how to create and build your personal brand dorie clark

Dorie Clark is an adjunct professor at the Duke University School of Business. She’s the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out (named the #1 leadership book of 2015 by Inc. magazine). She’s a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, and she regularly consults and speaks for clients such as Microsoft, Google, and The World Bank.

Dorie’s first job out of graduate school was as a political reporter. When she was laid off from that job, she began the process of reinventing herself. She tried a lot of different things, not all of which worked out.

She worked in two unsuccessful political campaigns and then turned her talents to running a nonprofit. After two years of doing that, Dorie realized that running a nonprofit is exactly like running your own business.

So…Dorie decided to start running her own business. For the past 11 years, she’s run her own marketing and consulting company. She’s done all kinds of activities to help build her brand and the brands of her clients, including:

  • Writing books
  • Giving speeches
  • Doing executive coaching
  • Launching online courses

In this interview, we talked about what a personal brand is and how to build yours. We took a deep dive into social networking, how to do it, and why it’s essential to building your personal brand.

the benefits of running your own business

Why Dorie Decided to Start Her Own Business

Dorie was the head of a small nonprofit for two years. She decided to start her own business because running the nonprofit and being responsible for the livelihood of three other employees was super stressful. Also, she didn’t get paid very much.

Working for herself and being responsible only for her own income and needs seemed like a move toward a more stable, less stressful life.

Dorie’s time as the head of that nonprofit was an incredibly valuable learning experience. Running the nonprofit taught her what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be a jack of all trades, because you’re responsible for everything that happens in your business.

“You have complete independence. Yeah, you might have to solve problems yourself, but you don’t have to answer to anyone, you don’t have to answer to a boss, nobody’s telling you what to do. Everything is more fulfilling because you are making the choice to do it.”
– Dorie Clark

Why Dorie Decided to Write Her First Book

Dorie made a New Year’s resolution in 2009 to publish a book that year.

She’d always wanted to write a book. She thought it would be cool, and she also thought it would raise her company’s profile and demonstrate thought leadership in her field.

All of that turned out to be true. What Dorie didn’t count on is how difficult it would be to actually publish her first book.

In the first six months of 2009, Dorie wrote three book proposals. They were all turned down because she didn’t have a big enough author platform.

So she went back to the drawing board and figured out how to build that essential author platform. She was able to do it primarily through blogging.

Dorie signed her first book deal with Harvard Review Press in 2011 and her first book came out in 2013.

Why Dorie Chose Blogging to Build Her Author Platform

Blogging was a natural choice for Dorie because of her experience as a print journalist. Also, audio and video were much more expensive and complicated to jump into back in 2009.

Audio and video are much more accessible to new people now than they were back then.

How to Become a Recognized Expert in Your Field

Becoming a recognized expert involves three key components.

1. Creating Quality Content

Content creation is the linchpin of becoming a recognized expert. You can’t be known for your ideas unless you share your ideas publicly. You have to share your ideas, and you have to share your ideas a lot to break through the noise today.

The biggest mistake Dorie sees in the marketplace today is people not creating enough content. So many bloggers think that posting one blog post a month is enough. The truth is, Dorie spent three years posting 50 to 100 blog posts a year before she saw any measurable uptick in inquiries about her work.

“You have to do a lot more than you might otherwise suspect you have to do, that’s the truth. The good news is most people won’t last that long. Most people will not keep it up, and if you do, you are far more likely to succeed, because the field has thinned.”
– Dorie Clark

2. Social Proof

Social proof is your credibility. What is it about you that is going to get people to take you seriously? How can you demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and that your suggestions will work?

3. Your Network

Your network is who you surround yourself with. The world judges you by your associations. Your network can also be the early ambassadors for your ideas.

How to Create Multiple Revenue Streams without Spreading Yourself Too Thin

Dorie has several income streams that feed into her business. She developed them over the last seven years.

Her income streams are:

  • Consulting—this is how her business started
  • Executive coaching
  • Writing books
  • Business school teaching
  • Giving keynote speeches
  • Affiliate income from online marketing
  • Online courses Dorie has developed
  • Live events

That may seem like a lot of spinning plates, and it is. But they aren’t burdensome, because Dorie developed each income stream independently and systematized it before moving on to another income stream.

Dorie recommends that you focus on building one income stream per year. Once you have that income stream systematized and automated, you can build another income stream without sacrificing the first.

As you build new income streams, they should relate in some way to the other income streams that you have previously built. If you build income streams that target wildly different audiences, you could very easily be pulled in too many different directions. In contrast, if you build income streams that support each other, each income stream you build will make the others stronger.

As you build new income streams, opportunities will appear that you never expected.

Dorie didn’t plan to organize live events. She started to organize do so after her customers asked if they could be part of live events.

what is a personal brand

What Is a Personal Brand?

“Basically, ‘personal brand’ is a modern colloquialism for your reputation. That is something that has existed from the beginning of time.”
– Dorie Clark

If your reputation isn’t what you want it to be, it’s probably worth your time to think about how to change it. If you’re not reaching people in the right way, if you want to be understood in the world, then you have to understand what your reputation is, and make sure it’s congruent with how you see yourself.

Reframing the question of your “personal brand” that way allows you to see that authenticity is a vital part of your personal brand. In fact, if your personal brand is inauthentic, audiences and customers will realize that, and they will steer clear of you.

One of the problems that entrepreneurs face when they first start out in business is that we feel like we have to project this image that we have it all figured out.

One of the first iterations of Dorie’s website had a background image of skyscrapers, as if that represented her power in the marketplace. The truth is, that type of stuff is silly.

People really respect you if you have something interesting to say and you say it in your own unique voice. That’s what makes you stand out in this crowded world.

The ultimate source of strength is not pretending to be anything other than what you are. Some people are going to be like, ‘whatever.’ Some people aren’t going to like your message. But for those who resonate with your message, it is such a breath of fresh air to have somebody say it the way they’ve never heard it before. There’s a huge amount of power in that.
– Dorie Clark

How to Build Your Personal Brand to Increase Your Influence and Get More Clients

One thing you can do to build your brand is to make a concerted effort to write for “name brand” publications like Forbes. There are two benefits of writing for well-known media outlets like this:

  1. You get exposed to new audiences who have never heard of you.
  2. You build your reputation and personal brand because you’re associated with respected publications.

Creating content that allows you to associate with blue-chip brands that people have already heard of creates a social proof that’s valuable, as you’re beginning to establish your personal brand in the marketplace.

How to Start Writing for Blue-Chip Brands

If you’re starting from scratch, what you want to do is develop a portfolio of “writing clips” that show you can write an article like your target publication. One of the best places to showcase your writing ability/style is on your personal blog. You can also publish your article on LinkedIn or Medium where there is no barrier to entry.

From there, you want to start writing for more and more prestigious brands to raise your own reputation.

You can figure out the best publications to read in your industry by simply having conversations with people and asking them what they read. Ask them where they get their information from. Target those publications.

More Ways to Get Social Proof

Social proof is all about making the public aware of connections that enhance your credibility and stature. Think about who you’re connected to that would make people think better of you.

Think about your:

  • Clients
  • Former or current employer (Many former Google employees have become bestsellers, for example.)
  • Educational affiliations. Did you go to an Ivy League school? Or a well-respected school in your field?
  • Professional associations. If you take on a leadership role in a locally or nationally recognized professional association, that can be great social proof.

Social proof is all about networking.

Interviewing as a Form of Social Networking

Doing interviews is a great way to meet people and network with them. It allows you to have a conversation with people you wouldn’t be able to meet on your own.

The key to this strategy is you’re offering value to the person you’re interviewing by giving them access to your audience. That’s why they’re willing to talk to you.

This works especially well if you can time your interview to coincide with something they are promoting, like a book or movie.

Organize Dinners to Get to Know People

Another way to get to know people is to organize dinners in your community. Dorie did that when she moved from Boston to New York. It worked really well for her.

Another thing you can do is organize dinners or drinks for a group of people if you go to conferences on a regular basis. By taking it upon yourself to organize these types of social gatherings and being the host, you’re establishing yourself as a person who has social value.


Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview – Dorie’s website – download Dorie’s 88-question self-assessment that helps you think about how to utilize multiple income streams to support your own life.

Books by Dorie Clark

Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It

Reinventing You, With a New Preface: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future

Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive

Places to Publish Your Articles – a networking site for professionals. You also have the ability to publish articles on LinkedIn for free. – another place you can write articles and gather a following, with no barrier to entry.