How Long Is Too Long for Bios?
Figuring out the best length for a professional bio isn’t always a straightforward matter. Based on the wide variation one sees on firm websites, it seems like there are no rules! You can find professional bios in every imaginable length, from single lines to detailed compilations that require many hundreds of words. But while there’s no established protocol, it is important to limit partner and staff bios to an appropriate length, because these pages are among the most frequently visited on a firm’s entire site.
In the absence of clearcut standards that reveal the magic word count for a perfect professional bio, here are some guidelines to help you settle on the right length. Your goal should be making this important asset as appealing and readable as possible, so that it can fulfill its potential as an effective marketing tool for you and your firm.
Be concise. Remember that this is a brief web bio, not the full-bodied and breathtakingly complete biography to be leatherbound and cherished by generations to come. (That one will be written another time.) In this version, it’s best to stick to highlights of your career, education, personal interests or other tidbits of relevant information. That means you can’t give the complete context for every important achievement or milestone, and that’s okay. The idea is to give a slice of life – a snapshot that shows enough about you to let viewers feel they’ve met you briefly, but not spent an hour interviewing you. Save something for the second date.
Be contemporary. It’s great that you’ve done and achieved so many interesting things over the course of your life! Even so, it shouldn’t all go into this bio. Spend the most space on what you do for clients now, not what you used to do, where you used to work, boards you used to chair, or academic honors that at one point were your greatest achievements. Focus on the here and now, with exceptions for outstanding honors or experiences that dramatically drive your current performance. Include flashes of your personal and professional past for flavor, but be sure they’re only adding to your allure and not giving the impression you’re resting on the laurels of days gone by. Readers are mostly interested in what you can do for them today. (The biographical information you post on LinkedIn is an exception to this rule, to some degree. The platform is designed to host more educational and career detail than you’d want to include in a bio on your firm’s own website.)
Be consistent. When I see a set of bios where one is miles longer than the rest, I think bad things about that person. Standing out as “the guy with the really long one” isn’t as attractive as some might imagine. It conveys, accurately or not, a sense of self-importance that makes it hard to appreciate the content. That bio automatically becomes “too long” – at any length! Two sentences can be enough for an effective web bio. Then again, five paragraphs can also be a fine length. The fatal error is to let one stand out as much longer than the others. It’s not fair to that bio, which is assumed to be boring, or that person, who is immediately suspected of being overly self-satisfied. Choose any reasonable length and style you like, and then be sure to keep all the bios to the same standard.
Have fun writing creative, entertaining bios that show your team’s personalities. Almost any length you’d like to make them will be fine, as long as you include a balance of personal, historical and professional information and adhere to these practical guidelines. Then edit them carefully and let them do their work connecting with clients!
Originally published on bbrmarketing.com.