Developing Your Personal Brand in the Midst of a Pandemic

By Gissell Moronta, Regional Vice President, Atrium Hospitality, and member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

How important is it to think of our personal brand during a crisis? Should we put effort into strengthening or changing our brand to adapt to the current environment?

We are in the middle of a global pandemic that has changed our industry and forced many hospitality professionals to reinvent themselves or change trajectory. Even for those whose employment has not changed, how important is to project an image that’s ready to succeed with today’s challenges?

Many people believe that personal branding only involves your reputation, but in her book Personal Branding With LinkedIn, Natalia Wiechowski puts it best: “Personal branding is so much more than a reputation, it is impression management, it’s communication and a (self-)leadership tool.” We should pay attention to how we communicate what our leadership can do not only to survive a crisis but to thrive post-COVID.

Unfortunately, many people don’t give a second thought to how they are perceived and let others create an image that defines them. Taking control of your image can be a powerful way to ensure your skills are attractive to your current employer and to others. Think of it as life insurance for your career.

The fact is that you can’t neglect your personal branding strategy. Whether what’s needed is to create one, improve it, or simply strengthen it, it’s important to continue to focus on your self-brand.

While many hospitality professionals have been focused simply on surviving in their jobs over the past year, it may be time to better position yourself to thrive — and while curating a personal brand is advice that’s often given to people just starting their careers, it’s important for everyone to be known for their unique skills and capabilities.

HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB) discussed the importance of personal branding and how to self-promote during the pandemic on a recent call. Here are key takeaways from our discussion:


It’s not enough to be good at your job, you also have to effectively communicate that to others. One SAB member called this brand communication, which he said is separate from just having a brand. “You can have a strong brand of business competency, but you can be not as strong in promoting it,” the member said. “They are two separate tracks, and you may be stronger at one than the other.”

One SAB member said that developing her personal brand helped her to become more outspoken once she was confident in herself.  “If you have a team member who is not as confident in a group, developing her personal brand and the reasons why she wants to go down a certain path could help her get there faster,” the member said. “It can be more authentic than just doing it to try to get a promotion. You can manifest more of the things that you want for yourself once you identify your brand.”

Another member added that it’s important as well to be mindful about communicating skills and value. “We need to be humble, but we still need to communicate what we are capable of,” the member said.”

One SAB member recommended a book, Seeing Yourself as Others Do, by Carol Keers and Thomas Mungavan, that she said helped her more effectively communicate her value. “If nobody knows your value because you’re not communicating your value, then what’s the point?” the member asked. “The challenge this year is that we can’t waste an opportunity to communicate that value. Every snippet of opportunity you’re given, you have to make it work.”


As a mentor, you can improve your personal brand as a leader and help others at the same time. Many SAB members have teams and mentees who depend on them for advice on navigating the hospitality world. Members shared their best advice for helping others develop their personal brands to get ahead.

Several members gave the example of trying to help a teammate who is good at their job but quiet and introverted. “I share with them the concept of looking at yourself as the CEO of Me Inc.,” one SAB member said. “And as your own CEO think of how are you selling yourself?  You have two customers – hotel that you work for and all the customers you are going to find for that hotel. And that’s when the light clicks on and they get what a personal brand really means.”

Another member said that especially during a crisis, sales leaders should do everything they can to position themselves as resources for others in the industry. “There’s an opportunity when things are looking bad to look inside ourselves and say, ‘What can I do to be a resource for someone?’” the member said. “Look in the mirror and find what you’re about and how you can use it for someone else’s good.”


Everyone has their own skills and personality that can’t be forced, SAB members said. For example, if someone is not a huge talker, no amount of mentoring can force that person to become a chatterbox or succeed in a role where talking all of the time is a crucial element.

“There are certain things that you can’t convert people to do,” one SAB member said. “You can’t change someone’s personality. If you have someone that isn’t comfortable doing something, then don’t make them do it.”

Another member referenced a recent HSMAI Recovery Connections session that focused on leveraging strengths, not skills, and applying that to the hiring process. The session defined skills as “learned attributes that you gain through practice, repetition, and education” and strengths as “attributes that you’re born with.”

“When we were hiring for a RDOS role, I didn’t need someone who can perform successfully,” the member said. “I needed someone who can teach other DOSs to successfully lead. But for a DOS role, I don’t care about how much you’re able to talk about what you do, I care if you can actually do it. You have to look at what you value in a role.”

Another SAB member added that it’s about not just finding something you’re good at but finding who you are. “The real value in personal branding starts from within,” the member said. “What do I want people to see me as? What are my core values? What’s most important to me?”

An SAB member who was out of work last year said that knowing his personal brand helped him find the right fit for his new job because he knew what he wouldn’t be a good fit for. “As I was looking for companies, there were a lot of organizations I could’ve gone to work for,” the member said. “But I think when I really got deep down to who I am and what my contributions are, it really did narrow the field. I waited and was able to find the right fit. I think that’s how my personal brand served me at this time, because I found a company that really does value what I want, and I’m able to make the right contribution.”

In summary, it’s important for everyone to focus on their personal brand and have a solid communication strategy around it. During a crisis, it’s important that your brand reflects your ability to assess current business needs, craft an effective business strategy, and drive change all while displaying positive leadership. Evaluate if your personal brand fits the current environment and adjust it if needed.

Categories: Sales
Insight Type: Articles