Replace Your Highlight R-E-E-L with a Highlight R-E-A-L

In business and in life, it is tempting to always show the best sides of ourselves, or the highlights. But I am here to tell you that it’s not the best way to build a personal brand.

There is a better way.

I was asked to speak at the 2020 Her Future Summit, and the topic I picked was dissecting this temptation to focus on sharing your Highlight Reel, and showing why it is not the best approach to building an authentic and intentional personal brand. You can listen to my talk, or enjoy this article as a recap of the best nuggets.

The “Highlike Reel”

We assume on social media that if people don’t like what we post, then they won’t like us, either. It’s natural to feel this way, as society conditions us to be like-worthy. I call this the “highlike” reel, wherein we try to create content, push the message out, and hope for the “likes” to come pouring in.

Did you know that if you just take the “highlike” approach that it can actually hurt your ability to connect with people? 

People may view your content and follow you, but they might also get tired of your staged posts. 

You know the ones. 

The ones with the perfect pictures you post, like the selfie that took several shots to get the right lighting (and three edits later using editing software,) or a picture of your family smiling for the camera right before or after having a big argument.

The problem with spending your energy on just getting people to like you makes it hard for people to get to know you. And I mean this time, not the staged you, but the real you! Trust will increase as your followers engage with content that reveals who you are, not just the polished persona that appears on your website or blog.

Some examples of sharing can be a spontaneous Instagram Story about the pros and cons of what to cook at home this week, why you volunteer on Saturdays at the soup kitchen, or the story of investing your time into a new hobby. As people see you start to reveal who you truly are, you will find that the likes don’t matter so much.

I always tell people, the reality is, people don’t care about your story of success, but what they do care about is how they see themselves in your story. If you can get someone to follow you after they’ve absorbed your authentic content and continue to tune in, you’ve gained their trust. Trust leads to loyalty, and can bring other followers who are also loyal to your brand. Ultimately, branding is about relationships.

And that leads me to telling you about the Highlight R-E-A-L.

Highlight R-E-A-L

Did you know that you already have a highlight R-E-A-L? No, this has nothing to do with producing a film or Hollywood. Here’s my working definition: Your highlight real is your personal brand, or you. In this context, I’m talking about how to bring your highlight real to the digital space so that you can get others to engage with you in a positive and authentic way. 

With the right content, you can help people get to know you, and then as a result they might like you, and when someone knows you and likes you, it is a foundation for building trust in your brand. And trust can lead to loyalty.

Here are three tips below to create your highlight R-E-A-L:

Step 1: Create a real bio

Your Exposed and Authentic Bio, or your real bio, is much more than just about your accolades and accomplishments. It’s a long-form bio that contains stories about your life—stories that taught you important lessons; your setbacks and disappointments; your childhood; and humanity. It’s a bio that when someone reads it, they really get to know you. This type of bio is not a highlight reel. It is a highlight “real!”

You can use the resource from my book Ditch the Act, to help create your bio. I designed a comprehensive bio template that is all you need to build an authentic, longform bio! When you navigate to the “Resources” page and fill in your information, type the invite password: DSAyourfearstoDitchTheAct. If you need an example of what a successful bio should look like, visit my about page on my website,!

By sharing your real bio on your website, you’re creating opportunities for people to see themselves in your story, and seek you out. Yes, I do recommend that you create a personal or professional website because you’ll want to keep your online presence consistent and up-to-date. If you can get a domain that has your name, all the better! 

The idea is to make it “personal” so that people get to know you, the person!

You’re also able to control your own narrative by getting in front of your past and acknowledging it, rather than have people try to hurt your reputation. If you read my bio, you get the good, bad, and ugly. I have nothing to hide, since I was the one who put it out there in the world. It may seem scary at first, but once you do share what has gone wrong along the way, you can then own it as part of who you are.

Step 2: Share your real opinion

It’s okay to say what you think! There will always be internet trolls hiding in the comments and people who twist the words you use with their negativity. Don’t let them upset you, and don’t feed into them. I believe that women have a unique opportunity to ditch the act and bring their authentic selves to the workplace. When you share your views, you need to find your voice. 

You could find your voice on YouTube, a podcast, a TweetChat, art, book, blog, etc. The best leaders in the world don’t just lurk, they speak up. And demonstrate their core values through their actions. It doesn’t matter what medium you pick, just as long as it helps you build an authentic online presence!

Step 3: Tap into real ambition

Keep your network informed about who you are and what you can do. Share your skills and abilities often. Volunteer for leadership opportunities in your community, and take courses to improve at your job. Without a support system, it’s hard to realize your ambition if you’re hiding your talents and your voice. There’s no such thing as a corporate ladder—only you can get to where you want to be! 

To help channel your ambition, or realize that you need to dream bigger, take part in my 3-1-3 Challenge (also in Ditch the Act resources). In the challenge, you’ll learn to define the problem that you solve, your solution, and your market. You’ll boil it all down to three sentences, one sentence, and finally, three words. There is power in succinctness.


I challenge you to forget your highlight R-E-E-L, and forge ahead with your highlight R-E-A-L. Start small: create and share your Exposed and Authentic Bio with someone you trust before you publish it online. They can tell you if the exposure(s) you share are appropriate given what they know about your personal brand.

Remember that your brand is unique, and that there’s only one you. You can talk about the good and the ugly parts without fear once you’ve created a new bio, and spend less energy worrying about what others think.

If you want to ditch the act and take off your mask, read my book to learn how to create an authentic personal brand.

If you have any questions for me about bio building, brand building or on the 3-1-3 Challenge, learn more about working with me.

And if you want a weekly “3 Things Newsletter,” that gives you something to listen to, watch, and see, you can sign up for it here.

Do you have more steps to building an authentic personal brand? Share them with me on Twitter. I’d love to hear what is working for you!

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