Free Voice vs Personal Brand

By Chris Koch - Leading Voice Coach for The Voice Advisory

Sheryl Sandberg KIRBY_CAROUSEL.jpg

I don’t have a brand, but I do have a voice.’ - Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook, author of Lean In.

Surely in an environment where personal branding is the mode du jour, this is a bit radical coming from the COO of Facebook? But she’s not pulling punches. Sandberg’s take is that personal branding commodifies, or turns individuals in to products to be bought and sold. ‘Crest has a brand. Perrier has a brand… People are not that simple. We’re not packaged. And when we are packaged, we are ineffective and inauthentic.’

However in Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture (a fabulous scholarly treatment of branding), Sarah Banet-Weiser suggests personal branding is not quite the same as commodification. She points out that branding involves creating and consistently communicating an identity and a set of values which attracts and retains customers.  Its popularity has to do with the relationship with authenticity, the idea of becoming 'more of who you are'. Hard to see a problem there – and yet it’s also not that simple. Inevitably, even personal branding that genuinely takes the above approach, operates within a branding culture that depends on strong stereotypes and often commodifies the person. So if authenticity is important to us as individuals, personal branding can be useful, but ambivalently so.

Somewhere between these two perspectives, there’s a consistency of values-driven behaviour we’re aiming towards. There’s a good reason for that. At it’s best, that’s what we mean by ‘personal brand’. 

But maybe there’s an even more useful focus, which Sandberg is pointing to. No matter how we work on our personal ‘brand management’ to allow for adaptive change, ‘brand’ can never provide us with the mercurial responsiveness that a free voice does.

A free voice is effectively the channel through which our body, mind, feelings, intellect, are expressed accurately, with passion and precision. What better way to ensure true, moment-to-moment authenticity, than to free, and then to rely on our voices.

 Sandberg again:

I don’t have a brand, but I do have a voice. It is a voice that I used to help build a company. It is a voice that spoke out on women. It is a voice that sometimes gets things wrong. And it’s a voice I now use to talk about grief and try to break some of the isolation I felt. If you think you are building a personal brand, you will not have the career you want because you will not be authentic. Don’t package yourself. Just speak and speak honestly, with some data behind you.’

And if personal branding’s still your thing then let your brand be your own, free, voice, the root of both your personal and your professional authenticity. 

To help free your voice get in touch with us atThe Voice Advisory



The Voice of Resilience

By Chris Koch - Lead Voice Consultant at The Voice Advisory (formally Voice Coach)


Resilience is being embraced by the top end of business, and it’s inextricably linked to employee voice.   

This interview with Dr Monique Crane, Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at Macquarie University and editor of new publication Managing for Resilience looks at how to give your people tools to assist them to better weather storms. We like her emphasis on short, daily, regenerating breaks.

Crane also points out that resilience is a system, and in organisations this means involvement by managers, individuals, and organisational structures – it is not a fixed individual personality trait we have or don't have. It is definitely not about being so tough and problem-free that we don’t need anyone else. It’s about improving, where possible, our ability to live and work in the flow of whatever comes our way.  It’s about lifting everyone up.

A free voice is a cornerstone of resilience, and at difficult times, likely to result in an individual having their needs met. A healthy flow of ideas, information and updates, allows the conversation to be alive and ongoing, rather than stuck in the past. Physically, freedom of voice is all about freedom of breath. At a moment-to-moment level, each breath is new, and replenishes not only our ability to make sound vibrations, but our intellectual energy, clarity and decision making. A speaker who is sensitive to the needs of the audience is able to adapt and change in response, to live in the act of speaking, and to sustain their own engagement throughout.

Healthy voice in your organisation requires permission for and the ability of all its people to speak up, keep ideas moving, communicate issues arising, and to inspire each other. 

Contact The Voice Advisory to find out about our new Voice of Influence survey tool for assessing the vocal resilience of your organisation at