The 5 Things You Need to Know Before Building a Personal Brand


Yesterday I gave a presentation at my alma mater, Sonoma State University. As I walked down the long and windy path towards the library, I noticed the leaves beginning to change and the students walking to and from their classes. It made me remember all of the autumns I spent on this college campus; all of the learning, reading, connecting, and writing I had done to further my education here. It felt nostalgic.

As I walked into the library, I found a classroom full of students waiting to listen to my presentation. 

I unpacked my belongings on the desk in front of me and smiled.

I stood up to address them and felt the strongest sense of duty and urgency to share the truth about personal branding. 

I had one hour to convince these students that personal branding could change the trajectory of their entire professional career. (Obviously I take my job very seriously, yo). 

I wanted to give these students tangible foundational elements to help them visualize their own brand. Everyone has to start somewhere. 

So if you’re just starting to think about what having a personal brand might look like for you, you’re not alone. 

These are the 4 things you must identify before you start building your personal brand:


What’s your why? Why do you want to build your personal brand? Why do you want to have a meaningful online presence? You must first identify your underlying objectives so that everything you do for your personal brand remains purposeful and mission-driven. When we remember “our why” our work becomes more effective and valuable for ourselves and others.  

Example: My purpose is to help professionals learn how to build their personal brand. Every piece of content that I produce and share online supports that underlying mission (even in indirect ways).


What are your core values? Values “are the principles that give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity,” according to psychologist Barb Markway and Celia Ampel in The Self-Confidence Workbook. Values can often be personified in people that we love and admire. Try to think about the people who are closest to you, what do you value in them? Identifying these specific values embodied in others can help you identify them in yourself.

Example: My values are absolute love and absolute freedom (conflicting I know). But in knowing this about myself, it allows me to prioritize my life in a way that supports these values and makes me feel happy and confident in my decisions.


What are you passionate about? People want to do business with passionate people. Passionate people are what fuel the world with creativity, excitement, and purpose. You must identify what you are passionate about so you can then begin to share those passions with the world. 

Example: I’m passionate about storytelling. In knowing this about myself, I use storytelling as a means of sharing content and connecting with my audience on a deeper level.

Professional Expertise

What are your professional expertise? What do you know that others could benefit from hearing? Give to receive. Create content. Talk to others about what you know. There’s a common misconception that says that personal branding is self-promotion.

On the contrary, it’s is the opposite of self-promotion because it motivates us to share our expertise in a way that is selfless and seeks to give something back to the world - not just get something from our followers. 

When we do this, the brand ‘adopter’ will benefit just as much as the brand creator. Both parties will win when the brand creator builds credibility and establishes themselves as an industry expert. 

Example: My professional expertise is social media, personal branding, and digital marketing. I share with my audience how they can become savvy with social media, build their personal brand, and be a better personal marketer


What are the things which make you unique? Above all else, your personal brand is an extension of your authentic and genuine self. A personal brand is not a construct. It is not a box you must learn how to fit yourself inside, it is a mirror image of self, intended to be known by the digital world. Step into your own story, and let your personality shine online. You can’t half-ass authenticity, it is an all-or-nothing kind of quality. The best personal brands are certain, polarizing, and intentional. Say what you mean. 

Example: I show my true personality (a good mix of quirky and professional) through utilizing Instagram Stories. I would say 60% of my content on IG Stories has nothing to do with my business. It showcases my personality and makes me appear more relatable and approachable to my audience. 

This week, I encourage you to think about your 5 Ps. Purpose, principals, passions, professional expertise, and personality. What do those look like for you? Have you identified what these are for yourself? Tell me in the comments below.