Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type:

“And then, there was the day I sat down with Ron Jeremy and asked him to tell me his life story.”

Ten years ago, I was a documentary producer for a pop culture radio show on Canada’s public broadbaster. On my first day, looking for a story for that week’s show, I flipped open the local entertainment paper.

And there it was. Porn legend Ron Jeremy would be in town to recognize the closing of North America’s last remaining 35mm adult cinema. How could I not go?

Turns out, Jeremy has truly built a personal brand that could easily be the envy of social marketers everywhere. Here are some lessons that, despite their origin, still hold true today.

Be Surprising

Ron Jeremy surprised me. Rather than the cheezy douchebag I’d expected, he was intelligent, charming, and incredibly polite. He was patient with my barrage of questions — which, given it was my first day on the job, weren’t particularly well thought-out.

And — here’s a surprise for you — prior to his sudden rise (sorry) to fame in porn, he used to be a teacher. Of children. Of mentally challenged children.

Be Prolific and Consistent

Jeremy has appeared in more than 1600 porn flicks. If you do that math, that’s one film every five days over his 20-year career! And in each film (er, or so I’m told), he plays essentially the same character — the bumbling, kind of underdog guy who always gets the girl. Or girls.

Too often, people managing personal brands online try to stay ahead of the curve by reinventing themselves every year — often dramatically. Knitting expert today, golf expert tomorrow. Stick with what you know and dive deeply into your vertical. In time, people will come to know you as the best person there is on your topic.

Anticipate Questions

During the event’s Q&A session with the audience, Ron Jeremy answered every single question — and not once had to think about his answer. It wasn’t the usual batch of questions either (use your imagination); the audience had some truly great and sometimes provocative questions for him. He handled them deftly, like he’d prepped an answer in advance.

Incidentally, his answer for the question he gets the most?

“Two inches. (pause for comedic effect) From the ground.”

Think Deeply

People follow personal brands because they want something nobody else can give them. If you’re offering the same patter as everyone else in your business, what can you offer? Nothing.

Ron Jeremy, though, had a remarkable capacity for answering questions with thought and depth.

When I asked him to tell me what the future of porn looked like, I expected a trite “Oh, there’ll always be porn” kind of answer. Instead, Jeremy was surprisingly introspective:

“There’s going to come a day when every actor in Hollywood is going to have one day of work. Except for theatre. They’re going to walk onto a set, the director’s going to go ‘Okay, face forward, turn around, get naked, put your clothes on, smile, look sad, look scared, do all the vowels, do the consonants. Okay. You’re dismissed for life.’ You won’t need the actor ever again…. As technology goes on, they won’t need any of us.”

Ron Jeremy — the hardest (sorry) working man in show biz — was surprising, accessible, thought-provoking, and well-connected. He was, in essence, a living model of personal social branding — way before Facebook or Twitter.

BONUS: Here’s a rough edit of the short documentary I’d prepared — please note, this is the non-aired “rough edit” so my voicing performance was just intended for timing (and therefore sucks) and the background music edits are rough as hell.