How to avoid the 5 deadly sins of the generic About Us Story
A great About Us Story dives into the heart of what your business stands for and wriggles under the skin of a prospective client. The brilliant ones create an ‘I want to be part of that’ moment.
Is it time to rewrite your About Us Story?
Remember the agony of writing your ‘About Us’ story for the first time? The drafting, and redrafting? The late night emails to friends and family for feedback? The moment you said ‘oh bugger it’, and just went with what you had?
Now, it’s lying in tatters: mashed up for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Eventbrite, competition entries and guest speaking brochures. You can’t quite remember what you loved about it anymore.
Or perhaps you’ve outgrown what you originally wrote. You’ve got new clients. You’re more familiar with what your business does best. You know what you enjoy doing, and who you enjoying working with.
The five deadly sins of bad About Us Stories
Whether you’ve been in business for six months or three years, make the time to review your About Us Story. Is it unique? Does it capture who you are? Does it convey your business values?
If you spot any of these deadly sins, it’s time to give it some attention.
Deadly Sin 1: Use generic words/phrases that everyone else uses
Recognise any of the following? Drive results. Committed. A wide range of. Thoroughly. Collective expertise. Passionate. Trusted professional. Or my personal favourite: Peace of mind. They’re all perfectly acceptable. But they won’t ignite a potential client’s interest.
For the bold brand storyteller: Choose words that are unexpected and delightful – that capture the essence of you, your team and your business – ‘elevate’ ‘gravitate’ ‘wholehearted’ ‘curious’ ‘cultivate’. Take inspo from organisations in very different sectors. I still love Coyo yoghurt and its delicious use of ‘succulent’, ‘implicit’ and ‘sustained’.
Deadly Sin 2. Don’t get too personal
The first time around, you kept your About Us Story professional but impersonal. Did you struggle to set up your business? You glossed over that part. Were you almost going to take a different route? You downplayed that so you didn’t come across as wishy washy. Were you hoping to niche exclusively with small businesses? You kept it on the downlow in case you scared away the big boys with money to spend.
For the bold brand storyteller: Strong business owners understand that there’s strength in their weakness, and courage in facing challenges head-on. Don’t shy away from revealing the messy bits of your business (when they end on a positive note!). Real stories that show your humanity will personalise your business and strike a chord with people who are the right fit for you. Don’t worry about diluting your client base – there are enough people to go around.
Deadly Sin 3. Make general promises without offering specifics
Currently, your About Us Story makes broad, sweeping promises that strike the right note for your industry. But there’s no sense of what it would be like to work with you, or what you’ll achieve for your clients. You weren’t trying to disguise the truth – you just hadn’t nailed your niche in those early days so you kept it high level to cover your a**.
For the bold brand storyteller: Get explicit about the tangible results that you can deliver. Specifics bring a story to life. Add in names of businesses that inspired your approach or reference a client who loves what you did for them! A note of caution for professional services. Don’t promise what you really can’t deliver. When I worked in education, we were careful not to tell parents that their kids would be walking away with an ‘A’. Universities increasingly face legal challenges from disgruntled students who believe they are paying for an outcome not a service dependent on their own effort and talent.
Deadly Sin 4. Tell your backstory chronologically
The last time you got creative with your writing was Year 10 English. Since then, your writing has been confined to the medium of email where you know it’s best to lay out your points logically. When it came to writing your About Us story, it was only natural that you played it safe. You told people where you started and what happened next. And next. And next. Or perhaps you focussed on your qualifications, where you worked, or who you worked with. Unfortunately, your audience probably stopped reading at the second paragraph.
For the bold brand storyteller: Forget about showcasing your expertise and broad range of skills in your About Us Story. The rest of your website does that for you (through testimonials, case studies, and descriptions of your services). Instead, write a story. Not a Once upon a time story; but one that contains a universal human message. You need potential clients to recognise themselves in your journey.
Deadly Sin 5. Prioritise the paragraphs, don’t worry about the pictures
You grabbed some pictures that were a step above a selfie to go with your About Us Story on your website. You really couldn’t justify the expense of getting professional pictures taken of you and the team the first time around. If you did invest in them when you launched, I’ll wager that your professional ‘face’ has changed since then – especially given the new relaxed business world created by Covid-19 in the past year.
For the bold brand storyteller: This one’s easy. You really need to invest in a professional photographer. Ask around in business forums or networking events to get references. Look at the photographer’s prior work and check that the vibe matches your business brand personality. Ask about the whole process on the actual day of shooting. Then put on your best smile, and give the camera a big wave. You’ve got this!