By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

What is a brand? I can tell you what it’s not.

It’s not a company’s logo or a company’s tagline. It’s not the golden arches or the Nike swoosh. It’s not the Michelin man or the Big Green Monster.It’s actually the way that customers and the public think and feel about a company, a product, an organization or even a person. It’s a visceral feeling, like the feeling of being in love. Some businesses have cultivated such a strong brand attachment with their customers that the relationship is like a romance. Think of people who own Harley Davidson motorcycles. They are so in love with their bikes that they are willing to tattoo the logo on their bodies. When you think about Harley, you think about “riding on the open road, wild and free.” If you own a Harley, you think of the brand as part of your DNA.

Sugarloaf has cultivated the same kind of brand loyalty with its guests. People are proud to call themselves “Sugarloafers,” and there is a cult following of skiers and snowboarders who identify with the mountain as an indispensable part of their lives.

As individuals, we seek to build personal brands with personal and professional networks who will support us throughout our careers. In today’s business world you have a personal brand, whether you know it or not. People can get a pretty good idea of who you are and who you’re connected to by doing a Google search online.

When I meet someone new, I inevitably Google their name and see how they show up on websites and on social media. Have you ever Googled your own name? It might be a good idea so you can see what shows up when other people are searching for information about you. Consider setting up a Google news alert so you receive an email every time your name appears on the Internet. Go to and set it up for free. If you haven’t already started, now’s the time to start thinking about how you manage and communicate your personal brand.

Personal branding is all about defining your own unique story and what differentiates you from others in your field, then making sure you connect with the people who may want to buy your products and services. The more connections you have in your network, the stronger your personal brand will be. This will benefit you when you are trying to sell products or services, seeking out a job reference, or looking for support of a fundraising campaign or political campaign. The stronger your personal network, the stronger your reputation will be and the more successful you will be. In my opinion, a stronger network leads to a happier life.

Earlier this year, I became certified as a personal brand strategist through New York-based Reach Personal Branding, founded by William Arruda, the father of personal branding. The reason I went through this certification program was because I saw the need for my clients to communicate what makes them special and unique, particularly on the Internet. Today, I work with executives, authors, celebrities and athletes to help them define and communicate their personal brand. You can do this yourself.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • If someone is looking to buy what I have to sell, can they easily and quickly find me online?
  • Is there information on websites and social media that clearly differentiates me from the competition?
  • Do I have a personal brand that is compelling and attractive to my targeted audiences?
  • Do I have a large group of followers, friends and fans, who know, like and trust me, and who help spread positive word of mouth about what I am selling?
  • What am I doing on a daily basis to help others in my personal network ?
  • Do I and my products or services show up on more than one website if someone Googles me? Do I have a website in addition to a LinkedIn profile, as well as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts?

Thinking of yourself as a brand may be a new way of thinking for you, but it’s vital in your personal and professional life so the right people know what you are doing and how they can help you. They also need to know that you care about them. That’s what professional networking is all about: connecting with the right people who will talk about you to others, and who know that you will help carry their message to the right people.

Your brand is a promise you make to deliver on your unique value proposition. If you are true to your brand, then others will be more likely to trust you—it is vital that your brand is authentic. If they don’t trust you, they won’t do business with you. Without trust, there can be no business relationship.

As more and more people recognize and connect with your brand it grows stronger and gains brand equity. This brand equity is your most valuable asset as you build your professional career, and in my view, it adds to personal happiness in life.

A brand is a promise that you make to your family, friends, customers, clients, peers and everyone you meet. It is the reason they like you and the reason people trust you. It helps you build your personal network of people who will be there for you when you need them, throughout your lifetime.

Your brand must be rooted in authenticity. You need to be yourself. When I was a girl, I went to a summer camp in New Hampshire for eight summers whose motto was “My own self, at my very best, all the time.”

I challenge you to define what is your “own best self,” and connect with others who are interested in helping you build your network and communicate your unique promise of value, all the time. They will be interested, because you are always there for them to help them build their own network, all the time.