We now live in the era of the personal brand. Thanks to the Internet, where everyone has a soapbox, more people are consciously promoting and managing their reputations like sophisticated brand managers. This trend is poised to accelerate amidst a deep recession and rising unemployment. A discussion with Business Week writer Stephen Baker even prompted me to write an essay on optimizing one’s personal brand for the digital age.
Your personal referrals and search-engine results probably matter more than anything else. However, your own self-written professional bio is also extremely important. You are, of course, the most authoritative person about yourself. And how you present yourself in your bio says a lot about who and what you are.
But in this age of distributed presence, what does an optimal bio look like? Should it be long, or short? Or should it be written in inverted pyramid style, with the most important information at the top, and the granular details at the bottom? Should you host it in one place or hundreds?
How should personal and professional characteristics coexist in your bio? Sure, you can easily create multiple and customized bios, but anyone searching for your personal account will inevitably find everything that’s publicly available. If work and personal characteristics inevitably collide, shouldn’t our professional bios simply reflect that?
Consider the growth of conversational writing and informal expression. Should bios be written in first or second person — from your voice, your friend’s or God’s? Should they be factual and chronological, or adopt an emotional and narrative form? Aren’t narratives more interesting?
In this period of widespread self-promotion and self-consciousness, is it better to lean on the side of absolute expertise and outspoken accomplishment? Does noting frequent columns, citations and quotes in mainstream media really make someone sound authoritative? Or is subtle humility more compelling and indicative of confidence and triumph?
Then there’s the multimedia and syndication the Web has introduced. Should our professional bios load up on hyperlinks or dynamic search feeds? What about images, video, status updates and lifestreams?
In today’s digital age, what exactly is a bio — and what should it look like?
I’m not sure, but I do notice a widening variety.
What do you think?
(This essay also was my last column in MediaPost.)