The term “self-promotion” is often interchanged with “personal branding,” but are they the same thing?

Sure, they can seem like icky words, especially if talking about yourself is super awkward. But understanding the difference can help you make real connections with your target audience—and confidently sell your expertise with integrity.

For starters, both “self-promotion” and “personal branding” go together like macaroni and cheese. (Cheese makes EVERYTHING better whether you can tolerate it or not.)

But if you’re promoting your skills without focusing on the value of your brand, you’ll be ignored.

At the same time, if you have a strong personal brand but no one knows—or cares—about what you have to says then, “Houston, we have a problem.”

I roll my eyes too when I see “experts” online plugging their next new thing without showing the value they bring to the table. (I call it selling services with no service and offering talent with no talent.)

Without a clear value exchange and emotional connection, people won’t trust you. Period.

We all see right through the one-sided “deal” and it comes off as salesy and sleazy, which leads to an instant IGNORE.

Let’s look at these messages as an example:

Example 1: “Are you going through a divorce? Ready for a life-changing metamorphosis? Drop everything and read my new book! It’s on sale for a LIMITED TIME ONLY! Order my book now and help it become a #1 Bestseller!”.

Example 2: “When I got divorced, I struggled to find a book that tackled this new chapter in life with practical advice and humor. So, I decided to write a book from the perspective of hope, not despair. Do you need a dose of inspiration and a chuckle along the way? Make the steps to move forward and buy your copy today.”

Do you see the difference between the two?

Example 1 is me-oriented and reads like an 80s Crazy Eddie commercial. It’s basically a megaphone announcement that “MY BOOK IS INSANE!”.

Example 2 speaks to a specific target market’s WIFM—What’s In It For Me. It talks to someone who doesn’t want to read another weepy, serious, divorce book. Also, the author shows her unique value and makes a personal connection with her audience.

So, I’m pretty sure we can agree that the second example would generate more sales—and trust. The message felt more genuine and wasn’t a screaming call to action (e.g., Buy my book).

Maybe you’re not going around sounding exactly like Crazy Eddie. But are you coming across as an authentic brand online or just another person competing for attention?

When promoting your business or professional skills, your message must without a doubt include your unique ability to solve a specific problem. This is where your personal brand takes the wheel.

This way, you’re not just making noise—you’re making an impact.

And that’s attention-worthy.

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Marietta Gentles Crawford
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Marietta Gentles Crawford

Writer + Personal Brand Strategist, Founder at MGC Ink
Marietta Gentles Crawford is a writer, personal brand strategist, and author of "From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career." With over 15 years' experience climbing through top corporate brands, she helps small businesses and freelancers communicate their brand message and stand out from the crowd.
Marietta Gentles Crawford
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