On brand strategy and imposter syndrome by Penny Soo

Penny Soo

Penny and I go to the same circus school and even though we never really talked in real life, I got really fascinated with what she does once we had each other on Facebook. Penny Soo is a Brand Strategist. She helps businesses and people build and grow their brands online. You can feel her passion and dedication through every post, blog, and video she makes. The industry she operates in is a bit mysterious for me so I am very pleased to have Penny on Kia Ora and find out more about her journey! 

Penny, let’s start by talking about personal and company branding. What do these terms really mean and why are they important? 

Most people think they need to build a personal brand. It’s not true. We all have our own brand, whether we want it or not. 

People buy from people they resonate with and everyone is a unique individual. This is what makes personal branding so interesting but at the same time complex because as humans, we grow and evolve over time.

Company or product branding and personal branding are quite different and challenging in its own way. Branding a product involves humanising it, whereas personal branding is about finding the core of your message and movement and bringing it together to your audience. 

Some people would say branding for a product is more challenging but I think that personal branding has its very unique set of challenges. The principles are the same but the trick lies in the strategy and execution.

From a commercial point, great example of successful personal brand is the Kardashians. Whether you like them or not, they have proven themselves to be a very successful, profitable and influential brand.

If you had to describe exactly what you do - what’s your normal day or week look like? 

What’s most exciting working for myself is that I get to plan my days and workload (mostly). I can be a bit of a workaholic so my biggest struggle is calling it a day and shutting down completely. I aim to work no more than 5 hours a day unless I am working on a project or deadline. This is something that I have tried very hard to adhere to but most successful people will tell you that working longer does not mean working better.

I spend a lot of my time checking in on my clients and making sure that they are well supported. That’s a non-negotiable in my business. I do set boundaries with myself and making sure I don’t work after 8pm. 

A considerable amount of my time is spent on content creation and client servicing. My assistant helps me with the nitty gritty stuff like content management, market research and admin. 

Right now I am busy working on launching my paid membership site for speakers who want to grow their brand so they get booked for more speaking gigs. 

Penny Soo pointing to the wall that says “Let’s go”

How and why did you get into brand strategy? What was your background before you started your own agency? 

My background is in PR (Public Relations). I graduated university with Communications degree and spent years as a PR consultant before moving on to broader theme of corporate communications and marketing. I’ve always been passionate about marketing so that was a great move for me because branding is the foundation of marketing. It is the foundation of your identity and messaging. It was much more satisfying than PR.

I would say that an understanding about communications is definitely beneficial for branding. It has given me the edge because branding is all about your messaging and communicating it to your audience. It’s not compulsory but it definitely helps because you will learn a lot about applying the understanding of buyer’s behaviour.

What excites you the most about what you do? 

The most rewarding thing for me is seeing my clients succeed. That sense of pride and achievement is irreplaceable. When you are actually making a difference in someone’s life, that’s incredibly powerful. 

And on the other hand, what are some of the challenging sides to your industry? 

One of the biggest problems in my industry which I try very hard to fight are fake branding experts. People with very little to no knowledge about branding and communication who are basically selling designs or empty promises.

In general, most people still think that branding is about logos and websites. That is external branding. These are static visuals that complement a business but branding should start internally. What are you? Who are you? What do you stand for? Why should I care about what you do? What makes you different?

It shapes your identity and message. Without it, there is very little substance to your marketing and no understanding on what makes your product / company better than your competitors’ and then you are left to compete on pricing which is not ideal for any brand.

Both internal and external branding are important but most people start and end with only external branding which leaves them with no brand identity.

When we read about others online, it is easy to feel like “I am not good, smart, successful enough” or “I don’t have my life together”. What does success mean to you? What are some of the day to day thoughts & challenges that you experience that people might not know about just by following your journey online? 

I can assure you that even the successful multi-million business people don’t think they are good enough or that they have it together. I remember hearing Gabby Bernstein talk about dealing with the imposter syndrome herself. 

When I started out I had to deal with my imposter syndrome. I still do but I remind myself that I have worked with very successful business people and got them amazing results so I should stop that negative voice in my head. 

I try to remember that most important thing to achieve anything is the mindset. You can be the most talented person but what truly matters is your mindset. I believe that it’s 20% talent and 80% mindset. It is something that will always be a work-in-progress and a lifelong journey. So often we are our own biggest enemy with the negative stories we tell ourselves. I have worked very hard on my own and it has come a long way but there’s still more work to do. Often we resist hardships but it’s these challenges that truly define who we are. Some of the strongest and most admirable people I have met have endured incredible hardships themselves. 

Remember to be kind to yourself and know that you can figure everything out.

Whenever I catch myself in doubt, I have this mind hack that I use. I will ask myself “Can I do this?” and then answer back “Why the f*ck not?” It has pushed me to get out of my own head. Our subconscious is always playing tricks on us.

One more advise that I have is to always allow yourself to receive the support that you need. Be that from a coach, mentors or a mastermind. I would never be anywhere without them myself. I currently have 1 mentor and is a part of a mastermind group. It helps to keep me motivated and level headed. I will never be anywhere without the support.

Penny sitting on the bench looking out to a wonderful mountain and water view

Are you learning / pondering about anything right now that you would like to share?

Remember to invest in yourself first, you are your most important business and stop giving energy to things that won’t help you grow. What you focus, you will grow.

And finally, whose story would you want to read about on here?

Jessica Emily Quinn haha..actually I think everyone’s got their unique story to share so that’s all that matters.

Elina Ashimbayeva