Category: Branding

The Third-Person Bio Problem

About pages are the most frequently visited page of a website. A good bio or about page can humanize you and your product or service. It’s where you can forge connections by blending your story, values and interests into a compelling narrative.

Why then do so many one-person businesses talk about themselves in the third person? A related issue, not covered here, for many freelancers is whether to refer to oneself as an “I” or a “we.”

No matter how well written, a third-person bio can come off as pretentious, especially if it’s clear you are the one running the show and making coffee. This can create a credibility problem that you’re trying to avoid by writing in the third-person to begin with. Most of us don’t refer to ourselves in the third person at a cocktail party so there’s no reason to do it on a website. Third person can also come off as cold and detached if you’re not careful.

More and more, people buy from businesses whose stories and values they can relate to. In the quest for authenticity, maybe it’s time to embrace your “I” and just do a great job of it.

Before I tackle ways to do that, here’s why writing in third person is preferred:
  • It makes us appear more important.
  • It’s easier to include content that would otherwise sound awkward wedging it into a first-person narrative.
  • It’s difficult to write a compelling first-person bio without using the word “I” too often, which can make it read like a what-I-did-at-camp story.
What to do instead?
  • Write down all the points you think you want to hit: backstory, your path or trajectory, who you serve, stumbles or changes along the way, ah-ha moments, what people get from working with you, etc. Take each part and write it several ways till it sounds right.
  • To reduce how many times you use “I,” reconstruct every other sentence’s word order.
  • Instead of “I believe…” or “I think…,” link to a separate list/page of values or beliefs that serve as your business’ manifesto. Heck, make into a poster.
  • Instead of “I do…” or “I make…,” link to a separate list/ page of services or offerings.
  • Always keep your audience in mind. Yes, it’s your about page but people what to know what’s in it for them, even in your bio. “I serve x type of people with x problem who want x benefit,” is a good framework to use.
  • Replace phrases that sound too self-congratulatory with testimonials instead. Include them on the bio/about page or link to another page. It’s easier to let other people speak to your achievements and excellence.
  • Reduce unnecessary text by leaving out descriptions of your work that are self-evident elsewhere on your site.
  • For artists or others who commonly include degrees, education and awards, move all that to the bottom or in a separate list. Those credentials might impress someone but the point of a good about page is to connect and be relatable.

There is a place for your third-person bio in any venue outside your own website or LinkedIn profile, and it’s good to have that handy.

Here are a few examples of good first-person bios that hit all the right notes.

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Have a new bio you’d like to share with me? Good luck!

Blogging Your Brand

It’s widely regarded that blogging for your brand, while not a guarantee of success, is essential for reaching your crowd on a different level and in a different space. Think of a blog like a Victorian courtship versus the one-night stand of direct mail. Results might be slow in coming, but when they do, they’ll have substance and be longer lasting.

Blogging requires some discipline. And if you want a blog to be more than a dog-and-pony show, you have to be able to communicate what you’re an expert at, and understand what makes your audience tick. With that squared away, blogging can be a great vehicle for sharing your magic.

Despite how ubiquitous blogs are, many people are still vexed about their use and intimidated at the idea of blogging. Below are some tips on getting ideas, how to think of a blog and some best practices. Read more

The Pure Delight of Opening Moo Cards

The new Moo cards are here! The new Moo cards are here! I’m somebody! (Thanks to those who get the reference.)

I really shouldn’t post this and ruin it for you should you ever order your own Moo cards. But I can’t resist.

I designed and ordered cards for a forthcoming jewelry collection before going out of town for 10 days. The timing was deliberate. The box would be awaiting me when I arrived home, and I could indulge in the singular pleasure of undressing, er, opening the package after a long day’s drive. It’s not unlike the pleasure of opening Apple products. But Moo is more fun, less austere. Read more

What’s Your Best Offer?

highest grade

Is “on time and within budget” the first few lines of your marketing message?

If you had to remove those words, what would your story be?

Everyone worries about spending money, even those with deep pockets. And if someone hires you they hope you’ll finish on time. Both are universal concerns.

They’re also the least a customer can expect. A built-in feature. And when you’re not the cause of a ballooning budget or a blown schedule, your best offering is now shot.

Even if you’re serving the fast and cheap crowd, you still need to stand out among all the other businesses using the same line. Read more

When Naming Does Come Easy

I am yoga

Company naming is no easy task, unless, of course, it falls from the sky and lands at your feet.

Most often, it involves pouring over the company’s how, why, what, who, where. It involves word collecting, list making, searching, listening, vetting and playing.

Does it sound good? Will people like to say it? Not always possible but it doesn’t hurt to start with high standards. I created a brand identity for a climate initiative with a seven-word name. Try to say the name and you stop after the first few words, hoping the person knows what you’re referring to. The acronym is its own tongue twister. Did the committee that selected the name say it a few times aloud?

Is the name easy to remember?

Does it look good when written out?

Will it have longevity? Does it need to? Read more

Making Your List, Checking It Twice

List of names

If you use an e-mail service to send newsletters or blasts, how did you build your list? If the answer is that you invited people or they added themselves via a form on your website, three cheers for you! No coal in your Christmas stocking.

Email is still one of the most powerful ways to connect with customers or prospects short of having coffee together, even if automated (because you can personalize it with the recipient’s name). You’re not competing with a stream of cat photos in Facebook or random Twitter chatter. It’s a great way to further your brand and personality, and become a go-to person in your field.

But you don’t want people scratching their heads when your third e-blast of the week arrives in their in-box, wondering if they forgot they signed up for your list.

There are three types of emails from businesses: total spam, almost spam and not spam. If you invited people to your list or they signed up (knowing what they were getting), that’s not spam.

We all know what total spam is.

Almost spam is everything else, such as adding people to your list, even people you know, even good friends, who might very well have said, “Yes, sign me up Scottie!” if only you’d asked.

But they can delete emails, right? Trust and respect rule here. The burden shouldn’t be on the recipient. Your goal is to inform, inspire and delight. It’s a sign of respect to ask permission to add someone to a list, even a client. Read more