Writing an Effective Bio

Recently, I have received numerous client requests for written bios. Many times, these are needed for websites, speaking engagements, or workshop proposals. While you may be tempted to include everything, you need to remember that it your target audience that counts. Think of the bio from their point-of-view and only include the necessary information.

Here are my top ten tips for writing an effective bio:

  1. Identify your purpose. Are you speaking at an event? Who will be reading the information?
  2. Utilize the third person perspective. Using this approach makes the information sound more objective. I tell clients to think of the back of a book jacket – consider what you would read about the author.
  3. Shorter is better. Impressive people have short bios. More importantly, people have short attention spans. Capitalize on your most important information first and get to the point.
  4. Have length options. Your bio may be requested in different lengths. Keep a running document of a short bio, a medium bio (about a paragraph in length), and a long bio (up to one page in length).
  5. Invert your pyramid. Put the most important information first. If someone quits reading your bio, what do you want them to know about you for sure?
  6. Start with your name. Although this may seem obvious, it is important for people to correlate your information with your name. For example, my bio begins, “Heather Rothbauer-Wanish founded Feather Communications in 2008…”
  7. Add some personality. Readers want to know YOU as the person. If appropriate, add some humor and a memorable fact so that the readers recognize you and your information.
  8. Don’t include everything. You can’t be everything to everyone. And, you simply can’t put all of your information into your bio. Include the information that is pertinent to your audience.
  9. Contact information. End your bio with your contact information (if appropriate). You want to make it as convenient as possible for someone to contact you.
  10. Read and rewrite. Your bio is ever-evolving. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to review and proofread your information. Review your bio on a regular basis – this will save you time in the long-term.

Finally, if you have tried to write an effective bio and it just isn’t working, please contact Feather Communications today at 715-559-6378 or heather@feather-communications.com. We love working with clients and making their information shine!

Endorsements versus Recommendations on LinkedIn

While providing LinkedIn workshops recently, several questions have come up again and again regarding endorsements and recommendations on LinkedIn. While many of the workshop attendees appreciate being endorsed for certain skills, some are confused by the process. In fact, they are either being endorsed for things they may not even do, or they are confused as to why so many people are now endorsing them.

First, in my opinion, LinkedIn has added the endorsements option to make it easier for others to quickly say, “Yes, I think that you are pretty good at XYZ skill.” Endorsements are a quick way to add credibility to your skills, without asking too much from your connections. LinkedIn even provides them with suggestions for endorsement items. This will appear at the top of the screen each time someone logs into LinkedIn.

After you receive endorsements, they appear at the bottom of your profile as a list of specified skills, along with the associate profile photographs of those that endorse you for the particular item. This is a great visual for those that may be reviewing your profile. Someone may be able to quickly deduce that one of your top skills is “Public Speaking” simply be glancing through your endorsements at the bottom of the profile.

Now, even though endorsements are a way to leverage your expertise, LinkedIn provides an even better way to recognize your skills. Recommendations are written excerpts by connections that have worked with you in the past. In my opinion, recommendations are more meaningful than endorsements because they have been crafted by someone that has taken the time to create something unique for you. Rather than just a click of the mouse for an endorsement, a recommendation is something that is written exclusively to discuss your skills and accomplishments.

So, when given the option, a recommendation always means more than an endorsement. Although it may be more difficult to gather recommendations, they are worth far more than someone just clicking a mouse saying you are good at a particular skill. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations. Think of it as asking someone to be a reference when you are job searching. And, be sure to ask someone that truly knows your skills and abilities. In the long run, these recommendations will lead to success on both your LinkedIn profile and in your professional life.

How Social Media Pays Off for Small Businesses

Most small business owners have little or no spare time. And, when I provide presentations to local chambers of commerce or other organizations, I always stress the importance of using social media as a tool to boost their businesses. And, at the same time, I feel like most small business owners in the audience are thinking one thing, “How am I going to find time to add that to my to-do list?” Well, I am here to tell you that you must find a way to do it.

Social media usage does pay off for small businesses. How do I know this? I am a small business owner myself—a small business owner without a multimillion dollar marketing budget. That means I have to be creative and smart when it comes to finding new clients and promoting my business. I have found that using social media has paid off – literally – in the form of dollars and cents. And, social media has allowed me the opportunity to promote my services throughout the country.

One example occurred with LinkedIn. Someone that was a ‘connection of a connection’ posted a status update that she was searching for a new freelance writer. I sent her a message via LinkedIn and told her about my business. My message was professional and included a link to my website. She contacted me and asked for an estimate. I was able to secure the account and recently completed my first article for the new company.

Another example includes following the appropriate people on Twitter. One of the people I follow hosts an online radio show and was seeking guests. I sent him a message mentioning my knowledge of human resources, resumes, and interview skills. On November 6, I was the featured guest Drive ThruHR! Not only did I get to discuss my services with an entirely new audience, but now I have an MP3 file that I can use on my website to promote my business.

Both examples have helped my business grow and prosper. And, more importantly to my own bottom line, neither of them had any out-of-pocket marketing expense. So, social media does pay off for small businesses. Join groups, follow people that may be able to assist you, and be willing to ask questions. The bottom line with social media is this: you need to pay attention to others’ needs. They are asking for your help – you just need to listen!

How to Choose Promotional Products for Your Business

When choosing promotional products for your business, there are many things to consider. Do you need promotional items? What items should you purchase? How many items do you need? How much money are you willing to spend?

There are a wide variety of promotional products available today. Long gone are the days of only offering free pens to your clients or potential clients. Now, you can order customized calendars, portfolios, notepads, umbrellas, and key chains. The first question to consider is your promotional product needs.

Do you have an upcoming trade show? If so, free items and promotional pieces are an easy way to attract people to your trade show booth. If you send a follow up or thank you letter to clients after a job is completed, a trinket or item is a good way to keep your name in front of them even longer. If you meet with potential clients in-person, offering a free pen or notepad is another way to make an impression.

What items should you purchase? While pens are a tried-and-true item, there are so many other possibilities. Tailor the item to your situation. Last summer I attended the Northern Wisconsin State Fair. While I gave away pens and small notepads, I also specially ordered can coolers specifically for the booth at the fair. It was July and it was HOT outside—can coolers were a huge success at this event. Be sure to plan ahead; ordering promotional products takes time. If you want to be ready for a particular event, order your products and have them ready in plenty of time. You don’t want to pay a rush charge for something that could have easily been ordered months earlier.

Finally, decide on a budget. While ordering a larger quantity of an item may save you money, you may not even know if your promotional item will be a success. Don’t fall in the trap of ordering more just to get your per unit cost reduced. Start with a smaller quantity and if it works, order more next time.

Most importantly, take time to consider what is best for your specific business. What works for one business may not work well for another. Think about what your customers will want from your business. And, consider what will keep your name in front of them for the longest period of time. Enjoy the search for promotional items – the possibilities are endless!

Why Marketing Yourself is Important

Even if you think your job has absolutely nothing to do with marketing – you would be incorrect. You marketed yourself to get that job. In fact, each one of us markets ourselves each day—to each other, to your boss, and to potential clients. And, in today’s competitive economy, learning how to market yourself is even more important.

Marketing can occur through one-on-one networking, through reputation, and via others. Networking—meeting people face-to-face—is an important part of marketing yourself. Through these interactions, you can position yourself as an expert in your field.

Your reputation also serves as a marketing tool. Positive impacts you have made in the past will be discussed within business circles and your industry. This can lead to the best form of advertisement in the world: word-of-mouth marketing. If a friend tells you they had a great experience with a hair stylist, you are much more likely to contact that same hair stylist. By providing a great haircut, that hair stylist has created marketing for himself or herself.

Several months ago, I received the following message from a previous co-worker. She overheard the information at her current workplace, a newspaper organization. Her message stated the following:

I heard the following at work today: Heather Rothbauer-Wanish is one of the best-known freelance writers. She’s good at promoting herself.

When I first read her message, I wasn’t sure that the person was actually providing a compliment to me. Then I realized that he was simply saying I know how to market myself. As a freelance writer, I send press releases when I am presenting a seminar or when I have something unique to share. I write for a living, so why shouldn’t I take advantage of that and send my own press releases? And, I still do a lot of in-person networking events, speaking for organizations, and general groundwork for building my business.

Now when I read that message, I believe it means that I understand the importance of building relationships and ensuring businesses/newspapers/other organizations don’t forget that Feather Communications is available for their writing needs. So, take the time to market yourself and don’t be afraid to promote your skills – your future may depend on it.

Finding Time to Implement Social Media

If you are a sole proprietor or own a small business, you may have already discovered something: there is not enough time in the day to accomplish all necessary tasks. There is too much to do and not enough time to do it. And, to make it even more complicated, everyone is joining various social networks and encouraging you to do the same. How will you find that for that?

First, you need to find the time to implement some type of social media into your business. And, keep in mind that what works for one business may not work for your business. This means you have to investigate others in your industry, discover what they are doing, and modify that to make it work for you.

After you have made some decisions regarding how you hope to use social media, you should start slowly. I recommend this because entering the world of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools can be overwhelming. If you are not familiar with social media or have little experience in this area, then just choose one. Decide which social media tool will provide you with the “biggest bang for your buck” and focus on that one. Then, put a plan in motion to slowly utilize other social media sites in the future. Based on my own experiences, I would recommend starting with one, using it for three months, and then introduce the next social media tool.

Next, make a plan and stick to it. If you just open your social media account and don’t use it, it won’t do your business any good. So, if Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons are slow at your business, then use those time blocks to work on your social media updates, statuses, and offers. By keeping a schedule, you are more likely to be consistent and focused.

Finally, if you need assistance with social media, then be sure to ask for help. In fact, there are people that help other businesses get started with social media and can even maintain your accounts. Contact Feather Communications if you are interested in finding out more about this option. Best of luck as you start your social media journey!