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101 Personal Branding For A (Very) Ordinary Folk – Part 1

I’ve been thinking about writing an article about personal branding. The reason I hesitated was because this subject has been discussed by ample people who are way more famous and credible than I am. But two days ago, it came to me that there were some corners left in this area which hadn’t been covered yet. And in those corners, my targeted audience is waiting.

Who Should Read This Article???

This piece of writing would be useful to those who want to further your personal branding but have one or many of these thoughts in your mind:

  • I don’t have a specific talent.
  • My appearance is not stunning.
  • I have neither an impressive background nor wealth.
  • I don’t have a strong passion.
  • I’m afraid that, “Personal branding is only for PR, Marketing people or, frankly saying, attention seeker.

If you don’t have any of those thoughts, chances are you already know what I’m about to say, even do it better. In that case, I hope you would share with us your experience or refer this article to your friends who need a little boost up.

I split the content into 2 parts. The first one is to give you an overview while the second digs deeper into the tactics.

What is Personal Branding?

A lot of people misunderstand that personal branding means you do tricks to get exposure on TV, newspaper or social media. Those factors play a tiny role, and definitely not compulsory, in the process.

I believe in what Kim Baker at UOV teaches in her course about Personal Branding: it means you let people know what you’re good at and when or for what kind of job they should come to find you.

At the core of this subject, less about benefit but more of humanism, personal branding means showing your best self to people. If you do it right, you can help them to have a better concept about yourself. Some people are born with such ability. Wherever they are, they leave an impression, more or less. Meanwhile, the rest of us has to learn and build from scratch and practice regularly so that people will remember our presence.


Why Should You Build A Personal Brand?
(a.k.a. any good in showing off and seeking attention?)

I don’t intend to convince everyone since I’m aware that a lot of people have a good life without ever stepping on this path. And some people might think it’s so shallow and loathing that only attention seekers would do.

But if I change the question into this one, does it make a difference?

Why should I spend effort to determine who I am and what I like?

There are two motivations for personal branding, including:


People are more likely to believe what you say when they know who you are and what you’re good at (hello, common sense). Since anonymity usually brings the worst of humanity, they have the right reason to prefer a clear name over “Mr. X.” It’s no more about only “who you know” but also “who know you.” More usual than not, the job they are hiring for is not too difficult. There are plenty of people who can do it just as well as you would. The employers tend to choose who they remember or heard of. There is no need to spend a tremendous amount of time and resources to recruit for an ordinary position which doesn’t require any superpower. When I was a kid, I got an extra gig because the director knows my mom. Should he organize a casting instead of asking the woman sitting next to him (a.k.a. my mom), “Hey, I heard that you have a daughter?”


A Journey Worth Going On:

Believe me when I say personal branding is a journey worth going on for once. And this itself is the motivation for me to compose this article. No matter how long it is, this adventure – or lifetime quest – will help you take a further step on the path to know your true self.

For example:

  • Can you stand the frivolous but essential need of other people’s approval and fondness?
  • What do you love more than most of other things?
  • When you have to gain other people’s fondness, will you still have the gut to stand up and speak out for what you believe even though it’s contradict to what the mass thinks?

The last question is so interesting that I think all of us should experience answering it once in our lives. Only when you’re standing in front of benefit and loss, you reveal how stable and strong your integrity really is. Spoiler: it might not be as much as you think.

Even if you’re no where near being as popular as that cool kid in your high school, you gain the knowledge about yourself. What you know might disappoint you, but in the end, you see it.

How To Build A Personal Brand

When I Don’t Have Anything Outstanding?

Where To Start?

As I wrote in the previous part, some people are born knowing how to do it, subconsciously. Some others have to struggle a little bit. They even have to face the mindset which degrades personal branding practices.

If you still feel uneasy thinking about doing this, I advise you to start with this question:

What kind of people do I want to become and what do I care about?

I reckon that once one knows the answer, even just vaguely, one will more or less automatically throw off a vibe – the first stage of one’s personal brand. At this point, you can stop if you don’t want to walk further on this promoting path. You can resume whenever you want, but be aware that there will be deterioration on some level.

Let’s start with some simple points about your personalities and viewpoints – show the world the best self you choose.

  • I support gay marriage.
  • I like Messi better than Ronaldo because…
  • I love Horoscope readings
  • I’m fond of poetry

These above seem too simple, and actually they are. They’re not profound enough to build a full-scale brand, but serve as starting points.

Please put aside those cliche motivational quotations on the Internet, such as “Everyone is unique” or “You are limited edition.” Everyone is unique – just as much as the next guy. You should have a long list of your personalities, background, goals, dreams… Everything relevant to you is valid. From that testimonial, you will pick the most appealing traits to build upon them. I’ll discuss more in Part 2.

After the warming up, now is the time to talk about tactics. The word itself describes what’s next. Less about humanism, more of practical benefits.

Who is the targeted audience?

Let me put it simply and straight for you

Targeted audience is those who will bring you benefits, including money, wealth, emotions, connection, popularity,… OR help you to minimize the loss – after they know about your personal brand.

Whom should you focus your effort to make an impression on? Of course if you can promote yourself to a whole world, I am totally in it. But if you can’t, and it usually is, you should focus on your targeted audience.

If you want to be known for your knowledge about organic healthy food, you shouldn’t be overweight or look exhausted all the time. Also remember, an Asian healthy chick tend to be more skinny than a white one. Since every group holds a slightly different definition of beauty and health, you gotta learn what your group prefers

Your neighbors: they are likely to be your targeted audience, or potential. It depends on what kind of service/ product you want to “sell”.

Friends: think of your close friends as allies (if they are truly your close friends). The rest of your comrades can be targeted audience.

Does it mean you have to be fake with your friends? As I said above and will repeat constantly: personal branding doesn’t mean acting fake. The opposite is true: the more genuinely you act, the more effective and stable your brand is.

People on social media: almost 80-90% can be targeted. Social media is where a lot of, if not most, human information exchange happen nowadays. It becomes more and more of a multifunctional platform to recruit, promote, network, display, spread the words,… If everyone knows you love cooking and Astrology, guess who has the biggest chance to be invited to an outdoor star-gazing cooking show? (I know, i know, this sounds hilarious and impossible, but who knows).

Society: Again; personal branding is to let people know what you’re good at and when they should seek for your advice/ service. The more people know about you, the merrier.

Would you feel self-loathing if you keep promoting yourself to the world? I can’t say it enough: the foundation of personal branding must be built on what you truly have or desire to learn. For other people you encounter, it helps to build a strong, trustworthy relationship. But for yourself, it prevents the burden of playing someone you are not – someone too good to be true.

How Much Should You Promote Yourself?

(Where? When? How Often?)


Every time.

Fake it until you make it.

Learn everything you need to make it real.

This is the reason I told you not to pretend. Personal branding is a long-term goal, an ongoing time-consuming quest. Please don’t build your castle on such a weak base! Not worth it at all.

If I wanted to present myself as a dynamic, kind and credible LGBT supporter in my community (which I truly am, but I don’t build my brand around that point, fyi), I should learn some academic knowledge about sex, gender and gender orientation (in Psychology, Biology, Sociology, etc.) I need to know what’s going on in the society, what laws are in favor or against the LGBT’s marriage, what different religions (or even religion’s branches) say about this matter.

Of course I also want to tell people about what I did to help those in need.

But What Should Not Be Told? Or How Shouldn’t You Tell That Story?

Let’s say: if you give a decent amount of money to a homeless guy sitting near your house, should you public it on your Facebook?

How to define the fine line between simply truly humbly showing the world what you did and shamefully take advantage of those whom you help?

There are three basic rules should you follow:

  • If it’s something you’re supposed to do (your duty), consider if it’s worth to share. It’s fine to tell what happened as an interesting experience, but don’t say as if it were a hero’s deed.
  • If you don’t have a good reason to do it except for getting viral, don’t!
  • If it’s a happy story for everyone, chances are it’s a good thing to share. If there is one person in your story who would be embarrassed if people know that they are in such a bad situation that they have to be at your mercy, you should be very careful publishing it. Get their consent first. Choose your words wisely. Ten people hearing about you are not as worthy as one person who puts their trust in you.

The above sentence is what I want sum up this article. Popularity and integrity are essential ingredients of personal branding. In most cases, they go well along together and support each other. However, when you have to choose either one of them, I believe the right answer is integrity.

I’m aware that there are people out there who are superb at manipulating other people. They can lie around millions of times and still benefit from that. But if you reach this point of the article, it’s likely that you’re not that superb or you agree with my philosophy. Either way, integrity is your go-to word, not fame.

Rio’s Endtime Show: Did you see the red-theme picture up there? It’s the cover of VietChallenge – the first business idea competition for Vietnamese all over the world. The team, which has my boyfriend as one co-founder, has invited numerous well-known experts in business and law to become our judges. The Final gala will take place at MIT, Boston.

If you’re interested, please take a look at our website 🙂

Rio Lam Signature

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Published in Eng Public Relations


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