Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and speaker, a professor at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, and a contributor to Forbes and the Harvard Business Journal. She wrote the acclaimed book Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future.
I invited Dorie to Marketing Smarts to discuss her forthcoming book, Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Communicating ideas is like chess: It's more fun when everyone knows how to play (03:37): "Many people kind of get their back up at the idea of [personal branding].... They think it's this exercise in phoniness or in bragging; but, the truth is unless everybody has these baseline skills and understanding of how to break through and get noticed, it does mean that the loudest voice wins, and that's not the society that I think any of us want to live in. If people understand the structure of how power dynamics work in messages spreading, that can be immeasurably helpful, because it means that the best ideas really will be the ones that triumph."
"Thought leader" might be overused, but when used properly, it's a powerful tool (04:43): "There's a lot of baggage that has come up around [the terms 'personal branding' and 'thought leadership], and I actually like to stake myself out as a defender of both, because I think that we should just lean into the terms and say, 'You know what, the people who are doing it in egregious ways are the bad actors. Those are the bad examples. There's a lot of people who are doing it in good ways, particularly for thought leadership,' which is a concept that I explore in Stand Out.
"The reason that I actually like the term 'thought leader,' even though sometimes it gets misused and unqualified people try to attach it to their Twitter handles or whatever, is that there are two important parts to it. The first is 'thought,' which distinguishes the fact that people who are thought leaders have to be famous for their ideas. They can't just be Kim Kardashian, they can't just be a random celebrity. They have to have substance behind their ideas.
"And the second part is 'leader,' which means the idea has to be known by other people. You have to have followers. And so you can't just be an expert hiding in the ivory tower and thinking that's sufficient: You have to be willing to spread it, or else it won't have an impact. If you actually have both those pieces—someone of intellectual substance and...willing to get out there on the stump and share their ideas and build a community around it—that's actually the kind of person that I admire, and that I think we need more of."
Use charity work to build your personal brand and your skill set (06:23): "Charitable work is overlooked by a lot of people, because they think it's this addition to their schedule, this kind of nice to do thing... and it keeps getting pushed off. But being involved in charitable causes actually has numerous benefits. One of them... is the fact that you are freer to experiment, to take risks, because, in your day job, you're not paid for perfection but you're actually paid for something kind of close to that. People don't want to give you money if you're going to be taking massive risks and being incompetent. They're paying you because they think, 'This person kind of knows how to do this.' As a result, it limits your ability to really experiment freely, whereas if you're volunteering... and you say, 'I have this idea I want to try this thing,' there's a lot more latitude to do that. Then you can take those skills... and bring it back to your day job and make it that much better, make a bigger contribution."
Dorie and I talked about much more, including how starting small and finding a niche can help your big idea to break through, as well as how doing primary research can cause your idea's reach to explode, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Show opener music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Dorie Clark, author of Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It. Learn more about Dorie at DorieClark.com, or follow her on Twitter.