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{Podcast} The Brand Called You

personal brand building personal branding personal branding agency personalbrand Jul 14, 2022

Our Co-Founder Marina Byezhanova was delighted to be a guest on Ashutosh Garg's podcast dedicated to the topic of personal branding, representing our personal branding agency. They spoke about the WHAT, the WHY, and the HOW of personal branding. With a multitude of personal stories and examples, this was an engaging discussion.

Watch it by clicking on the video below or read the transcript on this page. 

Ashutosh Garg 00:08

Welcome to another episode of The Brand Called You. A videocast and podcast show that brings you leadership lessons, knowledge, experience and wisdom from thousands of successful individuals from around the world. I'm your host, Ashutosh Garg and today, I'm delighted to welcome a very, very senior personal branding guru from Montreal, Canada, Marina Byezhanova. Marina, welcome to the show.

Marina Byezhanova  00:34

Thank you so much for having me.

Ashutosh Garg 00:36

Marina is the co-founder of Brand of a Leader, which is a personal branding agency. She's an entrepreneur, a global speaker, and a university instructor. And she's a member of EO, which is Entrepreneurs Organization. So Marina, let's start by talking about your mission, which is to inspire entrepreneurs to speak up, stand out and be radically authentic through the power of building their personal brands. Help me understand your mission with some examples.


Marina Byezhanova  01:07

With pleasure. So Ashutosh I was born in the Soviet Union, and I grew up in post Soviet Ukraine, which of course formed a lot of my core values, you know, when we grew up, standing out was not much of an option, we were one great mass, you had to fit in with everybody else, right? That was the premise of, you know, being on the, on the path towards communism, and it was socialism. And so I had this deep feeling in me that there is power and standing out, and I tried to as a child, and was constantly being suppressed, one of my core values became to have the opportunity to stand out. Speaking up, of course, was equally not an option, right, I grew up in the line of censorship, the ultimate line of censorship. In addition to being the Soviet Union, my father was Jewish, so often whispers around me, often, you know, people disappearing from the neighborhood, and nobody will talk about them. So again, the anti censorship, feeling and the desire to speak up also became part of my core values. And then of course, everything happens when we express ourselves freely. When we stand out to be who we are, we do, we will become radically authentic, right. And so what's interesting is that when I came to Canada, at the age of 16, my family emigrated, that was the first time I was ever on a plane, we came to Canada, I was 16 years old, and a kid, you know what I was thinking, I am in the ultimate land of freedom, and to censorship, I can be who I am, I can speak my truth, I can be myself. And what's interesting is that, yes, it was true. But I realized that even though in Canada, in the US in the free world, we have these rights, a lot of people don't exercise them, I realized how many people are afraid of standing out because they don't want to be criticized or afraid of speaking out because they don't want to be misconstrued or say the one thing and are afraid of being radically authentic in all of the facets of their lives. And so it became my mission to change that and to inspire people to become who they really are, and exercise the those most important, in my opinion, rights and freedoms that we have.

Ashutosh Garg 03:14

Oh, amazing how amazing. So for a lot of our viewers and listeners, let me start by asking you what is personal branding?

Marina Byezhanova  03:24

So a personal brand, is really who we are expressed in a uniquely differentiated way, right? So it's not just who we are. Some people say, Oh, everybody has a personal brand. I disagree. Everybody has a reputation, brand is in order includes some marketing, magic and some marketing speak. So it's who you are, but expressed in a unique position in a differentiated way to create very clear and consistent associations in people's minds. And then what that gives us is it gives us equity, and the one constant that we have in our lives, which is ourselves and our name.

Ashutosh Garg 03:59

And can you give me an example of someone you may have worked with, without any names, of course, and how you help them to transition and build their personal brand?

Marina Byezhanova  04:10

Of course, oh, I have so many examples to give you I know which one I will share. Because what's interesting is when we're looking to build somebody's personal brand, or rather uncover someone's personal brand, we'll go through a process of discovery, to really understand that person and see what what is it about them? That's standout, their standard feature quality, that we can then amplify through the power of personal branding? A lot of people think that personal branding is about thought leadership. Well, not quite because not all of us are thought leaders. For some people. It's their unique personality. For some, it's their inspiring why for other people, it might be their core values. So we tried to identify what it is. So give you an example of a client of ours who is a successful entrepreneur in Indonesia. He came to us and he was at a pivotal point. He has a very large manufacturing In business, he has created a very strong executive team there with a CEO in place and decided to transition to become a coach. And it's a trajectory we see happen quite frequently right, with senior entrepreneurs that want to then give back and teach what they know. So he became certified in this well known methodology called Scaling up within your Entrepreneurs Organization. It's quite well known. Yeah. So he became a scaling up coach, he came to us and said, Can you blind me to differentiate me from other scaling up coaches and essentially show that I'm the best scaling up coach of all? And we said, no, no, we can't do that. Because we never brand you around what you do. There's no portability there. We brand you around who you are. And especially with entrepreneurs, you know, today, we're this because some months later, there's another shiny new object, we change and a brand has to give us portability. So through the process of deep discovery, and a deep dives that we do with our clients, when covered a couple of fascinating things about him, number one, his deep and unwavering passion around all things that are for peace, people, planet profit, purpose, everything, you know, when he talks about his little daughter, it's all about how he wants to make sure that the planet is still there. And we have trees and forests and the sky, which he goes out when he talks about business just always talks about that. And he has huge interest in emergent technology and big technology, and how you know, there will be avatars that will be doing the coaching for him, and they will be replicas of him, and all those different things. And so we took all of that we said you know what this is the essence and core of who he is. We took all that and we translate it and expressed it through a concept of circularity, we created the concept of circularity to give a nod to circular economy, to give a nod to Singularity University, which is big tech, marrying the two so all of a sudden, is not a scaling up coach is a circularity entrepreneur, which is something that will stay with him no matter what he does

Ashutosh Garg 06:54

Incredible, incredible. So Marina, there's a general myth amongst a lot of people that let my work speak for itself. Why should I speak about it? I'd love to get your perspective. Why is it so important to invest in one's personal brand?

Marina Byezhanova  07:14

Well, so that's what gives us true equity and portability. So first of all, I think that a personal brand should not be tied to talking about what we do, although it is one of the important pillars content pillars, as we'll call it a marketing speak. But it really topics that we that we discussed, but it's just one of them, right? A personal brand needs to really express who we are in a marketable way. So that we build community, we build eyeballs, and we're recognized, depending on the audience, what it gives to entrepreneurs are given this portability, because one thing we know very well Ashutosh and newer, and entrepreneur as well is there's no constancy in in entrepreneurial journeys, right, it's up and down with crash with burn, there's no business with pivot, or we exit very successfully. But then what very often entrepreneurs become depressed and feel that when they exited, they made a ton of money, but then they exited their soul. So when we build a personal brand, we build equity that gives us that, you know, constancy, that permanency if you will, because what stays with us forever, is us our name and the network that we build, gives us a bit of a sense of purpose as well, when we really understand what we stand for. We express it through the brand. For professionals, for employed professionals, we're very similarly right, we get fired, we pivot, we change jobs, sometimes we're not recognized for the work that we're doing. Right? So branding ourselves gives us again, that that equity and the ability to stand out for whatever goals are among so many other people who are doing the same thing or something very similarly.

Ashutosh Garg 08:43

What a great response. Thank you. So the other question that is often asked is at what stage of my career? Should I start thinking of personal branding? Some people say when you reach a certain level, some people start now, your thoughts?

Marina Byezhanova  09:00

So see, I'm going to contradict myself here because my gut response is to say, well, the sooner the better, right, because the sooner it's a journey of introspection, when should we engage in introspection, the more mature we are, the more the better positioned we are to go deeper and introspection when the younger we are, it's still a lot of value is just going to be a little bit more surface level. I would say the sooner the better. Because as with anything, when should you invest? The sooner the better, right? Whenever you build equity, the sooner you do it, the better. At brandable leader which is my personal branding agency, we work with Gen X entrepreneurs, really for us, again, because there's a little bit more depth, there's a little bit more depth to the story. And also because we really love working with entrepreneurs who are building their personal brands, not because of some transactional gains, but because they want the platform the one to inspire the ones to make an impact and want to give back exactly as you are doing right. So I would say the sooner the better. There's not you know no such thing as too early to build any type of equity. And but of course with time our stories become richer and our introspection becomes deeper as well.

Ashutosh Garg 10:05

Very interesting. And is a behavioral change, a requirement for personal branding?

Marina Byezhanova  10:14

No, I don't believe so. There are some paradigms that need to shift. And I think it's more about that. And that's the hardest part of working with some of our clients. Because what personal branding requires is self awareness, and acceptance that somebody externally might not see what you're seeing or might see what you're, what you're not seeing. And that is sometimes we're there becomes a difficulty. It also takes a paradigm shift of accepting that, again, personal branding is not what we do. It's who we are. For a lot of people, it's very hard to accept that. I accepted that. No, it is not about thought leadership. Because, you know, as my sister who is a scholar and published caller, academic saddle, it's not cheap, and the idea of thought leadership with Nancy, that not everybody is a thought leader, because social media exists. So does it require behavioral changes? Perhaps if depending on the platforms, you choose to promote your brand, perhaps Yes. But as far as discovering your personal brand, it's more so a question of changing some of the you know, dispelling some of the myths.

Ashutosh Garg 11:18

And you just talked about platform, a logical next question to you, Marina, is how does social media play a role in building one's personal brand?

Marina Byezhanova  11:28

It's a great, great question I should ask because it's also one of the myths that I commonly hear when we talk about personal branding. I'm seeing that people equate personal branding to social media, social media is merely a platform. Well, personal branding is merely a tool, right? We're talking about something bigger. We know of so many people who have built very strong personal brands, who are not even on social media, or barely, you look at somebody like Seth Godin, a brilliant marketer, right? And he's a marketer, what's his social media, it's an RSS feed, where he shares links to his books, articles, and he has a phenomenal newsletter as well. He's a published author, he's a speaker, again, he has a fantastic newsletter. That's how he built his personal brand. A lot of people will shy away from personal brand building, because they're not fans of social media. And what I say to them is, that could be okay. It's not always okay. Because if your audience is, you know, large in scope, and if you're looking for scale, and you're not going to be writing bestselling books, like Seth Godin, well, yes, social media gives us a lot more eyeballs, absolutely, of course. But I want to make it very clear to people that it's not a must. And when we talk about platforms of promote, to promote or so our personal brand, we're saying platforms, but platform can be a book platform can be a speaker series, platform can be a personal website with a blog, so many different platform can be a brilliant, successful podcast, such as yours, those are all platforms.

Ashutosh Garg 12:55

Absolutely fascinating. And yet, for those people who haven't written books, and who are not that well known, there are so many different platforms to choose from. I mean, you know, from a LinkedIn, to Twitter, to a Facebook, to an Instagram, to YouTube, and so many more. How does one decide which platform which platforms to select, and work with them?

Marina Byezhanova  13:20

tSo I would say that the first, the number one criterion is which platform do you enjoy? Or which platform do you dislike the least? Because, you know, when it comes to personal branding, it's effort, it's not always comfortable. Sometimes we expose ourselves to criticism, if we're also forcing ourselves to do all that on the platform that really just don't enjoy and doesn't jive with us, there won't be longevity, right? So instead of looking at what's most popular right now, as we do for corporate social media, and with reason, right, for personal branding, it's personal. So I would say number one, where are you comfortable, if you love taking beautiful pictures, and you really express yourself through photography, well, then of course, Instagram. If you can create video that's compelling and you know, stands out to people and again, you enjoy it, well, TikTok and Instagram and Instagram reels, right? If you like the written word, well clearly LinkedIn. So number one, you look at the platform that you enjoy, or don't dislike too much, number one. Number two, well, of course where your audience is. Because if you're looking to speak to Baby Boomers, well, maybe TikTok would not be the first stop, right? Or if you're looking to speak to pre-teens and teens, while it won't be LinkedIn. So number two, where your audience is. And then if we're looking at the platforms, let's say it's agnostic for whatever reason, and then you're looking at platform where you're going to get the quickest ROI. Absolutely LinkedIn, you can rise to the top of people's feeds with consistent posting, unlike the other platform, although TikTok is is close to it, but for professionals for entrepreneurs will no doubt totally LinkedIn is where where the eyeballs are right now.

Ashutosh Garg 15:03

Wonderful. And the other thing that, you know, I've spoken to many people on personal branding. And I've often wondered if I am working for an organization, and if I start to build my personal brand, will it conflict with the brand of my company?

Marina Byezhanova  15:21

It often does. And we cannot disregard that fact, you know, I hear a lot of professionals will say, Well, if it clashes, then your values do not align with the organization. And, you know, you should just leave, but it's easier said than done. Not everybody can just get up and leave every time their values do not align. They're not founders of the company. And that could be that values do align the style, does it align, maybe it's an organization that's very private, and you are trying to build the, you know, a public persona, it's not always easy. What I recommend to people, where you can typically bypass that, and we've worked with a lot of individuals who are in executive roles. And they're employed, for example, by financial institutions, where there is a lot of regulation, and you cannot just talk about anything within that area of expertise and just, you know, put things out, you're just not allowed. And that's okay, you have to be accepting of that. So what I would recommend, again, is when you are building a personal brand around who you are, versus what you do, there might be limitation depending on the organization that employs you and how senior you are in that role on how much you can talk about what you do, there might be a limitation there. Typically, you can still express who you are in a way that does not clash with an organization. If ever there is a clash, that is really, you know, profound and deep, perhaps there is a clash of values, that is not something to disregard. But it is something that happens quite quite frequently, there's a lot of value in talking to, you know, the person that you report to talking to the HR team, sometimes they contact the legal team to see what you know, there, the regulations are internally. But it's, it, of course, is more complex when it we're not we're not entrepreneurs, and we can do as we as we see fit.

Ashutosh Garg 17:05

My next question to Marina is that you mentioned that you go through a process of discovery, when you are taking on a new client. For many people who will listen to our conversation, what would be the steps you would follow to be able to select a client, and then start working on their profile to build their brand?

Marina Byezhanova  17:30

So first of all, I will have to candidly share that we did not take everyone on as a client, okay, which makes for a very uncomfortable situation, because again, this is personal brand. And this is the corporate branding, say no, we're not the right partner for you. Because, you know, CPG is, is our focus, it's saying we're not right for each other. So number one, we have a discovery call with a prospective client. And what we're looking for, because again, we have a niche at brandable. Leader again, we're working with Gen X entrepreneurs. And we're looking for people whose goal is to inspire and make an impact, who want to build a platform because they want to make the world a better place. So if we have a conversation with somebody who's looking to build their personal brand, and they're just not inspiring, yet, or for whatever reason, it's not the right fit for us. So that's, that's step number one, we decide whether or not we're the right fit for each other. And then we have a series of three deep dives, where we talk about everything, and Ashutosh I've had people many times say this is like a therapist, I should I've cried, I should more than I ever thought I would share. There are things that come up where people have never shared this was going on, because we talk about everyone's lifeline, the ups the ups and downs of their life, you know what made you you will talk about core values, why we talk about how you want to proceed, we'll talk about everything, your target audience, what is your vision for your brand? What are some of the things that you think you're going to be, you know, achieving with it, and you want to be discussing. So it's three deep dives at the end of which we make a recommendation of we think that this should be your angle, this should be your positioning, this will be your audience, those will be your brand descriptors of how you will be perceived. This is what your voice should be like that will be radically authentic to you, but you know, really deeply expressed, what will be your core content pillars, meaning what topics will you be associated with? And only then what platforms are you going to do it all on? You see very often with people, we start with platforms, right? I'm going to be on LinkedIn, and I decided, okay, what should they be talking about? Okay, I'm going to talk about entrepreneurship. Okay, but so who's going to be reading this and it should be the other the other way around? Right? Let's start with deep dives first, and then we'll work with many clients on CO creating content. So we do not go straight at 100%. It's personal branding. It's a process of co creation, but we build visual identities. We build personal websites, and we create written content as well.

Ashutosh Garg 19:58

Amazing, amazing and How long is this whole process for?

Marina Byezhanova  20:01

So the process of discovery where we make those recommendations of what your position should be, and all those details is six to eight weeks, depending on how quickly you go through the process. But six to eight weeks, we have the clarity, and then we execute. And once we start co creating content, I would say within three to six months is when you really start in traction. You run into people when you go to a wedding, and they say, oh, you know, I've been seeing around, I've been reading your stuff, and random people reemerge in your life, and then you start getting new people that reach out as well. I would say by the six month mark,

Ashutosh Garg 20:35

Amazing, amazing. So we're gonna have time for one more question. And this is for all the people who will listen to our conversation and your amazing advice and so many different things. What would you say are three lessons you would like a lot of our viewers and listeners to take away from your in my conversation today.

Marina Byezhanova  20:58

So I will circle back to the beginning of the conversation. My three lessons are stand out, speak up and be radically authentic. I think that it is absolutely incredible how how much we shy away from doing that. How you know, I work with entrepreneurs. I'm also an entrepreneurs organization with talk a lot with share law behind closed doors. And I constantly hear these concerns. You know, if I stand, I don't want to stand out, I want my business to stand out. Well, what happens when there's no more business for good reason or bad? I don't want to speak up, you know, what if I'm misconstrued? What else do we have? If not our voices, right? And how can we make a difference in the world? If we don't have a voice to use? Yes, I'm comfortable being myself. And you know, people don't say I'm comfortable being radically authentic. But essentially, I'm comfortable being really myself, but in safe places. Well, what if it's not safe places, then we're faking it, we're not ourselves. So that those are my three biggest lessons. I learned them as a child that carry them throughout my whole life. Stand Out, speak up, and be radically authentic,

Ashutosh Garg 21:57

Amazing, amazing, standout, speak up and be radically authentic. On that note, Marina, thank you so much for speaking to me. Thank you for talking to me about your incredible journey from I don't know if I still call the USSR then maybe it still was. And I've been to the country many, many times when it was USSR. Thank you for speaking to me about your amazing transition into such a powerful personal brand yourself. And thank you for talking to me about all the work you're doing to help and assist so many different individuals Gen X people in building their personal brand. Thank you for speaking to me and good luck to you.

Marina Byezhanova  22:37

Thank you so much for having me. It's been thrilling.

Ashutosh Garg 22:42

Thank you for listening to the brand called you videocast and podcast, a platform that brings you knowledge, experience and wisdom of hundreds of successful individuals from around the world. Do visit our website to watch and listen to the story about many more individuals. You can also follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Just search for "The Brand Called You!"

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