Author and marketer Lynn Serafinn discusses how our relationship with Self influences the level of Directness we bring into our marketing, starting with how we write our online bio. Part 2 in a special series on the Grace of Directness.
As we discussed in Part 1 of this series on the Grace of Directness, our cultural conditioning often determines how comfortable we are with being direct. Being aware of our cultural comfort zone can help wake us up to the impact our communications have on other people, both personally and professionally. Once we’ve developed that awareness, we’re ready to look at practical ways we can gracefully bring more Directness into everything connected with our business, including our marketing. Over the next few articles, we’ll be exploring the practical application of Directness from a variety of angles.
In The 7 Graces of Marketing, I talk about “The 7 Key Relationships” that affect how we communicate through our marketing, which include our relationships with:
- Your Business
- Your Audience
Today, we’re going to focus on our Relationship with Self and how it plays a part in allowing Directness to be present (or not) in our marketing.
Directness begins with self-honesty. It starts by taking a good look at ourselves in the mirror and identifying what we see. If insecurities are clouding our judgement of who we think we are, we will probably be less than direct in how we communicate with others. And as business owners, if we are unclear or unsure not only about our personal identity, but also of the identity and value of our business, we will surely be less than direct in our marketing.
In the case of the small business owner, “Self” can often be synonymous with their business. Big businesses also have a “Self”; it’s called their “brand” (which we’ll be looking at in part 3 of this series). For now let’s take a look at how we can bring Directness to the most basic expression of our Self: our bio.
In this era of blogging and social networking, one of the most frequent requests we business owners receive is to submit a bio, such as:
- When we set up a social media profile on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and so on
- When we join networks like MeetUp or professional/niche forums
- On the “about me” page on our websites
- When we enter our business into a marketing directory
- When we’re appearing on a radio show or webcast
- On our own sales pages (don’t you want people to know who you are?)
- When we appear as a joint venture partner on someone else’s promotion
- In our online or print media kit (if you’re a speaker, you should have one)
- When we write a guest post on someone else’s blog
- And while we’re on the subject of blogs, it’s good practice to have a “boiler plate” bio at the end of every blog post on your own site
- If we write a book, we need two different bios for the back cover and interior
- Authors also need to put a bio on Amazon Author Central
Here’s the irony: In spite of the fact that uploading a bio has practically become a part of daily life for the modern business owner, for many of my new clients it is often one of the most difficult and uncomfortable things I could possibly ask them to do. It pushes them past their “Directness comfort zone”. Some feel uncomfortable speaking about themselves, while others are not capable of seeing the “gold” that other people see in them. In fact, many see their assets as things they want to hide (see a previous article I wrote called “The Story of Star Boot”).
To help move past our comfort zone and move towards greater Directness, we need only focus on three words: clarity, simplicity and straightforwardness. But these three little words can often prove to be a major hurdle for many who are habituated to using many different kinds of “Distraction” in their bio. Here are some of the ways many people get it wrong:
They fill it up with ambiguous language.
Some words in your bio may be very pretty, clever or poetic, but they don’t necessarily tell your audience anything useful. It’s not that you need to be bland, but sometimes I read people’s bios on Twitter, Facebook, etc. and I honestly can’t get a feel for anything about them (except that they don’t know how to be direct). Directness means clearly saying who you are and what you do.
They fill it up with “intelligent” sounding nonsense.
Some people think if they use big words (or worse: they use convoluted jargon that only they know the meaning to) it makes them sound more intelligent or important. If you try to baffle me with bullshit, it turns me off immediately. Directness means speaking plainly and simply.
They fill it up with hype and superlatives.
Please don’t use words like “life-changing”, “mind blowing”, “revolutionary” or similar hype. NEVER tell people what they should think of you. It’s an insult to your audience and it makes you look arrogant. Directness means giving people the facts and letting them make up their own mind about you.
They fill it up with testimonials.
While social proof is important, your bio is not the place for testimonials. Get to the point. Look for solid, credible EVIDENCE of your professionalism. Of course, if you are making a full media kit or “about me” page, you could (and probably should) include testimonials, but make sure to edit them down to only the best line or two from each. Directness means distilling your content and getting to the point.
They turn it into a full life history.
I see this frequently with new business owners, especially solopreneurs. They confuse a bio with a personal resumé. Your audience does not need to know every element of your curriculum vitae; talk only about things that are relevant in some way to the service you are offering. I find that when people shove everything about themselves into their bio, it’s often because they don’t feel “credible enough” in their current field. While it comes across as if they’re trying to prove their worth to others, it usually has more to do with them needing to prove something to themselves. If you’ve got a bulky, irrelevant bio, take a moment to ask yourself where this extra bumph is really coming from.
They turn it into a personal confessional.
Many newly self-employed business people have not yet defined their self-image as a business owner, and they tend to turn their bio into a “confessional” of the whole process that brought them to begin their business. While you might think this makes you look honest and human, try to think of it from your audience’s perspective. They are looking for a professional service, not a best friend. While “Connection” is the first of the 7 Graces, starting a conversation by talking about your weaknesses is not necessarily the pathway to greater connection. By all means you should always be open, honest, genuine and forthcoming, but in doing so remember to ask yourself whether your bio is giving your audience what THEY want or what YOU need to give them.
A practical challenge for you:
Bearing all these faux pas in mind, here’s a little “homework” assignment for you. This week, practice making 4 different bios with the aim of making them perfect examples of the Grace of Directness. Strip out the fluff, the hype, the self-justifications, over-blown language and B.S. Get it down to the important stuff that communicates exactly what you do, what you stand for, who you love to work with and what makes you unique. Each of your 4 bios should have no more than the following number of characters:
- 160 characters (this is the limit for your Twitter bio; it’s 140 characters for Tweets)
- 250 characters
- 500 characters
- 1000 characters
TIP: The easiest way to keep track of your characters is in MS Word, under “Tools > Word Count > Characters (with spaces)”. I chose these character parameters because these are the most frequent ones you will encounter when submitting your bio online.
I suggest you start with the 160 characters for your Twitter profile bio, because that is where you’ll REALLY learn the art of being direct. I invite you to check out my own bios on my Twitter accounts @LynnSerafinn @7GracesMarketng and @SpiritAuthors. I also talk in detail about the different elements that go into creating an effective, direct and inviting Twitter bio in my book Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically.
I also recommend you use either the 250 or 500 character bio as your “boiler plate” to put at the end of all your blog posts and newsletters.
Creating ready-to-go bios for various purposes using these parameters is both practical and enlightening. It’s practical because if someone asks you for a bio, you’re ready to go. You can also give them to your personal assistant, web master or PR person to have on hand for promotional materials they may do on your behalf. But it’s enlightening because you have to discipline yourself to prioritise the “top level” bio content, down to the “cherry on the top” content. It really is a practice in the Grace of Directness.
I hope you take up this challenge this week. If you do, it would be great if you would share your thoughts, questions and experiences below.
Coming up in Part 3, we take Directness to the next level, where we look at it in the context of Key Relationship 3: our relationship with our businesses, both small and large. In that article, I’ll talk about how lack of Directness can often result in “The Fate of the Invisible Brand”. I hope you’ll subscribe to this blog so you’ll be sure to catch it.
~ Lynn Serafinn
15 February 2013
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. In her work as a promotional manager she has produced a long list of bestselling mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.
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