Brandeis International Business School

041: Reinventing Yourself & Creating a Personal Brand

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant, a professional speaker and a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review. Dorie has been recognized as a branding expert by many organizations, such as the Associated Press and Fortune Inc. Magazine. She is the author of three books: "Entrepreneurial You," "Reinventing You" and "Stand Out." Dorie was described by The New York Times as an expert at self-reinvention.

From the Dorm Room

Dory has a very impressive background. She was a philosophy major as an undergraduate at Smith College, where she graduated at the age of 18. She then went to Divinity School and got a Master's Degree in Theological Studies. Originally, she thought she would have a career in academia.

She wanted to go on and get her doctorate, but ended up getting turned down by all of the doctoral programs that she applied to. So, she had to come up with a different plan. And that was how she indirectly ended up in the business world, which we’ll get to later.

When she didn't get into the doctoral programs, she was completely blindsided. It had never occurred to her that she wouldn't get in. She did not have a good plan, and ended up pretty depressed. She knew she eventually had to do something, so she decided to get some internships and pick up more professional experience because she would clearly need to get a job eventually. She had done internships in the past, but the goal this time was clear: to make more professional connections.

This ended up being just the right move. Dory did two back-to-back internships: one was for a state representative, and the other was for a magazine. Both of these led almost directly into building the connections that she needed to get her job. She ended up running the state representative's re-election campaign after her internship. And then, using the articles that she had written for the magazine, she leveraged that into her first real job in journalism.

To the Boardroom

Dory was drawn to journalism because she figured it was the next best thing to academia, combining her love of reading and writing. Eventually, she got laid off from that job, so she switched over to working in politics because of her experience as a political reporter. She took a job on some campaigns, but they kept losing. So she ran a non-profit for a few years before eventually deciding to start her own business.

For several years, all she did was corporate consulting. She was able to build up a pretty successful business doing that, but it took a while to figure everything out: The logistics and the basics of getting the website, getting the clients to come in and figuring out what she was doing. But then, she slowly began adding on different activities and different revenue streams.

Around 2009, she started doing executive education teaching at universities. That became one of her revenue streams, as well as a marketing tool. She was getting exposure to people that might hire her for subsequent coaching.

In 2011, she got her first book contract, and in 2013 the book was published. After that, she started to get paid speaking requests, which became another source of income.

Because her first book, "Reinventing You," was aimed at individuals rather than companies, she then began getting people reaching out to her and asking if she did coaching. She didn’t, but when enough people asked she knew it would be a good idea to start. And so, that became another revenue stream. She began adding more and more in a slow but methodical fashion.

She eventually became known as a sort of personal branding expert; she started creating online courses, holding in-person workshops and hosting masterminds around. Her own experience stumbling through her school and career helped her to prepare for teaching others how to find work and brand themselves.

"It's really tricky to articulate your personal brand, largely because we know too much about ourselves. We know all the minutiae. And it is really hard to pick, to identify what it is that other people think is most salient about us and, also, what we would even want them to be focusing in on. Answering that question is super hard. So, for a long time, honestly, I didn't really have a good answer."

The way Dorie picked her personal brand was that she didn't pick. She let the market pick. She started creating content revolving around the things she was interested in, which were marketing and communications. But instead of definitively stating what she was an expert in, she was creating content all over the place and saw what was popular.

If you know what you’re interested in, but you’re having trouble picking an exact direction, know that you don’t need to. You can start out broad, put your voice out there, and you will get a better feel, both for what you enjoy talking about and what others like hearing about.

The Entrepreneurial Edge

Every week, we highlight one piece of advice for aspiring, struggling, and successful-but-want-to-be-even-more-successful entrepreneurs:

Dory’s most recent book is called "Entrepreneurial You," which is about how to create multiple income streams in your business. One of the key points in the book is that while it is a great thing to have multiple income streams in your business, you definitely don't want to try to create them all at once because if you're trying to do 10 different things at the same time, you're not going to get enough traction, you're not going to have enough focus and it's going to be too distracting.

A better idea is to start with doing one thing, master it and get it under control with a good flow of clients and revenue. And then, once you have that plate spinning successfully, you can add on a new facet of your business, so that you have something that you're focusing on building and adding this new revenue stream.


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