Even one word can throw off your brand message. Don't believe me? Try listening to an important presentation where the speaker repeatedly says "like" or "um," and you'll quickly find it hard to focus on anything else. Even if the rest of the content is top-notch, it's an uphill battle to regain your attention, and the speaker's overall credibility has been seriously compromised.

It generally takes more than a single word to derail your company's brand (unless you're Dunkin' Donuts), but a number of factors could be contributing to its steady dilution. Inconsistent messaging is often an issue since it can be difficult to maintain a coherent tone across all the channels at your disposal in today's digital marketing environment. Reining in these messages requires you to limit your focus to the source: Consider the impact of the people closest to your company.

When building a brand, it's tempting to keep your eyes on the competition. While it's true that paying attention to your competitors can help you find more opportunities to engage prospects, don't focus on them to the exclusion of all else. Instead, look internally, and you'll likely find a myriad of opportunities to bolster your brand messaging, starting with the following three groups of people.

1. Your C-suite lacks thought leadership.

People want to connect with people, not with remote online brands. Executive branding can be far more effective than ad spending for brand connection, but many companies fall short in this regard. Some of the most common excuses from leadership include lack of time and an aversion to the perceived risk, but these obstacles are easily overcome. Executive branding doesn't actually require too much time from executives, and there are companies that can take over the process entirely. You should also identify three or four different executives so you're not putting all of your efforts behind a single individual.

2. Your employees dilute your brand message.

A study of marketing executives by marketing consulting firm InnerView Group found that only one-third of respondents were "very confident" that their brand representatives, from the C-suite to the sales team, could communicate the company's brand story. Chris Wallace, the company's co-founder, and president, explains: "If the story being told to the customers doesn't match the story they hear when they show up with an interest to buy, the brand promise is broken. The fallout from that broken promise is tangible, and it lowers the measurable effectiveness of marketing efforts." Turning employees into ambassadors will prevent this dilution. Provide social branding tools like hashtags and ambassador training so that employees know how to communicate a strong brand message.

3. Your business partners misrepresent you.

Doing business with shady partners is one of the fastest ways to compromise your reputation. Whether the company in question is a supplier, dealer, or one-weekend event partner, working with questionable companies will tarnish your good name and make recovery almost impossible. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to build a successful brand, and it's an asset that should be protected at all costs. Beyond just avoiding too-good-to-be-true deals, make your partnership terms clear and know when to walk away. If you're not looking out for your brand, you definitely can't assume that your business partners are.

Creating a strong, memorable brand is a high-stakes game. It can be difficult to repair the negative impact of messed-up messaging. If you think that your brand's message has been distorted past the point of recovery, it might be time to start with a clean slate. Before you do, however, identify what went wrong. Pay close attention to the three mistakes described above to ensure that it doesn't happen again.