How do I write a bio about myself?

This is a question that comes up a lot for me. It’s funny how confident so many of us are when writing about the topics we’re most knowledgeable about, but when it comes to writing about the person we should know the most about – ourselves – we start drawing a blank.

Don’t worry, writing a personal bio doesn’t have to be daunting. Let’s break it down into manageable chunks.

Start with the obvious

No matter where your bio will appear, a company website, social media, or within a publication, you’ll need to start with a few key things:

  • Your name (and in some cases your proper title e.g. Dr, Prof. etc)
  • Your position/role/job
  • Your qualifications or a short list of relevant things that make you qualified to speak to a particular topic e.g. previously published titles, guest speaker events, etc

For example: Dr Joe Bloggs, Senior Researcher and author of How to Write Like Joe and How to Edit Like a Pro…

Get the tone right

The tone of your bio will vary depending on where it appears. You can take a more casual tone on social media but you’ll need to take a more formal tone if it’s appearing in a company brochure.

If your bio is appearing in a publication, the tone should align with the tone of the publication, meaning you may need to edit your stock-standard bio if you have one.

For exmaple, Joe Bloggs’ bio may read like the below in his company’s brochure, but he’s also a children’s book author and the tone of his bio needs to change accordingly.

Company brochure: Dr Joe Bloggs is the author of How to Write Like Joe and How to Edit Like a Pro. He’s held several senior positions within ABC Corp. over his 10 years with the company…

Children’s book bio: Joe Bloggs lives in Sunnyville with his young family and cat Smokey. When he’s not writing about castles and dragons, he’s out looking for his next adventure…

List your key skills

Which skills you list and if you should list them at all, will also depend on where your bio appears, so stick to what your intended reader should know about you.

Is your bio appearing on the company website? Then chances are the skills or strengths that help you succeed in your current position or help your clients succeed are the ones you should be listing.

For example: Joe Bloggs is the head of our Client Satisfaction team. Joe is known for his ability to get to the heart of a client’s problem, his quick-thinking and his can-do attitude.

You’re also a star baker who blows your co-workers away with your triple-choc brownies every time? That’s awesome! But less relevant here… (unless you’re a baker…)

Highlight your achievements

Again, which achievements will depend on where your bio is going, but your standout recognition is almost always worth including.

For example: Joe Bloggs is the head of our Client Satisfaction team, awarded the ‘Happy Customer Medal’ now three years in a row

Your achievements would be worth adding to LinkedIn, your CV, a company bio and any publications you appear in. They will help to establish you as an authority on that topic in your readers’ minds.

Read back through

Once you’re happy with your bio, read back over it, a couple of times if you have to and then get a friend to read it.

I’m still surprised how many bios I’ve come across with simple typos in them, and given a bio is usually the first thing we read before reading any further, a typo is a terrible first impression.

Of course if you just don’t have the time, need a lengthy bio, fast or would prefer a professional touch, you can always get in touch and I’ll happily write one for you.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

9 tricks to help you write a blog post in under 30 minutes

Up against a deadline? That next blog post is due within the hour, and you’re still looking at a blank page? Never fear, we have 9 tricks to get your post written and posted in less than 30 minutes.

It happens to even seasoned bloggers, your deadline is looming, and somehow your un-written post is still sitting there. It’s nothing but a blank page, due in less than an hour. It might seem like an impossible task, but before you admit defeat, take a look at the 9 tricks sure to help you write a blog post in under 30 minutes.

  1. Minimise distractions. Seems basic, but on a practical level, you’re unlikely to meet a tight deadline if you’re constantly being interrupted. Seat yourself somewhere quiet, with your phone off, and your emails minimised.
  2. Have a plan of attack. It doesn’t have to be detailed, and let’s face it, you don’t have time for detail! But spend a few minutes thinking about the structure of your post – will you include a bulleted list? An infographic? What will the call-to-action (CTA) be?
  3. It doesn’t have to be a 100% original concept. In his post on coming up with new ideas, The Copybot founder, Demian Farnworth credits repackaging an old idea so it seems new, as one way of coming up with new ideas.
  4. Dip into older posts or copy. And on that note, how many times have you written a piece, only to scrap it and start again? Sometimes the copy we’ve ditched can actually be great in a different post or context. So, search for old drafts, posts and copy that didn’t make the cut and grab what could be valuable content from the cutting room floor, as Demian explains in his post on pillaging old content for new ideas.
  5. Use complementary content. Use genuinely helpful, existing content you have to complement your copy. Think, a relevant infographic (give credit if not your own), guides or charts.
  6. Just start writing. Just start, even if you’re not sure, sometimes just putting finger to key can give you the inspiration you need.
  7. Don’t overthink it. Once you’ve started writing, don’t overthink it or second guess yourself – you can leave that to the editing stage.
  8. Don’t edit until it’s done. Don’t be tempted to edit as you go, it can be hard to write and edit at the same time, as they’re two different functions. Get it written down, and then look to make changes once you’re ready to proofread.
  9. Don’t beat yourself up if it’s not perfect. Sometimes it’s hard to be objective about our own writing, especially if written under pressure. Write, then proof, make edits, then hit send!

Have a go. Employ some (or all) of these techniques when you’re pressed for time, but remember, when it comes to getting out great content in record time, it really comes down to giving readers the answers to the questions they have and being clear and concise. Your post doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) ramble on for thousands of words. State the question, aim to answer it effectively, and get those words onto the page.

What are some of your techniques to write a blog post in under 30 minutes? Post your answers below.

The most ‘un-stocky’ stock images and where to find them

Oftentimes we’re in need of high-quality images to accompany our compelling text. A good image doesn’t just grab the reader’s attention, it can help (or hinder) the perception that a website, blog or brochure is credible, that the writer is knowledgeable about the topic and can even resonate with a reader before they read past the title of a piece of content.

So, a good image is kind of important if you care about reader attention, credibility, looking knowledgeable and resonance…

But good quality images cost dollars and time, whether you’re creating them yourself or sourcing them from a stock image site. We don’t always have the skills or budget to do this though, so are we left with a piece of great copy sans image or (potentially worse) a shonky looking clip art job? Nope! Luckily, there are three places I use each time I need a great image for free, but to save you time trawling the web I’ve put them here for you in one handy location…

…and here they are:

1. Death to Stock Photo

Death to Stock is an artist-owned co-op that provides you with authentic stock photos (and videos). The images and video are beautiful and artist created, so you don’t get your typical ‘stocky’-type stuff here.

Death to Stock Photo offers a 14-day free trial which you can use to get some pretty stunning imagery or video footage, and you can cancel anytime.

2. Unsplash

Unsplash describe themselves as the internet’s source of freely useable images. And that’s exactly what they deliver. Again, you won’t find much in the way of a ‘corporate type’, smiling cheesily at the camera, but what you will find are people-focussed images that look entirely real, or dare I say, authentic. As if the thing it depicts was really happening. Pretty cool.

Unsplash also has a handy search function so you can find exactly what you’re looking for and it makes it super easy to credit the author of the image (if you’d like to).

3. Pexels

Pexels is like Google images for Creative Commons stock imagery (copyrighted images you can use freely with little/some restriction).

It’s easy to search for what you want and it’ll suggest similar images based on what you’re looking at, including paid versions through Adobe Stock if you can’t quite find what you’re looking for (although I’ve never had that trouble).

So, there you go! Bookmark these three for beautiful imagery that doesn’t look like your standard stock photo and doesn’t cost you a thing.

Photo used in this blog post by Marek Levák on Unsplash.

So, what do you do again?

As a corporate writer (and as a hobby, one of fiction) I often get asked exactly what it is I do. It doesn’t seem to matter if the person is a colleague, friend or even family member, if you say you’re a copywriter/communications advisor/corporate writer often times you’ll be met with a blank stare and polite smile.

But to be honest, what we ‘comms professionals’ do is pretty straightforward (though oftentimes, not all that easy). We engage with people. That’s it in a nutshell.

An author seeks to engage her reader, the copywriter or communications professional, his audience. The concept might be simple, but the execution is not. When writing a piece of communication, no matter how well written, or edited, one of the biggest hurdles a writer first faces is getting anyone to read it at all.

That’s where a communications professional comes in. There’s a lot to consider before a single word is written. Here are five things a comms person really does:

Identifies your ‘audience’ AKA works out who the message is for

You’ve probably already given this some thought, but your comms person will make sure we identify not only who the message is for, but work out how best to speak to them. What messages are relevant to them? Where are they likely to look for information? How long do they typically spend reading content? The list goes on…

Once we’ve worked out who we’re speaking to we can then work out what channel/medium to use.

Picks the best channel and medium to engage your audience

I’ll speak in general terms here as an example, but different audiences consume content in different ways. Which means the medium you use, for example video, written content, imagery, and the channel you choose to distribute your content could mean the difference between finding your audience and not being heard by them at all.

A millennial may be more inclined to keep across your company’s Twitter page than a baby boomer. A baby boomer might be happy to have your blog arrive in their inbox each week, and you may find your video content resonates across each generation. It can be tricky to work out where your audience is seeking their content and where they’re happy to receive it through trial and error. A comms person, luckily will already have a good idea of where to start.

Crafts your copy so it resonates with that audience

You know who your people are, you know where they’re looking for content and now you know what kind of content they like. Great! Now it’s time to speak their language.

So often, I’ve seen stiff, corporate copy handed over for use on a blog, social media or media release, and to be blunt, no one will read it. People enjoy reading content that sounds like it was written, well by a person.

Can you imagine if I started this post with an introduction that read, “…the role of the corporate communications professional is to write and disseminate organisational communications to both internal and external audience groups via various channels.”

It wouldn’t be an incorrect statement, in fact, it might read similarly to many job descriptions you’ve seen… but it’s boring. And it doesn’t really get to the heart of the question anyway.

Communication professionals know how to word something so that it has the best chance of being read, understood and even enjoyed by your audience. All of which are more important than your copy sounding ‘smart’, ‘important’, or ‘professional’.

They’re really good at asking questions

This may be more important than you think. Oftentimes I’ve seen a piece of work go right along the chain without a vital question being asked until it gets to comms.

I once worked for a company that was in the thick of an enterprise bargaining agreement with staff. Negotiations had been going on for a long time and people were starting to get tired of it. In the middle of this another department were looking to launch an internal collaboration tool which worked similarly to Facebook. It would allow staff to chat freely across the organisation, sharing ideas and connecting.

It wasn’t until a comms person who was working on the comms for the enterprise agreement and knew of the launch of the collaboration tool asked, “…are we factoring in that people are more than likely going to talk about the bargaining agreement (all things good and bad) on this new tool?” That the team even thought about the implications of this.

It became a great opportunity to have the leadership team get on the front foot and actually drive the conversation around the new agreement when the tool launched, but without the question being asked beforehand it could’ve meant any anger or frustration people were likely feeling could’ve ended up as unmonitored posts doing the rounds internally, with no one prepared with answers or direction.

And finally, yes they write and edit well

Of course, your comms person should also be able to put a few words together nicely, free of spelling and grammatical errors, but that should go without saying ;).

I hope this helps to answer the question of what your friendly neighbourhood comms person can do for you.

Photo courtesy of WordPress

Five ways to wrangle writer’s block

Almost all writer’s have been faced with the dreaded empty page syndrome that is writer’s block at some point in their careers, and out of necessity most have ways to combat it. Here are some tips I use when when the blinking cursor threatens to overwhelm me.

Don’t start at the beginning

Who says you have to start at the start? If you’re not sure how to get the ball rolling on a particular piece of writing but you have an idea on some of the material you’d like to include, or even how you plan on concluding the piece (hint: it should sum up the point/s you’re trying to make), then don’t feel bound by starting at the beginning.

Write the end first, or start in the middle. By the time you’ve found your rhythm and you’ve started on the bulk of the piece, you’ll find it much easier to craft an introduction.

Use a template

Sometimes opening a blank Word document is enough to induce writer’s block for me, which is why I don’t shy away from using different templates I’ve come up with over the years to help get things started.

Depending on the piece you plan to write, have a look through past content you’ve written or even do a quick Google search for standard templates for blog posts, media releases, newsletters or the like to get you started.

The topics you write about will of course differ, but you’ll be surprised how often a template with the structure you need to follow will help. With media releases for example, I have a few saved that help me to plan out a story which follows the opening of a new business, an award given to a business or person, and some for charity events.

The subject matter differs but the structure remains the same.

Talk to a subject matter expert

I’m often not a subject matter expert on the topics I’m asked to write about (with copywriting being one exception). So if I’ve only had time to partially research the topic or I’m scanning a few hurried notes it can be difficult to start and craft a piece of writing.

I find the best way to overcome this problem is to interview a subject matter expert. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge but chatting to someone who knows the ins and outs of the topic you’re writing about can inspire you to go in different directions with the piece and of course give you some great quotes.

Don’t re-invent the wheel

If you’re struggling to come up with a topic, you don’t always have to start from scratch. With a blog post for example, take a look back at some of the more popular posts on your site. Which resonated the most with readers? Why not tackle the topic from a different angle?

For example, if you had already written about five ways to tackle writer’s block, why not draft a post about writing prompts and ways to get started?

Don’t try to edit and write at the same time

You may have heard this one before, but writing and editing actually uses the two different sides of your brain, making it extremely difficult to do both simultaneously. So don’t!

Write your piece, just get started. Write anything (yes, literally anything), and see what flows. Even if your idea is a bit half-baked, write it out and then hit save. Come back later to edit with fresh eyes.

Walk away from the pen or keyboard (bonus tip)

I know I said I had five tips I often use, but as I made a cuppa halfway through this post I remembered another tried and true tip!

Sometimes you need to get away from the desk and not think about writing. I can’t tell how many times I’ve looked at a piece of writing and not known how to start it, finish it, or make it better… that is until I’ve gone and made myself a cup of tea and completely cleared the thought from my mind.

Once you’ve gone and done something completely different, it’s amazing how many times the answer is there waiting for you when you get back.

These are just a few tips to help you get started, but at the end of the day, just start writing! What are some of the tips you’ve used to overcome writer’s block?

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash