The 4 Things People Get Wrong About Personal Branding


Whenever I’m at a networking event and I tell people I’m a personal brand strategist, they always look at me a little side-ways.

“Oh really, what’s that?” they ask me. 

I smile.

The truth is, I absolutely live for this moment. 

I welcome the side-ways glances, confusion, and curiosity.

It’s a chance for me to set the record straight. Although it’s less about me talking, and more about me guiding the conversation back to the person in front of me. 

If you want to know, that’s my strategy--I like to help people think about their own personal brand. 

What might that look like for them? I live to help them imagine it.  

Although, more often than not, people have a long list of misconceptions about personal branding that we have to break through first. For instance, the boomers generally see it as a negative thing (sorry boomers),. 

For them, a “personal” brand is make-believe, self-serving, and quite frankly a waste of time. But that’s only because they don’t have a solid understanding of what it means to have one.

I’m curious, how do you think about your own personal brand? What comes to your mind?

If you’ve thought about any of the below statements, you’re not alone. I’d like to address some common misconceptions about personal branding one by one, and just maybe, I’ll convince you to reconsider.

1. What the heck does the term “personal brand” even mean?

Get this. You stumbled onto my Instagram, thought the most recent pictures were pretty cool, took the quiz that I have listed in my bio, and now you’re stuck with me.

Some of you may be wondering, 

What the heck is this girl talking about? What does having a personal brand even mean?

If that’s you, you’re not alone. The term, “personal brand” is a relatively new concept. So let’s start at the beginning.

Before social media, the only individuals who had brands were, well, A-class celebrities, politicians, popular authors, and some business folk. These people have what we call “household names.” Think Julie Andrews, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, the  Rockefellers, the Kennedy's; these are people we would have known without social media because we knew through them through mainstream media channels. 

Through the rise of social media, we now have a new relationship with the media. In fact, we can actually become our own mainstream media. Each one of us has the opportunity to build our own platform OR consume content from only the platforms we deem as worthy. 

We now have direct access to some of the most talented people in the world, and these are not A-class celebrities. This is the 14-year-old Youtube star who films makeup tutorials in her bedroom, the VP of sales who writes informative posts on LinkedIn, the kick-ass entrepreneur who is sharing her journey on Instagram. These are the kind of people we have access to. The experts, the influencers, the creatives, the entrepreneurs.

The term “personal brand” exists because, just like a company, we are public-facing. We exist across the media, on different channels, not on the “news,” but on the news feed.

We live in the golden era, the most opportune time to win and prosper on the internet. 

And it’s just getting started. 

Sure, you don’t *need* a personal brand. But honestly, why wouldn’t you want one? Why wouldn’t you take advantage of the most opportune time in history?

For those of you who think having a “personal brand” is a waste of time, I would strongly advise you to think again. Because, mark my words, in five years from now you’ll wish you would have started sooner.

2. It feels too much like self-promotion

Think about it, when you make a commitment to building your personal brand, you know there’s a great deal of strategy and planning behind it. 

You’re the kind of person who wants to put your best foot forward, so you’ll decide on your visual identity, what content you’ll share on a consistent basis, how you’ll market yourself to the world, and what people actually gain when they become a “brand adopter.”

So, sure,  all of this careful strategy and thoughtful planning puts you on a mission to cultivate a purposeful online presence. Although, there’s something else you may not have stopped to consider yet: the art and science of personal branding can be one of the most enlightening times of self-discovery. This process requires you to ask yourself important questions, encourages you to dig deeper, and guides you to discover the hidden parts of yourself that in turn bring value to the world. 

Personal branding is a tool that can help us understand ourselves in a way that makes our lives richer and relationships stronger. When done correctly, 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. 

Personal branding works like this, we share our professional expertise for two reasons: 

  1. To enlighten others about what we know.

  2. To let others know we know what we know.

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. 

3. Social media is a time-sucker, there are more important things to be doing.

Hey, do you know what else is a time sucker?  

  • TV

  • Alcohol

  • Social gatherings

  • Bachelorette parties

  • Literally working

  • Unnecessary meetings

  • Driving 

There are so many things that will take up more of your time than you’ve bargained for--but only if you let them.

People who choose to view social media as a negative additive are completely missing the mark. You and only you are the one who manages your schedule and what goes inside of it. Social media is a tool, and it only hinders you when you let it take over your life. (As with anything else we consume). 

Having access to the internet is a gift. 

Having the ability to share, connect, and build, using merely our cellphones, is nothing short of incredible and it’s astonishing to me that anyone would consider it a negative thing.

It all comes down to mindset. If you’re concerned about the negative effects of social media, remember this: it’s never been a more opportune time to become a digital entrepreneur, to reap the benefits of a strategic online presence. Think “gold rush” circa 1849.  

The argument that social media somehow inhibit us from,

  • “Living in the moment”

  • “Living more purposefully”

  • “Living well”

is frankly a terrible argument and a lame excuse. Anything without moderation inhibits us from living a purposeful life. That doesn’t mean we get rid of it altogether. 

Don’t view technology through a negative lens. It’s here to stay.

The answer is to adapt your lifestyle around how it can benefit you, moderating your time in a responsible way.

4. I don’t have anything worth sharing. 

I hear this one more often than I would like to-and it simply just isn’t true.

We all have a story, we all have a perspective, an angle, an interesting anecdote that our audience can benefit from hearing. The challenge lies in your ability to excavate these experiences and share them in a way that impacts and resonates. 

That is an art; a learned skill developed over time.

You don't have to be a Picasso to "paint" your message on social media. If you want to, you can work with a brand strategist to discover what it is that will bring value to your followers; a skill you can learn and develop over time.

A big part of personal branding is sharing value. Your content must be value-based in order to attract the right kind of audience who wants to follow your journey. You can share value in many ways, here are some examples:

  • Sharing your personality (personal, entertaining)

  • Sharing your day-to-day (personal, entertaining)

  • Sharing your professional expertise (informative)

  • Talking about a funny thing that happened to you (entertaining)

  • Sharing a personal experience that has impacted you (personal) 

  • Sharing something you learned in a workshop, seminar, webinar, course (informative)

These are just examples of small things you can share in order to provide value. Remember, always ask yourself if your content falls under one of these three categories: entertaining, personal, or informative. The goal is always to leave your audience feeling enlightened by what they consume from your platform! That’s how an audience is built.

Now, when it comes to sharing your professional expertise, I have a lot of people ask me how to do this if they’re just getting started. 

Great question.

The answer is to share your journey. Don’t claim to be an expert if you’re just starting out, that’s not authentic and people will smell that way from a mile away. (Never share information unless you are positively certain that it’s correct. You don't want to mislead anyone.)

New entrepreneurs, be humble in your approach to sharing content. You won’t know everything, and that’s okay! People will receive way more value from an honest, real, authentic person who is sharing their behind-the-scenes, everyday kind of content. Believe it or not, this is actually 10x more impactful than sharing stuffy content that may make you seem smarter in theory but doesn’t hold any real weight.

Be honest.

Be intentional.

And always share with the intent to serve. That’s the key to winning on social.

Here are the four real reasons why you should have a personal brand:

  • You know exactly what having a personal brand can do for your career, that’s why it’s time to start now.

  • Because it’s not about self-promotion, it’s about sharing your expertise in a way that provides value and establishes you as a thought leader in your field.

  • Social media is an extraordinary gift, and it’s time to start taking advantage of the opportunities it’s giving us right now.

  • You have an important story to share, that only you can tell. People want to hear it, and it's your responsibility to put it out in the world