Copy

How To Write Someone Else’s Biography

CopyPress

Published: June 20, 2022

It’s the dreaded question most people get asked at some point in their lives: “write your bio,” or “tell us about yourself.” It’s a difficult question. You don’t want to over- or under-share and come off looking silly. But when someone asks you to write your own bio, you at least have the benefit of knowing the subject inside and out. Here’s an even trickier proposal that agencies, marketers, and content creators encounter: “write a biography about someone else.”

How are you supposed to tackle that assignment? Whether your team’s writing a byline for a guest blogger or creating a write-up about the company’s founder, we’re helping you discover how to write someone else’s biography with topics like:

What Is a Biography?

A biography is an account of someone’s life, career, or accomplishments written by another person. This is different from an autobiography, where the subject is also the author. Biographies can be short, with just one line explaining someone’s job role like journalist Katie Van Syckle’s New York Times bio.

screenshot of katie van syckle new york times short byline for biography about someone else

Image via The New York Times

They may also be longer and include information about past employment, awards, relationships, geographic location, and hobbies, like sportswriter Josh Yohe’s bio at The Athletic.

screenshot of josh yohe bio from the athletic that's someone else's biography

Image via The Athletic

These are the kinds of biographies agencies and marketing teams use most. They’re likely one to two paragraphs long. Companies use them to tell the audience more about their writers and team members. Other uses for biographies in marketing besides introducing writers include:

  • Presenter bios for conferences, webinars, podcasts, or other events
  • Team or staff bios for websites
  • Blurbs about influencers or other partnerships tied to your company
  • “About Us” write-ups for individuals or organizations associated with your brand

Another type of biography, one most people are more familiar with, is novel-length. They receive publication in book or eBook format and cover the events of someone’s life from birth to death or birth to the time of publication. These types of biographies typically exist for celebrities, politicians, athletes, and other influential figures. They’re less common in content marketing, though some biographical content marketing pieces could influence or contribute to a longer, book-length biography.

Why Would Companies Use Biographies in Marketing?

One of the biggest games brands and content marketers play is reaching for notoriety and authority. You’re trying to grab brand recognition and get people to remember your company exists. You’re also trying to prove that you know what you’re talking about. Bios show your audience that the team you’ve assembled has the credentials and experience to speak on a topic and that any information they provide is accurate and valuable. When you build up that credibility and authority, your brand can position itself as a subject matter expert or thought leader in the field or niche.

Bios let you capitalize on the expertise and experience of your content creators. What do they know? What can they do? Do they have the credentials to back up what they’re saying? This doesn’t apply in every situation. Not everyone cares about the individual who wrote the content if they already trust the brand name. For example, if IKEA produced a piece about how to put together bookshelves, the audience probably doesn’t care who wrote it. The brand name IKEA ties directly to DIY furniture kits. That’s enough authority for the audience.

But if Joe’s Furniture Shack publishes a similar article, why should the audience trust that brand over IKEA? The author’s bio may explain the writer’s background in carpentry and home renovations. That expertise proves that the article from Joe’s Furniture Shack is also relevant and valuable because the writer has the necessary experience to speak on the topic.

How To Write a Biography About Someone Else

Use these steps to write a biography about another person:

1. Know What Information To Collect

Most biographies, long or short, typically follow a similar format. They list the information that makes the writer or subject look credible, smart, and authoritative on their focus topic. When collecting information about another person to write their bio, ask for the following details:

  • Preferred name, including stage names, nicknames, pronouns, or other considerations
  • A clear, relevant photograph
  • Job title and description
  • Current city
  • Major life and career achievements
  • Information that makes the subject an authority on their topic or niche
  • Interesting facts or qualities about the subject, such as hobbies, volunteer efforts, or family life
  • Links to the subject’s personal blog, website, or social media profiles

You may not use every single one of these pieces of information for every bio, but it’s important to have them, especially if you end up writing multiple bios for the same person for different formats or online locations.

2. Conduct Your Interview

Unless the biography subject also happens to be a family member or a close friend, chances are you don’t have enough information on your own to write it. Once you know what information to collect, it’s time to have an interview with the subject. Depending on who that is, you may choose to interview them in person, over the phone or a video call, or send the questions through email.

The interview doesn’t have to be long, about half an hour or less. Simply ask for the information from step one. If you’re conducting the interview in person or over the phone, provide an email address or a way for the subject to send you electronic information, like an acceptable image and profile links.

3. Do Extra Research

Doing additional online research about the subject helps you find things they forgot to tell you in the interview or things you didn’t think to ask. Has someone else written a feature article about your subject? Do they have their own blog? What information do they share on their social feeds? The more research you do, the more information you have to reference for the bio. This helps if you get stuck with an angle or you need to expand their bio into a longer piece later. You’ve already done the work upfront.

4. Decide Where To Host the Bio

We already discussed the different reasons you may use a bio in marketing. It’s important to know which type you’re creating and where it’s going to live online. Where people access the bio affects its length and the content within. Staff or team bios may fit best on an “About Us” or “Meet Us” page on your website. These can be any length, depending on the size of your staff and the layout of the page.

You may include an author bio with every piece of content you publish. Should the bio go at the beginning or end of the content? Is there another page that houses all the author’s work where you can include it, too? Writer bios tend to be shorter, only about three sentences. They include just the important information about the person’s job and experience. The host location also helps you determine if there’s room for an image or social links.

5. Start With the Name

Yes, it sounds redundant and a bit ridiculous, but the first thing to include in someone’s bio is their name. It should be the first thing the reader sees when they encounter the bio. How else will they know who you’re talking about?

It’s not only important to spell the subject’s name right but also to make sure you’re using their preferred public or business name. Some people don’t always use their given name for business. Authors may use pen names. Some married people continue to use their maiden names if they established themselves in the industry before getting married. You can clear up these questions during your interview.

6. List the Subject’s Job Information

Following the subject’s name, the next thing the audience wants to know is what they do. Why is their information appearing on this website or with this piece of content? If we used author bios at CopyPress, the first line of a writer’s bio may read: Alli Fiedler is a marketing writer for CopyPress.

If you’re writing a bio for an outside source or partner, someone not directly associated with the content host, be sure to get the person’s exact job title and company name. To create a bio for a guest blogger, the first line may read: Alli Fiedler is the owner of A. Fiedler Consulting and a guest blogger for CopyPress.

7. Add the Subject’s Job Responsibilities

Not every job title is straightforward. Use the bio to explain more about the subject’s job responsibilities and how it gives them the experience and expertise to speak on their topic. For example, the next sentence of the bio for our fictional guest blogger may read: Alli works with agencies to develop top-performing SEO strategies in a variety of industries.

This section lets your audience know why the author is trustworthy in regards to the content they produce.

8. Include What Makes the Subject Different

What sets your subject apart from other people in their niche? What gives them more credibility to speak on their topics than others? This is where you can incorporate more about who the subject is as a person and the accomplishments they have from their career. What are their values? Have they won any awards? Is there a tidbit about their personal life that helps build more trust with the audience? This section helps with both credibility and connection.

9. Consider the Tone

Not every bio has to be strictly professional. Just as you focus on brand voice in all your content, let it shine through in your bios, too. If your brand voice is funny, find a way to incorporate humor into the bio. If your brand voice is more serious, stick with professionalism. Subject bios are just another type of content you present to your audience. You want to make sure it’s consistent with everything else you put out on every channel.

10. Try a Template

If you’re still stuck writing a professional bio for someone else, try a template. Reminiscent of Mad Libs, these templates from HubSpot tell you exactly what information to collect from your subject and where to put it for an informational and engaging bio. HubSpot has two types of templates in first- and third-person, so you can write the bios as if someone else is the author, or as if the subject is supposed to be the bio author themselves.

Bios and Content Marketing: Is It All About the Writers?

Adding bylines and bios to your content marketing can be a great way to give your pieces that personalized touch. They can also help increase your credibility and put a face to the writers and team behind your brand. But is this really the best way to present your content to the target audience? While it’s great to have a team of qualified writers on your marketing staff or at your agency, at what point does the audience stop following the brand and start following writers individually on their own channel?

When you put the spotlight on your writers, you allow them to outshine the brand. There are plenty of arguments about why you should or shouldn’t credit your content writers, but it comes down to the team mentality of writing and the job. When writers get a byline or bio for their work, yes, the publication matters. But it introduces an ego side to things. How can this piece help my career? Since my name is attached, what does this piece say about me? See how the conversation switches from “we” to “me”?

two penn state football players on a bench with their backs to the frame with a blue background that reads there's only one name that matters because the player's jerseys do not have their names on the back

Image via Penn State Athletics

It’s the same mentality that circulates in college sports, especially football. The logo on the front of the jersey is more important than the name on the back. Or, it’s supposed to be. That’s why teams like Penn State have gone back and forth on whether to put player names on the backs of their jerseys. Once the name is there, players start to see what they can get out of their careers for themselves rather than making things a team effort.

Are Author Biographies Right for Your Team?

When all your writers act under your brand name, you don’t have to worry about an author’s experience or reputation. You just have to focus on finding qualified staff who can produce a clear, cohesive message in your brand voice.

Writing as a brand also lets you work with a content writing agency like CopyPress. Our creatives understand that there’s no “I” in “team” and that everything they write is for the benefit of your company or clients. The goal is to pull in a bigger and better audience and directly contribute to SEO and sales. Schedule your free introductory strategy call to discover all the ways CopyPress works as an extension of your agency or brand.

CopyPress

Read More About Copy