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Need to write your bio and don't know where to begin? Here's one way to do it.

July 18, 2018

Bumbershoot PR is now operating in its 10th year of business. What? I can’t believe I stayed afloat for so long. But yes, it’s true.

 

I am back to being a solo practitioner and now I just partner on an as-needed basis with my amazing network of senior level publicists, writers, and communications pros across the country. It’s divine and relatively stress-free.

 

I’ve recently begun working on ways to take what I do for my clients and standardize it and simplify it so those with very limited budgets and experience can take control of their own communications. I’m presenting this content at an industry conference in the fall –a legit paid speaking opp. I’m growin’ up, y’all!

 

At a related meeting recently, a woman asked if I was also blogging this info.

 

“No,” I answered, in a slow, dullish tone.  

 

“Why not?” she asked.

 

[Pause]

 

“I don’t know, lady. Maybe it’s because I am a solo practitioner, like I just wrote, so I have a lot of freaking work getting in the way,” is exactly what I didn’t say to her. 

 

I guess it just felt kind of unsolicited or inauthentic or [gasp!] unwanted to write about something I think people should do without ever talking to them first.

 

Aha!

 

That was the problem. I didn’t feel connected to my reader yet—I didn’t know who my audience would be. So I decided to check the old fashioned way: Facebook!

 

I posted this on my personal account first to see what the response would be, and it was actually fairly positive.

 

 

And if I can post on Facebook without starting a fight, I think it means I’m onto something.

 

A little background:

I get all of my business through referrals. People will call or email with, “So-and-so suggested I call you. I need help with _________,” and then we talk about what I can and can’t potentially do for them. If we decide we should move forward, we meet. Then I come back to them with a proposal. We either agree on the terms, or we make changes to it, or they decide they don’t want to work with me after all. But of all the calls that come in, many never make it past that first chat. Maybe it’s because the client’s product or goal doesn’t align with my personal values. But more times than not, I get calls from people with great ideas, products and/or businesses, but their budget is extremely limited. I simply can’t do much for them. And truly, I don’t think they even need me to.

 

Hence this DIY post.

 

Also in ten years of doing any line of work, I think the one thing we all learn is how we work. Like, I didn’t even mean to do this, but I recently realized that I approach client work in the same way with each new account. That there are eight steps that I work through pretty much every time. Whether I go fast or slow, or whether the client has actually done some of the footwork in advance or not, it all still has to happen for me to begin the pitching process.

 

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BIO YOU PROMISED US?

 

Yes, the bio. Of course. I'm getting to that.

 

One of the steps in my process is Evaluate. That’s where I normally get the information to get the bio started (and other company info to use later.)

 

Before we go any further, please understand that there are 1000 ways to get this right. This is one of them. You may have another way and that is good, too. Again, this isn't Facebook so we don't need to argue. 

 

Now back to this bio of yours. It’s simple. Through a series of easy questions, you’ll discover a few things. Such as:

 

Who are you?

What are you doing?

Why are you qualified to be doing it?

Where is my bio-writing assistant?

How in the hell am I going to write my own bio?

When was that bio due, again?

 

When I am hired by a client, I already kind of know who I’m dealing with because the person who hired me has already told me why they called for me in the first place. I meet with a team or company leader and we’ll all kind of casually sit down together and start chatting. I’ll start the conversation like this:

 

“Tell me about your customers.”

“Tell me about your competition.”

“Tell me what you could fix if you could only do one thing.”

 

Then I’ll take some notes about what I hear, about who they are, and what they fear, and maybe I’ll pick up on some of the problems they’re dealing with, too. This really is as organic as it sounds. This is how I can figure out who I’m talking to and how I can help them. Again, there are many ways to do this, and this is one that works for me. I leave this first meeting and absorb this information and then send over a Q&A to the core group I met with, fine-tuned for their business but based off of a template I work with regularly. This is their homework.

 

I know we’re talking about writing a bio here, but the document doesn’t have to be focused solely on the person. You can also use this opportunity to gain a lot of insight from their experience with the company, too. That’s why it’s called the Bio & Insights Q&A, and not just the Bio Q&A. 

 

Here is a sample Q list from a recent Bio & Insights doc. Nothing I am telling you is rocket science, because it doesn’t have to be. You just have to focus and do it. You’re smart. You’ve got this.

 

The Qs

 

AS I MENTIONED, I LOOK FOR INSIGHT INTO THE COMPANY AS WELL AS THE PERSON WHEN WRITING THE BIO. IF THAT’S HELPFUL TO YOU, START WITH ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS! OR JUST PLUCK OUT THE ONES YOU NEED. WE’RE NOT BAKING A CAKE HERE, SO FEEL FREE TO MAKE UP THE RECIPE AS YOU GO.

 

[company name]

Internal Team Bios and General Insight Q&A

[date]

[Insert Name]

[Insert Title]

[Insert Approximate Start Date]

[Insert Job Title]

 

1)    Describe your role at [company]

2)    Tell a personal story involving you and [insert industry]. (Your personal philosophy, perhaps, or what attracted you to the industry).

3)    What are your professional qualifications? What are you best at? 

4)    What did you do before this?

5)    Talk about the time you knew you were in this for the long haul.

6)    Talk about the [company name] – what does it mean to you?

7)    How do you describe [company] to your friends and family? 

8)    What attitude/personality does the company currently convey? And to whom?

9)    What feeling do you think the brand should strive to convey?

10) Who in the [industry] world is doing it right?

11) What is(are) your favorite [products/other output]? Why?

12) What is your least favorite? Why?

13) What surprises you most about your customers’ decision making?

14) What topic can you talk endlessly about?

15) What do you love most about your job?

16) Do you volunteer in the community and/or currently serve on any boards?

17) List awards, significant professional degrees, certifications you have obtained. 

18) What would you change about [company] if you had a magic wand?

19) Do you have any special interests and/or hobbies you’d like to mention?

20) What do like to you do for fun? Favorite music? Best trip you’ve ever taken? Anything you’d like to add?

 

The As

That wasn’t so bad, was it? The order of the questions has more to do with how my brain works in absorbing info. But when it’s time to turn it around for a consumer-facing message, I like to reorganize it a bit. I’ve drafted some fake answers about a fictional chef so you can have a sample, and later you will read how these answers become easy-to-write bio in the next section.

 

TAKE THE ANSWERS FROM STEP ONE AND REARRANGE THEM INTO THIS ORDER:

2, 1, 4, 3, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20  

1)    Tell a personal story involving you and [insert industry]. (Your personal philosophy, perhaps, or what attracted you to the industry).

I always knew that I would be a restauranteur. From an early age, I watched my aunt shaping lives from the kitchen, and nourishing our community. My father’s father taught me how to clean and cook the fish we caught in the summers. I always knew that I would someday work with food. This restaurant is as much a testament to their hard work as immigrants as it is to my tenacity in finally getting my own place.

 

2)    Describe your role at [company]

I get up at 4, make my kids lunch. Leave for the restaurant at 5. It’s my husband’s job to get them to the bus. I personally start the dough for the day’s bread. Then I finish my bookkeeping, ordering, and checking the day’s and week’s schedule. I look at the books to see who is coming in and then I make sure everything in the front of the house is impeccable.

 

3)    What did you do before this? 

I have always cooked. I went to American Culinary Institute in Boston and upon graduation, I worked on a smaller European cruise ship in the kitchen for a horrible Austrian chef who hated women, and Americans in particular. But under constant scrutiny and in tight spaces, I really learned how to organize my kitchen and myself. When I finally left, he told me he was wrong about me –and he also told me I made the best profiteroles he’d ever tasted!

 

4)    What are your professional qualifications? What are you best at?

I love baking, but I am not opening a bakery. This is a neighborhood restaurant for a sophisticated palate that focuses on American-grown food and international favorites.

 

5)    What is(are) your favorite [products/other output]? Why?

I am so proud of our fried chicken. Do you know how hard it is to make good gluten free fried chicken? I would go up against anyone’s grandmother with this chicken and come in a very close second.

 

6)    What topic can you talk endlessly about?

How bad food is impacting society negatively. Don’t even get me started. We aren’t eating food anymore. We’re eating chemicals, GMOs, pre-emergent--it’s killing us. Also, people don’t want to know where their food really comes and that creates a lack of appreciation about it, and a laziness that allows bad practices to become permanent.

 

7)    What do you love most about your job?

Creating something special and sharing it. Food is life and being part of that system gives me reason to live.

 

8)    Do you volunteer in the community and/or currently serve on any boards?

I work at the food bank once a month organizing their intake and helping train families how to do more with very little. I also donate holiday meals to a local charity.

 

9)    List awards, significant professional degrees, certifications you have obtained.  

I have my Masters in Culinary Arts from ACIB and got my BA in physics from Boston University. My parents made me get my undergrad in a “real field” – ha!  

 

10) Do you have any special interests and/or hobbies you’d like to mention?

I am a terrible herb farmer, but I love it. And I like to sew, but I never get to anymore.  

 

11) What do like to you do for fun? Favorite music? Best trip you’ve ever taken? Anything you’d like to add?

I loved the river cruises, but we rarely got to enjoy the ports. I did take a cooking trip to Morocco between that job and moving back to the states.

 

The Writing

Write it up. Here’s a 350 word version. That seems like a lot. But this post is like 2500, so I guess it’s not that bad. You can also carve up a cute, short bio out of this. (In the final section of this post I will show you how!)

 

HERE’S HOW I’VE STITCHED IT ALL TOGETHER/350 WORDS

 

The Long Version

Chef Beck Junica always knew in her heart that she’d become a restauranteur, even if it meant suffering through her family’s demands of an undergrad degree in order to work her way through culinary school. Her earliest memories are in the dining room of her family’s restaurant in Unnamed Exotic Country, watching her mother and aunt shaping lives from the kitchen, nourishing the community. She learned to clean and cook fish with her grandfather in precious summers spent together on the country’s coast. She views this, her New, Unnamed Restaurant in This City, as both a testament to her immigrant family and her own tenacity.

 

As a graduate of American Culinary Institute in Another Big City, Beth spent her early career in the hull of a cruise ship, for Austrian Chef Eckhart Sacher who still raves about her profiteroles – the best he’s ever tasted!  Her love affair with baking blends seamlessly with her desire to run the consummate neighborhood cafe. American-grown menu dotted with international favorites, and a specialty of Gluten Free Fried Chicken that would make your own grandmother sit up and take notice.

 

Chef J opened This Unnamed Restaurant to combat the impact that poor quality food is having on American society, if only for those lucky enough to snag one of the 11 seats, on Thursday-Saturday nights. Her goal is to ensure her customers know her, and that she knows them – and they know where their food comes from and how they’ve made a positive impact on the industry through this meal. Her philosophy is that Food is life and being part of the system is her raison d'être.

 

When not in the kitchen, Chef J can be found at the Local Food Bank organizing intake and helping train families on how to do more with less. She also donates holiday meals to impact the city’s homeless population. She obtained her Masters in Culinary Arts from ACIB and her BA in physics from That Other University. In her spare time, she enjoys cultivating her herb garden, sewing, and spending time with her young children, Simba and Pinto.

 

The Short Version

Don’t need as much content? How about a really brief bio? We’re going to take 350 words down to 100. Remember, we have established Chef J as extremely passionate about the industry and influenced by family, so be careful not to lose that as you edit. Then all you do is cross out the least important phrases (or underline as I did here because my blogging software can't seem to do strike-through text?) until you're close to 100 words.

 

The edits:

Chef Beck Junica always knew in her heart that she’d become a restauranteur, even if it meant suffering through her family’s demands of an undergrad degree in order to work her way through culinary school. Her earliest memories are in the dining room of her family’s restaurant in Unnamed Exotic Country, watching her mother and aunt shaping lives from the kitchen, nourishing the community. She learned to clean and cook fish with her grandfather in precious summers spent together on the country’s coast. She views this, her New, Unnamed Restaurant in This City, as both a testament to her immigrant family and her own tenacity.

 

As a graduate of American Culinary Institute in Another Big City, Beth spent her early career in the hull of a cruise ship, for Austrian Chef Eckhart Sacher who still raves about her profiteroles – the best he’s ever tasted!  Her love affair with baking blends seamlessly with her desire to run the consummate neighborhood cafe. American-grown menu dotted with international favorites, and a specialty of Gluten Free Fried Chicken that would make your own grandmother sit up and take notice.

 

Chef J’s opened This Unnamed Restaurant to combat the impact that poor quality food is having on American society, if only for those lucky enough to snag one of the offe11 seats, on Thursday-Saturday nights. Her goal is to ensure her customers know her, and that she knows them – and they know where their food comes from and how they’ve made a positive impact on the industry through this meal. Her philosophy is that Food is life and being part of the system is her raison d'être.

 

When not in the kitchen, Chef J can be found at the Local Food Bank organizing intake and helping train families on how to do more with less. She also donates holiday meals to impact the city’s homeless population. She obtained her Masters in Culinary Arts from ACIB and her BA in physics from That Other University. In her spare time, she enjoys cultivating her herb garden, sewing, and spending time with her young children, Simba and Pinto.

 

FINAL – 100 WORDS

Chef Beck Junica always knew she’d be a restauranteur. Her earliest memories are in her family’s restaurant in Unnamed Exotic Country, where her mother and aunt nourished their community. She views her New, Unnamed Restaurant in This American City, as a testament to her immigrant family and her own tenacity. Her goal is to make a positive impact on the industry and her philosophy is that food is life, and being part of the system is her raison d'être. When not in the kitchen, Chef J can be found at the Local Food Bank, cultivating her herb garden, sewing, and spending time with her young children.

 

That's it!

 

There you have it. I hope you enjoyed the process. Was it helpful? Was it dreadful? Do you want me to share another tutorial? Email me at tzeeck@bumbershootpr.com and tell me what you think. And if you use this method, send me your bio to read and your thoughts on the process because I am anxious to know!

 

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