Five pitfalls of personal branding: When becoming known doesn’t work

Mark Schaefer
7 min readMay 15, 2023

I recently had an exchange with a friend who described a person who seemed to be doing everything right with his personal brand but had no progress with monetization. He wondered why his friend was failing — to the point of quitting. It made me reflect on the pitfalls of personal branding. Under what circumstances will even an excellent personal branding effort fail?

There are five pitfalls of personal branding. You’ll want to avoid these problems and we’ll dig into those today.

The personal branding path

First, let’s take a step back and examine the fundamentals of developing a personal brand.

I wrote the all-time best-selling book on personal branding and also teach a popular online course on the subject. I help people focus on becoming “known” in their industry, not famous. Being “known” in the digital world means you have the reputation, authority, and presence to get your job done.

There are four main steps in my process:

  1. Identifying where you fit in the business eco-system — what you want to be known for. It’s not as easy as it seems, requiring research, introspection, and insight.
  2. Finding the most productive place to tell your story.



Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!