Becoming a Strong Leader and Shifting Fast in a Chaotic Job Market

What is a personal brand?  

The other week I ran a poll asking people to select ‘True or False:  A personal brand is MORE important than a company brand.’ 

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Nearly 90% of people said TRUE. The comments got quite fiery when one person was adamantly against personal branding based off a comment from Cheryl Sandberg and this FastCompany article from Trip O’Dell called ‘You Are Not a Brand’.

In the article O’Dell says, “ Brand is one of those words like “design” or “cool”: It attempts to capture the essential character of a thing without being specific. Brands strive to be persuasive by creating a false identity around an idea…Ironically, ‘brand’ is a concept with an identity crisis. The idea of “personal brand” sounds phony because it is. Brands are carefully contrived; they are not real. Brands are flat, soulless, and artificial “personalities” designed to convince others that the brand is something it is not.” 

He goes on to say that we should refer to personal brands more as Ethos, “Where a “brand” is artificial and phony, ethos is an authentic expression of your values and identity as a leader. Ethos includes your accomplishments, mastery, reputation, knowledge, and credibility. A professional ethos is an incomplete expression of your entire self.” 

While I see this point of view, I disagree strongly.  

A personal brand according to Gartner’s Mark McDonald is “the context people use when making judgments about your messages, actions and requests. It’s how they hear you and how you encourage them to take action.”  

Even further, a personal brand is a combination of…  

How others see you AND how you see yourself.  

It’s how you show up as a mother, father, business owner, wife, husband, philanthropist…EVERY part of your life.  

The idea that a brand is phony and soulless couldn’t be more wrong in my opinion.  To me a personal brand IS the umbrella that holds your ethos and all of who you are in a succinct way that the people around you can consume.  

It’s more complex than a business brand because it’s HUMAN by its nature! It’s about people and let’s be real, we’re complex as f*ck. 

What is a business brand?  

Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customers. It’s your value proposition explaining what you do, for whom and how you do it differently than your competition. It’s your product or service’s mission, vision, and functional value all wrapped into succinct messaging. It’s how someone feels when they work with you and experience your product.  

Marty Neumeier, author and speaker on all things brand, defines brand by first laying out what a brand is NOT: “A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product…a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” 

As you can see, building a business brand isn’t easy when it’s about feelings. You start with building your value proposition, then create your voice, messaging and narrative and move into your visual identity which includes your logo, colors, and more. It’s about telling your functional benefits AND building an emotional connection with your audience. The business brand is helpful for scaling a business, getting investors, driving demand generation activities and more, and my argument is that it’s not more important than personal branding.  

3 reasons why your personal branding strategy matters more than your business brand  

I believe we’re in the age of personal branding because we’re in the HUMAN revolution. I’m not saying your business brand doesn’t matter and you shouldn’t have one. I’m saying that if you are not thinking about your personal branding strategy whether you work for a company or own one, you are missing out.  So if I had to choose, I’d go personal brand all day everyday. Here’s why:

1. Gives your business a personality and human connection  

With social media and Google search, people know more about you and the business you own or work for than you can imagine. It takes one click for me to look up the founders of a new shoe company or see who the hiring manager is for a role. Unlike the days of TV and newspaper ads where you knew nothing about brands and trusted what you read, the digital world is one of mass information and distrust. You can’t hide in the digital world and people are craving human connection to build trust. People don’t want to just buy a pair of shoes just because it’s the Nike brand; they want it because they’re exclusive and designed by their favorite influencer. They want to feel a real human connection in the product itself and as they purchase it and that comes through with personal brands.  

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When I was working at Microsoft, I would share what it was like to be the Social Lead for Microsoft Inspire (nearly 17K attendees!) and host the Microsoft Partner Network podcast (that’s me in the studio interviewing my friend Geoffrey Colon). People would see that Microsoft has real humans like myself and immediately gravitate towards what I was doing and therefore Microsoft. You think they knew what the Microsoft Partner Network was or cared? NO! They cared about me and what I was up to and then found interest in what I was working on. And with remote work, it’s even more critical that the individuals inside companies are sharing their voice and creating a human connection with their teams and customers because everyone is online!  

2. Provides a competitive advantage 

There are lot of people out there that are personal branding and LinkedIn Experts. You can see them say that clearly on their LinkedIn headline, but when you look at my profile or my husband’s profile, you don’t see much about that. We lead with a personal brand that embodies our ‘ethos’ and vision for the world. We at Standout Authority want to humanize the way we market online. We are changing the way we communicate, creating human conversations that lead to opportunities.

Josh and I are the beacons of this message. We are a husband and wife team each with our own personal brand strategy and together create a competitive advantage other marketing agencies cannot claim. If it wasn’t for our individual backgrounds and stories, Standout Authority wouldn’t be where it is today. We wouldn’t have heart centered, conscious leaders as our clients and attract a community of advocates with the same mission. Because we live in a very saturated market, a business brand can only go so far. It’s the people and our personal brands that will generate a competitive advantage that builds customers for life.

3. Creates new career and business  opportunities  

So you know you need to update your LinkedIn profile and post a bit on social media but ‘never have time’ or ‘don’t know what to say’. And then you get fired. Or you have a wave of ‘WTF am I doing with my life, I don’t want to work here and want to start a business!’  

Great, now how do you think you’re going to find that next opportunity or get clients? Cold calling? In person events and networking? NO. It’s all online now! From interviewing to networking to prospecting leads, it’s all happening online through your personal profiles, and if you haven’t been thinking about your personal branding strategy, you’re going to feel behind and be undifferentiated.

Creating a personal branding strategy based on your goals, skills, audience and passions ensures that you’re ready for whatever comes your way. AND nobody is doing it! Half the reason I got into the Texas MBA and landed my job at Gartner was because of my personal branding strategy. Without realizing it, I was creating a competitive advantage for myself because I was sharing who I was and constantly networking and most people ARE NOT doing this! There’s really no better feeling when I catch up with my Microsoft and Gartner colleagues today and they say to me, “Wow, you’re killing it Rachel! I see you online all of the time!” I promise, your personal brand is the most important thing whether you work for someone or for yourself.

In conclusion 

Don’t focus so much on building your business brand that you forget YOU. Because you matter and we’re living in a time where people are claiming their worth. We are awakening to what we really want out of our lives and thirsty for a connection. That connection can only be built through human experiences and connections and the personal brand you create. So while you may not like the term personal brand, I believe you’re living it everyday so why not put a little more love into it?! You just never know what you may create.  


In early May, we’ll be launching our Standout Authority Rally Coin! Yes that’s right, we’re going into crypto and will be starting a Discord so we can connect in a much bigger way. It’s very exciting. If you want to be a part of our new community and get some coins, please fill out this form and we’ll make sure you get coins on launch day!