Board member bios. Why so dry?

19th September 2018 | Posted in Branding, Editing, Web content, Website

Do bios need to be this dry?

When I wrote my book on B2B copywriting, I devoted a section to writing for websites.

Content for websites, said I, should be in line with the tone of voice determined by the company. In many cases that means professional, approachable and easy to consume.

The one exception is the page of bios for the board. My advice generally is not to mess with the copy that’s submitted. It may be dry to the point of indigestible, but start doing anything more than a gentle edit for grammar and consistency and you’ll

  • Upset people
  • Miss the deadline while you try to get approval

What’s the point of a board bio?

That said, I’ve been putting more thought into the challenge of executive bios in the last couple of weeks, thanks to a recent project.

This was a commission to lightly edit and proofread a brochure containing over 30 biographies of board-level luminaries. People with a great deal of professional history.

Most of the bios were an A4 page full of lists of appointments held and their dates, punctuated by the odd paragraph break. Certainly clear proof of long-term experience but incredibly difficult to take in. I can’t see anyone doing more than a skim read for relevant company names.

Since handing back the copy, I’ve taken another look at the advice out there on writing professional bios. The vibe I’m getting is that when you write about yourself for your own website or even a CV, you write with clarity, brevity and maybe a little humour. Hubspot has an interesting piece about some of the professional bios it likes.

What I didn’t find was anything that said the drier the bio, the more respect it will gain.

Do we need to make a change?

My question here is whether marketers and copywriters do need to persuade board members of the benefits of refreshing their approach to bios. And that depends on:

  • The purpose of the bio
  • The expectations of the audience
  • The likelihood of success

If the purpose is simply to prove the company can call on people who understand how many large and small organisations work, and have built up a valuable contact list over the years, then maybe the impenetrable lists are fine.

But if the company is promoting itself as approachable and transparent, then the board’s bios could be sending out all the wrong messages. In particular that the people at the top level don’t subscribe to the ethos of the company.

Should we be trying to generate a change here? It surely makes sense that every page of copy to speak in the same language and tell a consistent story? Or is it too big a mountain to climb for the benefit it would deliver?



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