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Developing an authentic personal brand using impression management behaviours: Exploring female entrepreneurs’ experiences

Helen Thompson-Whiteside (University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Sarah Turnbull (University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)
Liza Howe-Walsh (University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 9 April 2018




The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into how female entrepreneurs develop and communicate an authentic personal brand. The authors examine the entrepreneurial marketing (EM) activities undertaken by female entrepreneurs and identify the impression management (IM) behaviours and tactics used. The authors explore the risks associated with self-promotion to gain a better understanding of how female entrepreneurs market themselves and their businesses.


The study adopts an interpretative phenomenological approach (IPA). Using semi-structured interviews, the authors explore the experiences of female entrepreneurs as they engage in IM behaviours. The sample is drawn from female entrepreneurs who have small-scale businesses, which span a range of specialist service sectors. All participants are engaging in personal branding activities. Participants were recruited via a gatekeeper and invited to take part in the study. Data from 11 female business owners were collected and analysed using IPA. Interview transcripts and field notes were analysed for broad patterns, and then initial codes developed, which allowed for themes to emerge, with a number of core themes being identified. These core themes are presented, together with verbatim quotes from participants, to provide a rich insight into the marketing activities of these female entrepreneurs.


The findings reveal the complex challenges faced by female entrepreneurs as they engage in self-promotion and IM to market their business. Four key themes emerge from the data to explain how female entrepreneurs engage in managing their brand both online and offline: experimental, risk, authenticity and supplication. The study identifies, in particular, that female entrepreneurs use the tactic of supplication in combination with self-promotion to communicate their brand. Additionally, it was found that female entrepreneurs share their personal fears and weaknesses in an attempt to be seen as authentic and manage the risk associated with self-promotion.


The study contributes to the EM literature by extending the understanding of the risks associated with self-promotion for female entrepreneurs. The study also contributes to the IM literature by providing a better understanding of IM beyond organisations and applied to an entrepreneurial domain. The study highlights a number of important implications for entrepreneurial practice and policy.



Thompson-Whiteside, H., Turnbull, S. and Howe-Walsh, L. (2018), "Developing an authentic personal brand using impression management behaviours: Exploring female entrepreneurs’ experiences", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 166-181.



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