What Really is Personal Branding?

When I started my career in 1997, my mentors who had made their careers in the 1970’s and 1980’s never spoke about a “Personal Brand”. To these business people from the previous generation, it was all about “reputation”.

1997 seems to be a fateful year, not just for me personally, but for all of the people who would enter the workforce from that year forward.

1997 was the year that business guru Tom Peters is thought to have first used the expression “personal branding” in an article he wrote. Although I have not been able to find the article to verify this claim.

As someone who was there and working in 1997, I can say that the expression “personal brand” was not being widely used in the business community. My earliest memories of the idea of a personal brand are 2009.

“Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.” – Wikipedia

Why was 2009 an important year?

For me personally, it was the year I became an entrepreneur, but for the world, it was the height of the Great Recession caused by the housing bubble in the US.

In 2009, the social media networks that were founded a few years before, LinkedIn (2002), Facebook (2004), and Twitter (2006), were also really starting to mature into a powerful business tool.

In my opinion, this combination of thousands of people who were looking for work and having the most powerful “branding” tools ever created in human history led to the popularity of the “personal brand”.

A good reputation in your vertical was no longer enough.

You needed to set yourself apart.

What better way to set yourself apart then to create a personal brand that is easily recognizable and creates value by scaling your reputation?

Somethings Never Change

It often feels like everything is changing so fast we can hardly keep up.

Yet when you really analyze things you can see how nothing really changes at its core. The popularity of the “personal brand” is one such example. Let me explain.

When I started my career in 1997, as I said before, my mentors taught me to build a good reputation. Today, in 2017, business mentors would tell young people entering the workforce to build a personal brand.

A personal brand at its core is still all about your reputation.

A reputation was primarily spread by word-of-mouth. Which basically meant that the people who knew and worked with you directly could tell others about you. This typically meant that your reputation did not have reach outside of your industry.

In contrast, a personal brand is spread by the internet and social media channels which means that people who have never worked with you and don’t know you personally can find you and based on what they see can decide to work with you or not.

Its all a matter of scale.

A personal brand is just a reputation that has been scaled.

So, now that you have had a quick history lesson on personal branding and you understand what a personal brand really is, how do you go about creating a personal brand?

In my next article, I will discuss how I built a personal brand in 2017 that reached over 500,000 people.


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Author: Jamie Irvine

Jamie Irvine is the host of The Heavy-Duty Parts Report and a sales consultant that works with manufacturers, distributors, and SaaS companies serving the heavy-duty truck parts industry.

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