The Personal Branding Phenomenon

It's a buzz phrase, but how do you avoid being "all hat and no cattle?"

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GL Hoffman
For some time now in articles and books, you might have have noticed that we should all be concerned with our own “personal brands.”

No question that certain leaders have a "brand." Some even work to enhance or further their brand. Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett have brands, as do all of the one-namers (Cher, Prince, Sting, Oprah, Madonna).

But most of us aren’t Oprah. Maybe she was so insightful back when she was a local talk show host in Baltimore that she insisted on everything being named “Oprah,” but I am betting she didn’t. She went ahead and did great work, created a significant reputation and became “Oprah.”

Which is my main point--how you live and work will determine your reputation. Far better to build it than to market it. You will soon know what to do with it.

I am concerned that personal branding has become the topic du jour, and too many will read only the highlights or bullet points. They will believe there is a short circuit to getting famous or in building their own brand. Truth: It is harder than ever--and it was always hard.

A self-marketed reputation can show narcissism or an unnatural amount of self-confidence. I have run into both instances in my career, as I’m sure you have, too. In Texas, they refer to this as “all hat and no cattle.”

Earlier in my career, I would run into these people and wonder “what am I missing here?” Now, I just think “silly.”

What do you think? Is this a fad or Drucker-like insight? Have you applied these ideas with success in your personal life or work life?

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at or at