Elisa Peimer writes:
While creating both a bio and a press release for a client recently, I was asked, "Why do I need both?" Good question! If a press release is about something a person is doing or has accomplished, isn't biographical information going to be part of the press release?
Sure. But while a bio and a press release share some information, their purposes are different.
A bio – or biography – tells the whole story of the person it's about. A bio of an executive, author, or musician, for example, talks about that person's background, influences, and career path. It discusses their early work, and what they did in order to create their newest work. It touches upon the choices they made in their lives that led them to where they currently are. It also goes into depth about their current creation – their thoughts about it, what they're trying to accomplish, what they hope their company, customers, or public will get out of it.
In writing a bio, I'll always (if possible) interview the subject to get a sense of what they're about. I'll ask them about their childhood and their early influences, as well as specifics about their newest project – what inspired them, who they worked with, what they hope to achieve. The ultimate goal of the bio is to draw readers in and get them interested in the subject. It's ultimately a marketing piece, something to give the reader a reason to want to find out more about the subject and his or her work.
A press release, on the other hand, is built around a specific piece of news – a product release or event, for example. It pulls information from the bio, such as general background about the person or people involved. The main purpose, however, is to promote a thing – a merger or acquisition, a new deal, a record release party, a new book or CD, a new strategic partnership. The press release is sent out to the media for the purpose of advertising the event. Sometimes publications reprint the press release as is, and sometimes the press release is the instigation for further editorial coverage of the event. A press release should have all the relevant information clearly on the page: what, where, when, who. It should also provide web addresses for where to buy the product, where to RSVP for the event, etc. And it shouldn't be too long – one page is usually best. Publications have limited room to reprint content, and you don't want to give them something they can't fit in their available space.
As you can see, a press release is time-sensitive, while a bio is not. A press release is created to promote something, gets sent out, and that's it. When a new event or piece of news is in the works, a new press release should be written and distributed. A bio, while it can and should be updated over time, is a perpetual tool that should be posted on the subject's website, and on social networking sites and e-commerce sites, as an additional tool for the press. Both are necessary parts of a good marketing and press plan.