record and edit the interview. YOU will have final approval of the finished product before anyone else sees it. During the interview, he will make a point of positioning your company as a forward thinking, customer-driven organization. Trust me. You will love doing this interview with him. He is a professional in every way. He makes you feel really comfortable. And then he edits the interview so well that he can even make me sound articulate! 😉 I am copying him on this email and hope that you two will connect soon. Nothing to prepare. He will guide you through the whole process. He will probably only need 20 minutes for the interview, but he likes to have you block out an hour just in case you get started late, or you want to say more about your company. Please feel free to pass on this opportunity Jo, but I feel that this would be a great opportunity for you and for our company as well. I've attached a sample of these interviews to this email. Best, Justin
Can you see the WIIFT in this approach? Your client gets “showcased.” They are selected as an “exceptional client” who uses your products or services “to better serve their clients.” In other words, you will show how your services create value for your customer’s customers! When this interview is finished, it should present your customer in such a positive light they would want to put the interview on their own website.
Try this approach with your customers. At the very least, stop begging and start finding What’s-In-It-For-Them. If you do just that one thing, your testimonials will get instantly better. If not . . . pucker up baby . . . your Kiss of Death is on its way.
Bill Metcalf records telephone interviews with your Raving Fans to "do the math" and determine the real cash value of what you offer your customers. These interviews can be used as multimedia testimonials or Compelling Cases can turn these interviews into powerful written case studies. Discover more about Bill at www.MoreAndBetterClients.com.