We all have a personal brand, whether it is helping or hurting us is a different question. Although personal branding was first mentioned in 1997, the reality is people still struggle to figure out if they want a personal brand and what it all really means.

Last year, Sheryl Sandberg focused on finding your voice and stated flat out that personal branding is not for people. Branding is only for products. You can read the full article here. Although the rest of the article was insightful, Ms. Sandberg is flat out wrong. What I mean to say is that personal branding does not work if you think of yourself as a product. Of course, we are not products – we are people. If a person is approaching personal branding and thinking of themselves as packaging, then that person is doing it wrong.

The reality is that everyone should be managing their personal brand to some degree. This does not mean to say everyone should be a speaker and try to deliver a TED talk. This simply means that every person has a brand or a reputation already and frankly, the bar is higher now more than ever, on being intentional in how we show up to others. Here are the top trends for 2018 when it comes to personal branding.

1.  Own Your Why

People are becoming more comfortable with the notion that success is something they can define for themselves. This is a result of people trying to find meaning in their work, their lives, their existence. For some individuals, this can simply be a professional why vs. a personal why. To me, the most important thing we can do is to simply be ourselves. So, although Batman is cool, do not try and be like Batman and have a persona by night and one by day. Give yourself space to think about your why and what it means to you.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What purpose do you want to serve this year?
  • What change are you going to drive?
  • Who will benefit from your passion?
  • Who would pay you for your expertise? [this is key if you are trying to start a new business or launch a new vertical in your existing business]

2. Call Your Shot(s)

Life is short. Every year there are people who move on or out of our lives and it is a constant reminder to simply do what you are meant to do and go for it. In 2016 when I wrote my first book (I am writing my second right now and starting my third later in 2018), I knew that I needed to tell other people about my book and plans to get the ball rolling. If you have some audacious goal, then put it on paper, tell people, get it out there in the universe. Once people know what you want, it is much easier for them to help you achieve it.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Do a vision board (January 13th is Vision Board day)
  • Tell a few people you trust and have them hold you accountable
  • Build a personal advisory board and share your goals


People are not telepathic.

3. Own Your Conversations

What in the world do I mean by that?

We each have points of views, beliefs, evidence, etc. and know that to fix a problem or influence an outcome, we have to know the conversations we want to drive. For example, I want to drive a conversation about how business owners need to be intentional about how they are the brand of a business because they are the face of the company. The excuse of no online presence will honestly hurt business leaders and their business. People are driving more and more conversations and are speaking up and driving change.

Here are a few examples from 2017:

The #metoo movement is an example where people coming together changed the narrative, vs. one person being the driving force.

You do not have to be famous.

The idea is that you have something worth saying and are able to say it in a clear and compelling – potentially provocative way. If you worry about being too provocative, then have a few people whom you can run your idea by and get input and feedback. Be sure to get it from people with more than one perspective so you can anticipate how others may react.

4. Be Intentional

Just like businesses plan their marketing, people should be intentional about how, when, where, and why they show up – whether it is online or in person. Wherever you are in your career, thinking ahead to the meetings, networking events, conferences, conversations, etc. and planning your communication is critical. Many people refer to BDA, the Before, During, and After of any interaction. This can be a great way to think about how are you planning how you show up over the year. If you do want to be a speaker or panelist at a conference, then you should definitely be planning ahead so you can submit your speaker material, etc. Many conferences now are anywhere from 3 months to 12 months out as far as when they book speakers.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a marketing plan for yourself on one-page for the year
  • Update your LinkedIn profile 
  • Consider one other channel (Facebook, Instagram)

So based on your goals, your shot, work back from that and identify what actions you should take to get there.

5. Take Action

People are getting bolder because they realize the value they can bring to other people by putting themselves out there. Personal branding is not about personal bragging. It is simply recognizing that you can do good in the world and make a difference in your own way. Whether it is bringing more visibility to your church, a non-profit you support, your kid’s school – personal branding can help everyone wherever they are in their life. Taking action should look different for people based on their goals, skills, audience, etc. 

Here are a few top trends & ideas:

  • Sit on a panel at a conference
  • Join a non-profit Board or a for-profit Board
  • Write a monthly blog
  • Assess your networks and consider dropping one and joining a new one
  • Consider doing a video interview or short video bio 

If the above is a bit scary, do not do it alone – identify who can help you. If someone does not come to mind right away – then reach out to me for a consult and consider joining me on January 26th to get all of this done so the rest of the year is not so stressful.

Be a noisebreaker,


Join Me in Northern Virginia on 1/26: