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The Misnomer of Personal Brand

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

'Personal brand' is a misnomer.

The very words are confusing. The word 'personal' sounds like it has to do with 'me'. On the one hand, that's true since 'personal' has to do with the mind-body you inhabit.

Source: Medium; Team Bootcamp

But we can't simply stop there. The followup question we need to ask is:

What part of 'me' are we actually talking about?

There are numerous dimensions of 'me' on which you could focus. You could examine your style, dress, language, mannerisms, hobbies, ethics, skills, passions, etc. The list goes on and on.

So do you talk about all of them? If so, in what order?

The first question to contemplate is: Are all these dimensions of 'me' equal?


To unpack that answer, we have to back up and look at the overriding context within which these dimensions arise.


We operate in life within different contexts. Here are several examples:

• Family

• Hobby/interest

• Professional

• Volunteer/philanthropic

• Friend

Each context is comprised of its own unique people, needs, and experiences. In most cases, the people, needs, and experiences of one context do not overlap with those of other contexts.


A more important question has to then be asked:

What is the value you seek to achieve, deliver, or convey within a given context?

The question of value is critical in understanding context because it is not just the value you provide, but it is the highest value that you provide in that specific context.

For example, you likely provide a lot of value to your family. But of all the value you provide, there is one that is the highest, such as your unconditional love.


The value you provide your family is very different than the value you provide to your company or organization. And that value is also different from the value you provide when you’re with friends or pursuing one of your hobbies.

The essential point is that contexts tend not to overlap for the simple reason that the highest value required in each of those contexts is typically different.

Source: Matthew Cohen/RD.com, Nicole Fornabaio/RD.com

If we now go back to the words 'personal brand' there isn't a 'personal' context. I don't know what the word 'personal' even means from that perspective. There are a lot of aspects of one's life that can be categorized as 'personal'. However, without a specific articulation of what 'personal' means, 'personal brand' is simply a poorly named turn of phrase.


In my experience, when most people use 'personal brand' they invariably mean a professional context.


Therefore, a more accurate and specific term would be 'professional brand'. The reason is:

- 'Professional' speaks to context

- 'Brand' speaks to value


A 'personal brand' is really about your 'professional value'.


I'm not expecting everyone to now walk around saying 'professional brand' instead of 'personal brand', however, I do think it is helpful and important to be specific and clear in our language describing 'personal brand' so we minimize assumptions about that which we seek.

Those are my thoughts...what are yours?

Do you have a question about personal brand? I invite you to ask it in the comments.


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Chris Haase is Principal of Clarity Silicon Valley, which is a personal brand coaching firm that crafts executive and professional identities.


Clarity Silicon Valley offers an Executive Identity Program and workshops aimed at executives and high-potential professionals who seek to accelerate their career by discovering, understanding, and owning their personal brand through telling their authentic professional story.

Chris is available for personal brand strategy and development engagements with individuals and companies, as well as writing and speaking opportunities.

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