What’s the difference between raising your visibility and building your brand?.

Janine Coombes looking excited about branding building or visibility raising

What’s the difference between raising your visibility, building your brand and building an audience?

There are so many different ways to describe the action of getting more people to know who you are. 

I was thinking about long term goal setting for small businesses last week. I quickly realised that I wasn’t sure exactly what phrase small business owners use to describe the activity of getting more people to know what they do lots of different things.

So I asked the lovely people of LinkedIn. And a stimulating debate ensued! 

Some people came up with different words to describe this effort. Others had alternative interpretations of the words visibility and branding.

Here’s a write up of my perception of each of these terms. Then you can make up your own mind!

Janine Coombes looking excited about branding building or visibility raising
Build your brand or raise your visibility?

Raise my visibility

This is the phrase I use most often to describe what I’m trying to do long term. 

I want more people to know what I do. I want to be well-known by my ideal customers, peers and potential suppliers. 

This is my definition of ‘visible’:

“The people that matter to you, know who you are and what you do.”

Being visible has NOTHING to do with trying to be liked. 

Building that ‘know like trust’ factor is an old marketing adage. But like many old marketing adages, it has been simplified to the point of nonsense. 

You’re not trying to get EVERYONE to know and like you. 

Only the ones that matter. 

The ones who don’t matter; it’s sensible to try and put them off. Either as a by-product of your efforts to target your tribe. Or on purpose; by sharing possibly controversial opinions that you know some people will hate. 

Be marmite

That’s another, newer, marketing adage. I’ll probably be slagging that one off too in a couple of years. 

The erudite Mark Masters commented ‘To me, visibility is not about ‘I hope people like me’ it means ‘the party is at mine.’ 

Mark runs the You Are the Media (YATM) community which is fuelled by an excellent weekly newsletter, an annual event and monthly in-person catch ups. 

You Are The Media homepage with photo from May 2019 conference. Janine is just out of shot!
It’s an outrage, they cut me off their homepage photo.

Brand building

For anyone with a corporate background or formal marketing qualifications, they’ll probably use the term brand building or building brand awareness. I learned all about branding during my business degree and post-grad marketing diploma. The importance of brand clarity and consistency was reinforced during my time working for companies like EE, Orange and Europcar.

Quite a few people commented that there’s lots of confusion among small business owners about what a ‘brand’ really is. 

With many people just assuming it’s the logo and colours used by a business, and not much else. For that reason, I don’t talk much about brand building any more. Only if I’m talking to corporate or ex-corporate bods.

Branding of products and services goes back to branding of cattle. Branding was used to show ownership, but then customers could infer quality levels from those marks ‘Ah, I know this cow will be disease free because it’s one of Bob’s’. 

Did you know that the French word for brand is ‘marque’? (Sounds like mark.) #FascinatingFact! 

The term ‘brand’ was then adopted by purveyors of things like soap to differentiate their products from the others on offer. ‘I like Pears soap because of the fragrance and tends to last longer’.

When we say ‘I’m working to build visibility’, that’s shorthand for ‘raise visibility OF MY BRAND or OF MY BUSINESS’. 

Raising your profile

Raising your profile; this assumes you have a strong personal brand. 

It does hold connotations of ‘a personality’ vs a business. 

You could rephrase it to be ‘raising the profile of my business’, but only one or two people who commented on the thread used this as their main way of explaining what they were trying to achieve long term. 

As Lucy Griffin-Stiff commented, ‘Once you’ve built the brand you then raise it’s profile’. Lucy is a message expert turned mindset coach. 

Janine Coombes saying 'nailed it' while clicking an imaginary gun at the camera.
Nailed it.

Building an audience

I set this apart from brand building and visibility raising. It’s more task focused.

It includes activities like:

  • Email list building 
  • Growing your Facebook group
  • Increasing the number of followers you have on your own social media

The ultimate goal isn’t ‘to build an audience’. You’re building an audience to make more money. Hopefully. Unless you’re only in it for for the fans and adoration. No judgment.


Someone commented that they thought ‘reputation’ is a valid alternative to ‘brand’ or ‘visibility’. 

Reputation is that ‘trust’ factor. It’s people thinking you’re honest and will deliver on what you say you’re going to (and won’t be a bro-marketing dick). Ergo, a subset of your brand I reckon.

Nicoletta Mura nails it by saying ‘[what you’re aiming for] is a mix of reputation, reach and trust.’

Janine Coombes dressed as an old lady saying 'I don't trust you at all. Goodbye.'


Voted for by Lisa de Caux, ‘discoverability’ was used by Louise Harnby in her book called Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business. 

I haven’t read her book (sorry Louise), but it’s a good word to illustrate that making it easy for the right people to find you is a good goal for any business.

Showing up

Yep, to be more visible, whether online or offline, you’ve got to show up!

This can take time. Time spent banging away at the keyboard every day or meeting people at networking events regularly. It can take months or even years to gather momentum and build those relationships. 

Rachel Klaver said that showing up more means ‘putting your face, your thoughts, and your ideas out in front of your target audience, to help them connect and bond with you.’ She talks more about this in her LinkedIn article 20 Ways for Business Owners to Show Up More for Your Business (On social media).

Visibility wins

For my part, I’ll be using the phrase ‘raising visibility’ most often.

My ideal customers are small business owners or entrepreneurs who’ve likely been in business for a couple of years or more. It’s the term that they most regularly use. I might use brand building from time to time but I’ll make sure I’m clear that I’m talking about about much more than logos and fonts.