Personal Brand 2020 – Document The World (Not Yourself)

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It seems like we’re confusing a personal brand with showing off. They’re not the same thing.

Your personal brand is not a selfie. Your personal brand is not a glam shot of you working out. Your personal brand is not how you list out your personal accomplishments on social media. Your personal brand is not how much money, fame, and real estate you propose to have. Your personal brand is not pictures of what you are eating or your vacation. Your personal brand is not a speaking event that you are taking part in. Your personal brand is not a sentence from a longer piece of content that you wrote, wrapped up as a self-quote then matched with a picture of yourself.

That is just showing off your personal life. That is not a personal brand.

Your personal brand is the quality of your work, your professional output, and how it has helped another organization (or individual) improve their current business situation (or how they think/operate). It’s your domain of authority and your ability to impart value to someone who may not have that information, or will be motivated by your insights to change for the better. Does your content get shared because of how smart it is (provided value to someone else) or simply “liked” (with a compliment from someone that you know, about how proud they are to know you)?

Your personal brand is value not vanity.

Your personal brand is not vanity. It’s your thinking. A better way to decide about what kind of content you are publishing is this: Are you trying to be on the cover of a magazine, or are you trying to create the compelling content in that magazine that will make the reader better, smarter and want to buy that magazine again? Document the world… not yourself.

My rap on the bad rap that personal branding has…

Personal branding has a bad rap. Most people who claim to be “building a personal brand” are simply wrapping paper. True personal branding is the gift that is inside. Want to truly build a real and profound personal brand? Provide gifts. Gifts of knowledge. Gifts of information. Gifts of education. Gifts of answering professional questions that prospective customers have about your business or the industry that you serve. Make people come to you, because you are creating value by shining a light in an area that they could not see, that they didn’t know existed, and that they need help with. Instead, most people are simply shining a light on themselves.

Your personal brand is not the fame (or perception of it) that comes as a result of your success.

Your personal brand is the thinking behind the work. It’s the knowledge, experience and perspective that got you to where you are today. Branding is a function of marketing. It’s not marketing, if all you do is try to demonstrate to the world how great (or famous) you are. It’s not even personal branding. It’s just showing off (and inflating your own tires/puffing your chest). Marketing (and personal branding) is providing value to clients (and potential customers), and the creation/curation of content based on your domain of authority. Look, I get it…

Facebook (Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc…) are all places where we show the world the person that we want the world to know us as.

It’s almost too easy. But, all of those vanity posts are not marketing. It’s not even personal branding. It’s just showing off… and it doesn’t make you an expert (or have a domain of authority) in anything but vanity and narcissism. Look, I’ve been guilty of doing a lot of the above in the past (the recent past). I’ve been changing (and thinking about it a lot), because I realize that bragging is not marketing or personal branding.

Let’s not allow our personal vanity to ruin personal branding. Having a strong and valuable personal brand is too important.


  1. Amazing piece! I came to know about your work from a Seth Godin blog post (May 20, 2013). Since then, I listened to most of your podcast episodes and devoured a major chunk of contents you created/shared. Thanks for doing work that matters.

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