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Winning At Working: Your Brand Promise
by Nan Russell

Brands evoke responses. Talk to anyone who loves their Starbucks coffee, or hates their car; loves their Apple iPod, or hates their internet provider. When you think of your favorite or least favorite brands, certain feelings and attributes come to mind. These represent the brand. The same is true for people.

When you hear the name Joe, you have an impression of the Joe-brand, good or not so good. When Erin is assigned to your team, you may figuratively breathe a sigh of relief or roll your eyes. It's the Erin-brand that evokes your response. What about your name? What reaction does it elicit from your boss, coworkers or clients?

We expect brands to demonstrate their attributes, or brand promise, not once or twice, but every time we encounter them. Inconsistencies in performance can damage our brand relationships and cause us to select other brands. With people-brands, it means we promote, fire, assign projects and compensate based on that brand performance.

Of course, we may forgive an occasional slip, seeing it as an atypical hiccup from a brand we otherwise love. For me that happened with Disney. I'm a Disney fan, traveling to Walt Disney World once or twice a year. But a few years back, the magic was tarnishing. The parks weren't quite as clean, the staff not quite as friendly, the experience not quite as promised, or what I had grown to expect.

Since Disney had the equivalent of banked good-will in their brand relationship account with me, from years delivering on their brand promise, I tried a few more trips. Happily it turned around. But brand relationships we once loved can be diminished and good-will accounts can be overdrawn. It happens at work, too. Previously strong relationships can become bankrupt with inconsistent or poor performance.

Whether emails or hallway hellos, meetings or project plans, ideas or feedback, you imprint your signature with each action. Every encounter informs people what to expect from you. And these impressions, good or not so good, create brand "you" at work.

Remember first grade when you proudly printed at the top of the wide-ruled paper your name so everyone could see it? We may not write our names in big, bold crayon on our work anymore, but make no mistake, your name is on everything you do.

People who are winning at working know that. They're like great product brands. They're reliable, dependable and authentic. They deliver their unique brand attributes, not once or twice, but day in and day out; not just on highly visible or politically aligned projects, but on the routine, mundane ones, too. And they're as personable with the person who can't promote them as the person who can.

People who are winning at working understand they are a unique brand with specific gifts, talents and attributes. Their name is their icon. Their brand promise is delivering the best of who they are. Want to be winning at working? Deliver the promise in your brand.

(c) 2006 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Nan Russell may be contacted at

Author of Hitting Your Stride: Your Work, Your Way (Capital Books; January 2008). Host of "Work Matters with Nan Russell" weekly on Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. Sign up to receive Nan's "Winning at Working" tips and insights at


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