TSP036 | Dorie Clark – Transcription

TSP037 | Geri Stengel – Transcription
TSP035 | David Desharnais – Transcription

John Livesay:

Welcome to The Successful Pitch podcast. Today’s guest is Dorie Clark. The author of Stand Out and Reinventing You. She’s consulted and been a speaker for both Google, Microsoft, and a contributor at Forbes and The Harvard Business Review. She’s also been a former presidential campaign spokesperson. She is a branding expert according to the AP and she gives us great insight as to what it takes to stand out and for all the listeners who are wanting to know how to make their pitch stand out to investors, she gives amazing insights about how to build your network, your audience, and your community, so that you will be successful if you do that and investors will be sharing your pitch, because you have gotten it so great from using Dorie’s tips that you will be successful. Enjoy the episode.

Welcome to The Successful Pitch podcast. Today’s guest is Dorie Clark who is a branding expert according to AP. She’s written not one, but two books. One is called Stand Out, the other one is called Reinventing You. She consults for companies like, oh, I don’t know, Google, Microsoft, Yale. She’s also a contributor for Forbes and Harvard Business Review. She teaches at Duke school and she’s a former presidential campaign spokesperson. My goodness, what an impressive background. Dorie, welcome to the show.

Dorie Clark:
Thank you so much. It’s really fun to be talking with you.

John:
You know, I always love to hear about the concept of branding and I was listening to one of your talks where you said that your personal brand is, “your career insurance.” Which I think is such a great way to think about that, but before we dive into that, I want you to take our readers and listeners, if you will, back a little bit; because sometimes people read the transcript and not listen to the podcast; how did you start out? What made you come interested in branding and how did you write your first book and all that good stuff?

Dorie:
Well, I got interested in branding essentially because I needed career insurance and I came on board too late and so I started to learn about it and to try to help other people figure out they could a little bit ahead of the curve as compared to where I was. I started my career as a political journalist and I was about a year out of grad school, I had been working as a reporter for a year and fortunately, I had entered the profession at a pretty bad time.

It was right around the tipping point where the internet started to erode the newspaper’s profits, which had been very fat for a long time. I mean, newspapers, we forget now, but there was a very, very lucrative business and all of a sudden Craigslist was just going nuts taking everybody’s business and so my newspaper laid me off and it was during a bad recession.

It proved almost impossible to get another journalism job, so I really had to reinvent myself and try to figure out a new thing that I could do and I realized that it would be a heck a lot easier for me or for anybody else if you have the kind of really strong brand that has developed so that people are seeking you out specifically and for me the true test – it’s not, you know, are you immune from vicissitudes or layoffs or whatever.

I mean, you can’t control stuff. You can’t control what’s happening at a macroeconomic level. You can control necessarily what’s happening at your company. I mean, the poor people at Enron or Arthur Andersen or whatever, there’s lots of really good people that had no clue and no way of doing anything about it, but the real thing that you can protect against is at an individual level, what is your reputation, what are you known for, and if you lose your job or if you fall off the horse, how quickly can you then recover?

John:
What motivated you to write Reinventing You. Was it this whole concept that you yourself had to reinvent yourself from a political journalist into a branding expert?

Dorie:
Yeah, pretty much it was. The genesis of reinventing you was I started out with a blog post that I wrote for the Harvard Business Review and I didn’t really think of it as, you know, big official statement per say, but it was one blog post that I did based on my experiences. It was called how to reinvent your personal brand and I thought oh, this will be interesting.

I’ll share a few insights about the process, but it turned out that it actually proved to be a very popular blog post. Popular enough they asked me to turn it into a magazine piece, so it went from about 700 words to about 2,500 words and it when it came out in The Harvard Business magazine, I got approached by several literary agents that said, hey, have you thought about turning this into a book? And so at that point I realize that it was an idea that had traction and so I decided to go ahead and turn it into a book proposal and make that work.

John:
Wow, what an amazing Cinderella story. I mean, so many people feel like they have a book inside them, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anybody tell us the story of a blog, a magazine article, to a book that they are calling you to turn it into a book, which really shows if you put something out there whether you’re a startup with an app or in your case somebody putting out really great content and it clicks with people, it will be successful organically and that’s a great way of reinventing yourself, so I would guess if you’re going to get career insurance and being a branding expert that you would recommend people make sure they start putting out good content is a great way to enhance your reputation and brand, yes?

Dorie:
I’m a big fan of that. It absolutely worked for me. I mean, the asterisk on this, the proviso, is that what happens to me in terms of, you know, publishing something and then having agents come to me, it’s of course relatively rare, but what I did to team myself up for that possibility was, this was not, like you try once and then all, you got so lucky. I had actually written three book proposals prior to Reinventing You. None of them got picked up. No one was interested and so it was part of a continuing process where this one clicked, but I was trying to put myself into the path of opportunity beforehand.

John:
Thank you for clarifying that, because it is helpful to know that you’re not just an overnight success. That you learned so much just like entrepreneurs do while they have their startup. When they pivot, well, that proposal didn’t work, nobody bought that one, let me try something else and often times people really don’t get the successful exits until their third or fourth or fifth startup and in your case it was three and bam, after that, you got the book. I’m extremely curious to know how you got and what it was like to be a presidential campaign spokesperson? Talk about branding and every day dealing with poll numbers going up and down and one wrong word and your brand is damaged, that’s right?

Dorie:
Yeah, absolutely. So, the initial transition that I made, so I lost my job as a political reporter and I kept hoping that I could get another reporting job and it was just not happening and so finally after about six months of freelancing and trying to cobble together a living, I got a phone call from a guy that I knew. He was a political consultant and it turned out that Robert Reich, the former US labor secretary was running for governor of Massachusetts and he entered the race really late and he didn’t have any campaign infrastructure and so they needed to hire people very quickly and so my friend knew that I had been out of a job, he asked me if I was interested in it and I ended up taking the job so I serve as Reich’s press secretary.

So that was kind of my initial experience, you know, working as a high level press person on a campaign and then after that I figured that I might be able to leverage that into a role on the subsequent presidential cycle, because the New Hampshire primary, of course, is really central to the elections and most of New Hampshire’s medium market is the Boston medium market. There’s actually only one television station in New Hampshire. All the others are the local Boston channels, so I had relationships with all of those reports. I thought, you know what, that’s an asset I can leverage.

So, again, it took a long time. It took about six months for me to be able to make the connections that I needed, but Howard Dean was the candidate that I most want to work for and I had to really finagle my way in. I had a bunch of meetings that didn’t go anywhere, but eventually they did hire me.

John:
That’s a great story of networking. You knew enough people that when an opportunity arose somebody thought of you. You had brand awareness and you delivered on your brand when the opportunity arrived. So many of the founders are looking for how do I position my startup to investors in a way that comes across as a brand with a culture that attracts the right team, because that’s number one criteria for investor is not the idea, but the team, and the team is attracted to the leader, which creates a culture, which is what the brand is, so that’s why you’re such a great guest, because you’re a branding expert, so the listeners need to know how do I create a brand. So, when you’re talking to Microsoft and Google, what advice do you give big established brands like that?

Dorie:
Yeah, yeah. So, it is an interesting challenge when you have this sort of behemoth that people already had fixed thoughts about, so I think that the key thing there is you want to focus on segmentation, because you’re never going to be able to succeed in changing everybody’s mind at the same time. People have different levels of awareness.

You know, if you think about like a tech company as in your example, there’s going to be a different opinion in the general public of like, oh yeah, I’ve heard of them, versus tech super users who have really particular opinions about, oh, they’re amazing, or, oh, they suck, and so you really have to start with that and to figure out, alright, who are the distinct constituencies and what is the message we want to drive with each of them and what are the proof points that we need?

What do we actually have to do, because, you know, a crucial thing that people often times fail to understand when it comes to marketing and messaging is, you know, they think, oh, it’s just about spewing messages at people, but actually, you know, it can’t be, because no one will ever believe it, no one will ever take it seriously.

Marketing has to be integrated with product, with operations, etcetera, because if people think your product sucks, you actually need to change the product in such a way that it doesn’t suck and then you have the ability, you know, the flexibility, to change the messaging, because it becomes about hey, have you tried this? Have you looked at us lately? But I think that some people just think it’s like this generic spin doctor kind of thing, but actually it’s taking a holistic look at everything that the company is doing and then making sure that a light is shined properly on those initiatives.

John:
What I find fascinating is you use the word constituency, I’m mispronouncing that, but it’s a political word, right? And so, you have taken your political expertise of branding a politician and who their audience is, if you will, they can vote for them in their neighborhood or region or state and apply it to branding for startups and huge successful tech companies figuring out, alright, we’re going to break down which segment are we talking to, as you mentioned, the really techies, are they gonna be the first adapters to try something new from Google or Microsoft or if you’re working for Apple, the new apple watch, right, you have to segment out who’s going to be the first to try and who are the brand ambassadors. Can you share any differences between the brands of Google and Microsoft? I think everyone has their own person opinions, but I would just love to hear what Google and what Microsoft want to think of them as brands. What’s their idea goal and see if it matches, you know, what we each think.

Dorie:
Yeah, the first caveat with that is I wouldn’t want to say in any way that I speak for Google or Microsoft.

John:
No, no, of course.

Dorie:
And I’ll also say too, I have consulted for Google and worked for them as a consultant in the past. Lately, my most recent connection with both Microsoft and Google has been as a speaker. So, I’ve come in and spoken to their organization. My new book Stand Out came out in April and so, you know, for folks who are interested in watching online, I actually just in July was at Google’s offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts and I gave a talk about Stand Out to that, which is available on YouTube and then I also, when I was on book tour, I spoke at the Microsoft campus in Redmond as well about the book.

John:
Well, let’s talk about that then, because that’s even more interesting than my question was. So, instead of what is Google’s brand that they want people to think of, I’d love to hear what was it in your message from your book Stand Out that Google felt compelled to listen to? I mean, clearly, it’s like, how much more does Google need to stand out, right? Or how much do the employees, are their employees trying to get their idea to stand out? So, I’d love to hear, without having, give us a little trailer, teaser, to get us to go to YouTube and watch your whole talk, so what was it that made Google say this book and this topic is right on brand for us.

Dorie:
Yeah, yeah. Well, one thing that I have learned a bit about Google. I’ve actually spoken at Google, at different offices three times for Reinventing You, my first book, I spoke at their Mountain View headquarters. That’s actually available on YouTube as well and I spoke about Reinventing You at their London office and then the Stand Out one at Cambridge, but something that I’ve learned that I think is actually quite interesting is that Google, I wish more companies would do this.

They really seem to have a culture where their interested in retaining their employees and even if the employee gets bored or for some reason doesn’t want to do the job that he or she has been doing, you know, they don’t just say, alright, well fine, leave. They really are invested in these people, they want to keep them, so there’s a lot of culture, in fact, encouragement within a culture for people to switch jobs and functions within the company and so it’s constantly revitalizing yourself creatively by having the opportunity within the confines of Google to do a lot of different things. So, that’s kind of exciting.

So, I think that is relevant to the message of reinventing you that you’re constantly sort of proactively deciding, you know, well, what do I want to learn? What do I want to be doing and how do I go about doing it. For Stand Out, I think the message that seems to resonate there is that if you’re doing something within a company or outside a company, you want, if you want to have an impact, which I think most of the people at Google and probably many people elsewhere want to have, it needs to get recognized.

You don’t want it to be, you know, you’re doing this amazing thing and a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears about it. You want the word to be able to get out so that people can, you know, A) understand your contribution, but B) so that the idea can spread and so I talk a lot about in Stand Out I have a latter section of the book talking about how to build a following around your ideas. So, if you have something you’re doing that you’re really passionate about, I think that people are excited to spread the word.

John:
Yes and do you have to get them to believe in your vision in order for them to spread your word? I would think that there’s got to be something in it for other people to get them on your team. I keep using the analogy of a founder getting really great talent to come join his startup when they have other choices and some of the other choices might even pay them more, so it goes to this whole culture of, you know, if you get into Google and Google puts you through such a arduous process to get in, I can see why they don’t want to let you go, because obviously they feel like they’ve picked the best of the best, but this whole concept of, alright, so you’re a startup or you’re in a big company like Google, how do you get your idea to stand out or if you’re a startup, you know, working on your pitch, how do you make your pitch stand out? Do you have any tips that you could give our listeners about, if you’re pitching an idea or in this case, asking for money, what are your tips for standing out on a pitch?

Dorie:
Exactly. Well, I think your question John is really to the point, because I lay out a framework in Stand Out that is a three step process that, you know, I interview about 50 thought leaders and tried to reverse engineer what their process was for how they got known.

John:
My listeners are going to love the fact that you reversed engineered that by the way.

Dorie:
That’s right. When in doubt reverse engineer. That’s definitely how to do it. What I learned was that almost everybody followed this formula for spreading their ideas. It’s a three step process and I’ll lay it out briefly and then explain a little bit more, but the short version is step one is building your network, step two building your audience and then step three is building your community and so what I mean by this, step one building your networking, this is of course really important, because in the early days of any idea, there’s a few things that are happening.

Number one, the ideas are probably not refined. It’s probably not that polished. It may actually not be that good and so you need to have a group of people around you who are both smart and talented, but also people that you really respect and respect you. They have to have your best interest at heart so that you can receive honestly their feedback to make the idea better and they’re the people who are rooting for you. They want to help you. So, they’re going to open their Rolodex, they’re going to try to do what they can to advance you to the next level. That’s number one.

John:
That’s great. I just want to recap, because it’s so helpful because in this case it was an idea, but so many pitches are not refined and you can’t just pitch something without getting some feedback from your network is my big takeaway there, so thank you. So, step two is the audience, how does that help you stand out?

Dorie:
Yes, yes, exactly. So, step number two about building your audience, this becomes the place where you start to share your idea with the outside world, because, you know, clearly, your idea is not going to do a very good job spreading if you are only talking to the inside circle or the people that you know personally in your network, you gotta start sharing it, so this is the place where, it’s the public phase, you are speaking about it, your writing blog posts about it, you’re sharing on social media, writing books, basically what you’re doing is you are making yourself findable by other like-minded people who would be interested in an idea of this sort. So, you start to do this to get the idea out into the ecosystem.

John:
We’re going to tweet that out. Make yourself findable. I love it.

Dorie:
Yes, yes. Exactly.

John:
And while you’re on the topic, Dorie, if you don’t mind, I just want to take a little subset into this, because so many and, all of us experience it to one degree or another, have a little bit of fear of what other people are going to think and what if it gets rejected and all that stuff, so when you’re helping people stand out and say okay, now it’s time to put it out there, there’s decision, analysis paralysis, it’s not perfect yet, especially with a new app or something. It’s like, ugh! Do you have any advice for people of how to let go of fear or how to not worry about what other people think?

Dorie:
Yeah, yeah. It’s a real challenge obviously. We’re held back by the concern about what people might be thinking or saying or whatever. I mean, I would say this is yet another reason why it’s really important to have that internal network as your first step, because even if you don’t trust yourself and it’s easy, frankly, if you’re getting negative feedback to doubt yourself. If you have put around you a group of people whose opinion you really respect and they’ve said to you no, no. You have something here. This is good, I believe in this, then in the moments when you’re doubting yourself, you can look to the people around you to get that kind of extra boost of confidence you need.

John:
That’s fantastic. It’s almost like a force field from your network before you go out into your audience. Love it.

Dorie:
Yes.

John:
Alright and the final secret is how do we get a community around us so we can stand out.

Dorie:
Right, exactly. So, the final step here, so you’ve been building your audience, you’ve been sharing the idea, getting it out there, so what happens next? Ideally what happens is that your community, your audience members who have been listening to you start to form a community and basically what that means, what that looks like is instead of just you talking to the audience as kind of this one way megaphone, they start talking to each other and that is what enables virality to take whole.

They become ambassadors, they become messengers, they’re spreading so you’re able to achieve experiential growth for your idea, but the key and this is something that you were alluding to earlier is that this is never going to happen if your message is too self-centered or self-focused. They need to see themselves in the idea, they need to feel the idea is valuable to them and if they do, then they will be willing to spread it.

John:
Oh, got it. If you want virality, make sure people see themselves in the idea. Another great tweet. That’s fantastic. That’s a whole shift from push messaging to pulling people in. It’s all about the secret of virality. So, you know, it’s so great. First come up with an idea, make sure your internal network agrees with you, gives you feedback and adjust it, then put it out into the world and then, in other words, make yourself findable and then finally, if it’s really clicking your first blog did, you will find people that will want to share that because they see themselves in how to reinvent themselves or the need to stand out and that this is something they want to share with their friends because they think it’s got a lot of value and that they’re going to be perceived as someone who’s got good content and their friends might even thank them for sharing something and therefore you become someone who stands out. How did I do? Did I get that right?

Dorie:
Yes. Rock and roll, you got it.

John:
Alright, it’s just so great. I really want to do it justice and then just connect the dots for the listeners who are founders as it relates to how does it relate to my pitch. Well, it’s the same three steps. Practice your pitch with your network and then start talking to investors and then believe me, if the investors like the pitch, it will get a community, all the investors know each other and your pitch will become viral.

So, if you follow Dorie’s book Stand Out and these three steps, it will make your pitch hugely successful and you will get funded fast because of what Dorie had to say today. Can’t thank you enough. That’s absolutely amazing. Before I end the podcast because it goes so fast with somebody like you with such great content, can you talk to us about the Forbes inner critic article that you wrote that talks about taking a pause and having compassion and being curious?

Dorie:
Yeah, absolutely. So, I think this is a really important topic obviously because for so many of us, we’re not compassionate with ourselves. People are incredibly hard on themselves. They see someone else doing something and they say, oh, well, I get it, I understand, and then we just hold ourselves to such a high level of perfectionism and so for Forbes I actually co-authored a piece with a friend of mine named Susan Brady who is high-level staffer at the consulting firm Linkage and this is a topic that she’s written about pretty extensively about how to quiet and silence the inner critic and I think that part of why we wanted to address is that it’s almost impossible frankly to accomplish what you need to accomplish if you’re the one shutting yourself down.

You, you know, you can’t move forward if you’re expecting perfection, because no one is perfect out of the gate. That’s just sort of the definition. I mean, you know, it’s like somehow we’ve seen these stories about like a three-year-old that you sit him down at a piano and he can play Mozart then everyone thinks, oh, I should be like that, you know, about pianos and about everything else and it’s like, are you joking? Like, no one is like that. So, I think we need to give ourselves a break. I mean, of course, we need to do our best and try improve, but that’s a very different thing than saying, oh, if I’m not perfect then somehow I’m flawed.

John:
That’s great because there’ so many founders are going to struggle and do struggle with the need to perfect and they think the pitch has to be perfect to get an investor to say yes and I think the app needs to be perfect to get a lot of users and this line you said, we’re going to tweet out, you can’t move forward if you expect perfection.

So, I’m all about telling people to be progression-ist not perfectionists and just focus on your progress, but this whole concept of compassion as the way out of silencing the inner critic and if you’re criticizing yourself more than anybody else, you will not be successful, so thank you for that.

As we wrap up, besides the great book Stand Out and Reinventing You, are there other books that have inspired you that you would think would be helpful for a founder who is looking to pitch investors to read?

Dorie:
Yeah, yeah. There are so many really interesting, great books out there. I mean, someones that are favorites of mine to recommend I always like Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, great networking classic. One that I feel like is talked about less, but I think is very valuable is called Power by Jeffery Pfeffer. The subtitle is sort of goes, Power: Why Some People Have It – And Others Don’t, which is always a very interesting thing to be aware of.

John:
Especially in the political world.

Dorie:
Yeah, right, and I’ll just wrap up with Robert Cialdini who wrote a classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He is so impressive. I actually interviewed him for both of my books. I have sections about him and his insights in both Reinventing You and Stand Out.

John:
Oh, great.

Dorie:
He’s somebody with the book Influence was very influential to me and to lots of other folks.

John:
Well, we’ll be sure to put all three of those books plus yours, of course, in the show notes for people and Dorie, how can our listeners follow you and if someone wants to hire you as a speaker, obviously people should go and buy your book, you have a website, give us your Twitter handle or give us everything we can to know more about you and attract what you’re going to be doing.

Dorie:
Yeah, John, thank you so much. I appreciate it. One thing that I’ll actually mention to your listeners if they are interested in honing their skills for pitches and developing breakthrough ideas is that I have a free 42 page workbook that I developed that folks can download off my website. It’s available right at the home page at DorieClark.com and in addition to the free 42-page workbook, I have about 400 free articles that folks can access there and I’m on Twitter at Dorie Clark and I do a lot of speaking and consulting and information about that is all on the website as well.

John:
Great, well, clearly you walk your talk. You have put out amazing content and you’re generous with it and obviously people see the value in that and you are someone who definitely stands out and makes a difference in the world. I can’t thank you enough for being on The Successful Pitch podcast today.

Dorie:
Thank you very much.

TSP037 | Geri Stengel – Transcription
TSP035 | David Desharnais – Transcription
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