Of course, it starts with story hunting and reporting.
Here are some of the essential elements of a great profile:
1. Choice of subject – Someone you are genuinely curious about. And someone who can articulate who they are, what they do, and why they do it.
2. Action – Your subject must “do something.”
3. Access – For interviews and to observe person in action.
4. Perspective – From others who know the subject. You want to interview others. And you want to see your subject in relationship to others.
5. Attention – To the words, actions and details that reveal something about your subject.
Susan Orlean, a master of the profile, writes, “An ordinary life examined closely reveals itself to be exquisite and complicated and exceptional, somehow managing to be both heroic and plain.”
One of my personal favorite online profiles is a NYTimes.com video profile called Slomo.
Here is the content I’m looking for in your profile (using Slomo as an example):
- Strong lead or beginning.
- Nutgraph – a clear statement (either by writer or by subject herself) of “who profile person is” and “what this profile is about.”
- A scene of subject in action.
- A scene of subject in relation to others (i.e., dialogue, interacting, etc)
- Basic background information on subject – age, hometown, occupation, etc.
- Clear explanation (either by writer or by subject herself) of how she got to this place or activity. The “journey to now.”
- Anecdotes – A series of events, “this happened and then this happened…”
- Moments of reflection – Clear quotes that tell audience why this matters.
- A quote from someone who can provide perspective on profile subject.
- Strong ending or kicker.
Now try to find each of these elements in this profile from The Missing: Searching for New York’s Lost (ONA Finalist)