Cover Stories May 2016 Special Section

Personal Branding is Everywhere

Written By: Nathan Whitaker

Personal Branding. It’s everywhere these days. What to do? How to make it stick? How to…make yourself into the go-to person on any topic, whether it’s on the web via your blog, Twitter, Facebook or other social media that I’m slow in adopting (or even learning about)?

By way of research — well, facts and research aren’t really my thing, so I gave up and started writing whatever came into my head. Who cares if the topic is saturated? Or if the people who blog on it are experts? (Rule of thumb: 97.6 percent of bloggers are totally making up what they are writing. If they truly were experts, they’d have a job that kept them too busy to blog. You can also substitute “authors” for “bloggers” as needed, I suppose.)

After all, my own personal brand — looking good — is so well established, that I’m pretty much already something of an expert on branding.

First, be yourself. I mean, you’re not going to be Taco Bell, so be you. There’s probably an area that you are good at — or could be, with further education or training. A woodworker? An encourager? A mom? A not-so-humorous humor writer? (Never mind — don’t be that. Like Taco Bell, that’s already taken. My wife and daughters will corroborate.)

Or, simply be somebody else. Some of the things that are worthwhile to others might actually come from somebody other than you. Crazy, I know. But, it’s kind of a winsome way to go through life, pointing out the good things that can be learned from others, and I wonder sometimes that we’re losing this humility. Particularly on social media, we have to act like we know everything.

My dad told me long ago, “Nobody knows more about the law than a third-year law student,” which I would’ve taken to heart, except that by the time I’d hit my third year, I knew nothing about the law. It didn’t require any particular humility — it just was. My personal brand as a lawyer is: Refer them to someone else. It’s a pretty good system, but my firm didn’t love the way it read on a business card.

Social media is particularly awful in this respect. We’d never hang out for long with someone who was constantly saying, “Guess who just said something nice about me?” or “I was just named to the Top 50 Plant Whisperers in America.” But, on social media, I’ve found myself re-tweeting nice comments and positive book reviews without a second thought. I apologize. I will never do it again, until I inevitably do.

Finally, be thoughtful. Or don’t, and just post anything. We can block you, and that’ll save all of us some time.

One final, final, thought — maybe “branding” isn’t for you. I’m reminded of the essay by Robert Fulghum (he of the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” fame), who had printed on his business cards simply “Fulghum.” He noted that some days he was a dad more than anything, other days a pastor and on other days a businessman. That blank card was a chance to create and re-create himself on a daily basis.

I think my favorite approach to branding is from Gainesville’s own Sam Goforth, though. His card reads,

Sam Goforth

Consultant/Gator Fan

Matters of Consequence


Of course, as he points out, the listed number is his home phone, which he never checks.

So, like Sam, find a passion and create — or re-create yourself. Just don’t make modeling your personal brand. That’s mine.



Nathan Whitaker is an attorney who lives in Florida with his wife, daughters and dogs. He played football and baseball at Duke University. He also has master’s degrees from Harvard Law School and the University of Florida, and has worked in the scouting departments of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He’s written six books that have cracked the top ten of the New York Times Bestsellers list, and his firm currently represents NFL and college coaches. His first book, “Quiet Strength,” co-authored with Tony Dungy, has become the second-best-selling hardcover sports autobiography ever, has over two million copies in print, and spent twenty-six weeks in the top ten of the NYT hardcover, nonfiction list. His most recent book, “Snap Decision,” is a novel for middle-schoolers about friendship and honesty, and is set in North Florida. A new book, “Teamwork,” co-authored with Tony Dungy, is scheduled for release in 2016. More information can be found at

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