Dorie Clark | Brand and Stand Out (Episode 419)

Dorie Clark | Brand and Stand Out (Episode 419)

The truth about the modern economy: you make your own credentials (and you don’t need a middleman anymore).

“All the advice from our parents is just absolutely wrong.” -Dorie Clark

The Cheat Sheet:

  • The game of achieving success today has different rules than it did for our parents and grandparents.
  • How does someone get recognized as a “thought leader?”
  • How do you find and spread your own breakthrough idea?
  • Innovation doesn’t have to be difficult.
  • Use the Niche Strategy to carve out your own area of expertise (and discover new ones).
  • And so much more…


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If someone works so hard that they fall over in the office after hours when everyone’s gone home, does he make a sound? Not if he hasn’t been networking and somehow making a connection with others to remind them of the value of this hard work. In the modern business world, the puritan work ethic that got our parents and grandparents ahead just isn’t enough to ensure success anymore. If you keep your head down, nose pressed against the task at hand, not only will you miss everything going on around you, but everything will miss you.

In episode 419 of The Art of Charm, we talk to Dorie Clark, author of Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It, about the importance of discovering and promoting your personal brand and standing out in a modern marketplace filled with other people trying to do the same.

More About This Show

The United States has been the foremost pacesetter of global business culture for almost as long as anyone alive today can remember, but its influence has been noticeably slipping in recent years. Part of this is because there’s been a decline in what’s being spent in research and development, but a lot of it can be traced to Americans carrying on with a “business as usual” attitude about how to succeed that’s been passed down from our parents and grandparents. “Work hard” is the most common advice for getting ahead — which seems perfectly reasonable, even noble, at first glance.

No disrespect to our elders, but as Dorie Clark tells us in no uncertain terms: “We are at an inflection point where all the advice from our parents is just absolutely wrong.”

In her time as an author, entrepreneur, personal branding expert, marketing strategy consultant, and professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and IE Business School in Madrid, Dorie Clark has made quite a few observations about how the way we do business has changed over the years — and devised more than a few strategies to help today’s success seekers find their place not in spite of, but with the help of, these changes.

What’s Wrong with Working Hard?

“Work hard” was great advice 20-30 years ago, because the world was much more compartmentalized. In a small, contained environment with limited stimuli, people had the time and patience to look around to find out who was working hard and who — as every dad and grandpa likes to joke — was hardly working. Recognition for doing what the business world deemed the “right” thing was a lot more automatic.

Now, you have a website. People know how to find you. You’ve got a thousand Facebook friends and emails and tweets and we’re being pinged all over the place by our smartphones. People don’t have the time or leisure to thoughtfully look around and recognize people based on their hard work, alone. They’ll miss it. This is where the importance of personal branding — carving out your own area of expertise and publicizing it — comes in.

Dorie says that business trends and business practices — with a focus on personal branding being one of them — will increasingly become the norm. Companies and countries and people clued into this will be the most successful over the next few decades.

How Do I Start the Process of Personal Branding?

Unfocused people glom onto certain channels as being a panacea, and come up with blanket pronouncements that don’t make a lot of sense, like: “Everyone needs to be doing Facebook. Everyone needs to be doing Twitter.” How do you cast aside this unproductive mindset to make a breakthrough and build a following? Who needs a personal brand? Entrepreneurs, obviously. But even people who work for companies might find a use for it.

Dorie says that these are the first questions we always need to ask, whether we’re doing branding for a company or a person:

Who is the intended audience?

  1. What are they reading?
  2. Where are they?
  3. How do you reach them in that place?

In Stand Out, Dorie profiled tech space opinion leader and startup culture expert Robert Scoble. A while back, he made his name as a blogger. He co-wrote one of the first books on blogging: Naked Conversations. A couple of years ago, he decided to abandon blogging. He felt like he had seen the future, and the future was not on his website; the future was social media. That’s where the conversation was. So he put all of his efforts there. If you go to his website, Scobelizer, there’s a note saying he won’t be there anymore, but it includes the social media links to find him.

In other words, he identified what the members of his existing audience were reading and where they were reading it. He then made the adjustment in his own routine to follow that audience to where it was. He proved that a personal brand can — and should — adapt to the changes going on around it rather than being resentfully resistant to them.

The Niche Strategy

The Niche Strategy is one path to achieving a breakthrough idea that creates an angle for your personal brand. Using it, you start small by becoming a master of a particular niche and then expand strategically from there.

If you have real knowledge or depth in a niche, the next question is: what are the adjacencies? In Stand Out, Dorie profiled an academic who became a world expert on Cambodia — which he pictured as just the first door to a hallway with many doors leading from it. If you really want to grow your career, you can open these different doors. The profiled academic became a recognized expert in foreign aid because he wrote his dissertation on foreign aid policy in Cambodia. He was then able to generalize that knowledge and experience to lead to more hallways and more doors. He’s given a TED talk on criminal justice from learning about Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunals. He’s become an expert about avian flu from learning about southeast Asian livestock. And so on…

It’s not planned. It’s about going deep and just looking around and seeing what opportunities present themselves.

Creating a Thought Leader from Scratch

Here’s how someone might plant the seed that sees them blooming into a bona fide, recognized thought leader in a particular niche. Let’s pick something new, where there’s lots of blue ocean. Let’s say you want to be the world’s expert in Periscope, the live streaming app.

For the next two months, write one blog post a day about Periscope. It could be any facet: Periscope for accountants, or 10 myths about Periscope, or five ways Periscope is way better than Meerkat. Every day you come up with some different angle. At the end of two months, there’s probably no one else in the world who’s written 60 blog posts about Periscope. Any time someone from the media goes to search the Internet for stories that involve Periscope, they’ll find your articles.

They’ll say, “oh, this person is the expert!” So they’ll call you and talk to you before long. You’ll get quoted in Mashable and TechCrunch and the New York Times because you’re the Periscope expert. And then, once your name starts getting out there and people become familiar with you, they’ll probably start asking you about related things; if you know a lot about Periscope, they assume, you probably know a lot about Twitter. You begin expanding your turf. Before long, you go from Periscope expert to Twitter expert to social media expert.

Are There Drills to Help People Get Closer to Having Breakthrough Ideas?

At her website, Dorie Clark provides a free, 42-page Stand Out workbook to people who are in search of their personal brand. Listen to Episode 419 of The Art of Charm in its entirety to pick up more advice about finding success through personal branding. The option of passing it back to your parents and grandparents is left to your discretion.


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