The 3 Biggest Personal Branding Mistakes of 2021 & How to Avoid Them

Jennifer Cortlandt
4 min readMar 9, 2021


Before the first words of a novel or screenplay were written, the Author likely spent an impressive amount of time on Character Development. The Author then created an outline around the Main Character that would define their past, their call to action, their point of crisis, & their ultimate triumph.

The Author knew where the Story was going before they wrote it down. And in buying a novel or watching a movie, the Audience is demonstrating an unspoken trust in the Author that they will be taken on a Journey with a solid Storyline wherein the Hero emerges Triumphant.

Let’s take the above information and Pivot it to Marketing — specifically, Personal Brand Marketing.

Personal Branding is one of the most difficult things to do well in your own efforts. This is because when you are creating your own Personal Brand, you are both the Brand Agency and the Brand itself; you are the Author and the Subject. And when we are too close to a Subject, we have a hard time gaining perspective.

For example, in relationships — we think our current significant other is the most attractive, insightful, funniest person we have ever met. Meanwhile, when we think of an ex romantic partner . . . well . . . distance provides perspective there.

It is the same with Personal Branding: When we are too close to the Subject (ourselves) we cannot be fully Objective (not influenced by feelings). This leads to blind spots. And blind spots lead to mistakes and oversights. And in Marketing, mistakes cost you (BIG) money.

Here are the 3 biggest Personal Branding mistakes I regularly come across, and how you can avoid them:

1Hero Without a Past:
I see this a lot in the world of IG Entrepreneurship and Influencers — you know, the people squatting down in front of 6 cars and giving the peace sign. For the average person, this will create an immediate eye roll. Why? Because there is no back story to the Character in front of us.

If we knew that this person went through ‘A’, and from their experience of ‘A’ they found the wisdom of ‘B’, and in applying the wisdom of ‘B’ they now have ‘C’ we would be much more impacted by their story. Why? Because we have context for Who the Hero is and How they got there.

The Hero-Without-A-Past method isn’t altogether bad — it does create famous influencers (or models or actors). But models, actors and influencers sell other people’s products & services. An individual with a strong personal brand sells their own products & services.

2Hero Stuck in the Past and/or a Problem:
This is the most common mistake I see in IG Self-Help Spheres (Life Coaches, Spiritual Teachers, Yoga Teachers) — photos or videos of people crying accompanied by captions detailing their current pain and problem. PLEASE STOP DOING THIS.

As I mentioned above, when it comes to Personal Branding, you are the Author and the Subject. In order for you to remain successful, your audience must trust that you will take them from the beginning to the end of a Story & not leave them stuck in the ether of the middle.

A great piece of advice I received was from a Mentor who told me, “Share your message not your mess.This means that, as the Hero of our Story, we do not share a problem with our Audience until we have context for how that problem developed our Character. Give your problem a bit of time and reflection before you start sharing about it all over Social Media.

3Supporting Character dressed in Hero’s Clothing:
A lot of times the reason your Personal Brand isn’t resonating with your Audience is because you have not created enough context & experience for your own Character (you), essentially positioning yourself as a Supporting Character in your own Personal Branding efforts. Eek!

What is the main difference between a Supporting Character and a Main Character? Supporting Characters serve to enhance the Main Characters Storyline — not the other way around.

A Main Character has been through some shit and has lived to tell the tale of their experience from a place of Wisdom. A Supporting Character walks through life partially asleep, not taking ownership of their experiences & are typically stuck in some aspect of their Past. A Supporting Character shares from a place of Victimhood — not a place of Triumph.

Audiences are smarter than you think they are and they do not give their trust easily. If your Personal Brand is not gaining traction, it may be time to review and revise the context of the Main Character you are presenting your Audience. Are you presenting a Hero with no backstory? Are you sharing a mess from a place of weakness verses a message from a place of wisdom? Are you showing up as the Supporting Character in your own Story? Review. Recast. Revise. Repeat until you lock in your messaging & build your Audience’s trust.



Jennifer Cortlandt