Branding makes my world go ’round. Beside the fact that it plays a prominent role in my professional responsibilities, I love the whole proposition: building a reputation and an awareness of that reputation that speaks for itself. Essentially, it’s the impression others have of you.

Effective brands will be consistent across all audiences, and each interaction–whether visual, electronic, or personal–will reinforce whatever message “The Brand” is trying to convey. Brands can be personal or professional; the basic premise remains the same: Who do people think you are? What do you stand for? The thing people often forget, however, is that everyone affects the brand. In a company, for example, brand goes way beyond the marketing department.

I received a strident reminder of that very fact this morning. A friend from years past sent me a frustrated email about my company. She had applied for a job and, based on direct contact with a company representative, felt that her application had been mishandled. Though it could have been an honest mistake, she was left with a negative impression–all because of one person’s communication with her. She told me, “My perception of [your company] has already changed…and not for the better.”

My friend’s brand encounter had nothing to do with a logo, a product, or a fancy-schmancy marketing brochure. It didn’t involve the website or a warranty. Her impression of the company was entirely defined by an email from someone in HR. To me, that’s powerful stuff.

It doesn’t matter what job we do; when we pick up the phone or answer an email or talk to someone face-to-face, we ARE the company to that person. If you’re weeding the flower beds at your company and a passerby asks you where to find the entrance, you’d better believe that how helpful (or unhelpful!) your response is will color his impression. If you answer the phone and you’re a jerk, do you think people will think about how good your product is? Chances are, they’ll care a little less.

Whether it’s for yourself or for your company, everyone is an ambassador. C’mon everybody, jump on the brand wagon.