Applied Reading: Reinventing You by Dorie Clark (2013)

Dorie Clark has a background in journalism, PR, marketing, US campaign management and personal branding. She has worked with some big name US politicians and companies. She has distilled what’s she’s learnt about personal branding and rebranding over 15 years.

The core personal branding process

  1. Understand the rebranding landscape: You have an online presence whether you like or not. Be sure to monitor what it looks like, not just on google, but other search engines and sites like Facebook too. One of the simplest ways to influence it is a blog and vlog. Videos rank well in search engines and on social media.
  2. Recognize where you’re starting: Ask people, run your own formal or informal focus group. You may need to lead people into being comfortable providing negative feedback as they’ll be friends and want to bolster your confidence. Make sure you ask people you respect to give their opinions. If you don’t have a good poker face for negative feedback, then consider electronic options.
  3. Research your destination: Find people you aspire to be like, they can be personal acquaintances or celebrities, but try to understand what has made them into the person you admire.
  4. Test-drive your path: Volunteer for non-profits in your spare time, intern, try a relevant project at work. You may discover things about it that are deal breakers.
  5. Develop the skills you need: At the non-profit I work on the board of, we had one lady who worked in our marketing team for three years, she eventually landed a professional marketing manager role based off the experience. Do short online courses that you can implement in your work – I taught myself graphic design and video production this way. Be very careful of going back into education, what you’ve done is far more important than your educational credentials, except in very specific vocations.
  6. Who’s your mentor?: Get a personal board of 3-5 who bring different things. Drive your own curriculum by asking for specific advice or getting critique on your project plans. Be upfront about the commitment so everyone’s expectations are fulfilled.
  7. Leverage your points of difference: Time and again it becomes clear to me that the innovation is at the edges. I have been doing various parts of marketing for 12 years and I’ve met many accomplished marketers. The intersection with design is where my differentiation is. Those kinds of intersections are where you change how people think about their everyday work and lives, which makes them remember you.
  8. Build your narrative: Make sure there is consistency in your story about the journey you have taken. Focus on the value you provide to others and the evolving theme. Don’t talk about “finding yourself” as this is about you not about the person you are talking to.
  9. Reintroduce yourself: Use your narrative to Reintroduce yourself to people who understood you in your old brand context. Show them the consistency with what they new of you. Total rewrites of who you were will make you look at best flakey and at worst manipulative.
  10. Prove your worth: This is where your content marketing (blog, social media, design portfolio) comes in. Speaking roles are excellent for projecting expertise and demand for what you offer. Build a portfolio of ideas if you’re in the knowledge space, creations if you’re in the creative space. Do write ups of what you learnt from your projects and share internally and externally. Imagine sending a link to your blog, which houses all your ideas and experience, to your next prospective job interviewer. Your job interview is going to look very different.
  11. Keep it going: Take a long-term view of building your brand, it may take years. There’s no silver bullet. Ultimately, when you need your personal brand to work for you, such as getting that top job, you need to have the right track record and the right visibility already in place. Imagine sending the link to your blog to your interviewer – that job interview is going to look very different.

Practical tips for making the change

I’ve added to some of Dorie’s tips here with my own experience in personal branding, especially in professional services.

Tip #1: Time-poor people can run a lite-version

If you don’t have time for a fully engineered branding process, you can do personal branding-lite. Go through every step in the process but do a lighter version of it. The one place not to skimp is getting feedback on your current brand, no level of branding course-correct will work if you don’t have a fundamental idea of your current reputation, warts and all.

Tip #2: You can implement your rebrand as you go

You can implement your gentler, lighter rebrand through projects. Projects are the base units of change; big change needs big projects but course corrections can be done with small projects. Be conscious about implementing your new brand in your next project. If you want to be known for creativity, look up a few creative solutions to bring to the table, but run the rest as usual. If you want to be know as technical, read a book on the topic and use it to suggest a new perspective in the team meeting.

Dorie’s Tips

  • Be clear on your deeper values and act on them.
  • Understand the value and maturity of nuance, picking your battles and picking your time.
  • Find diverse ways to record information such as written blogs, videos, presentations, emails etc and play to your strengths.

 

Move outside your comfort zone, find a low-risk way to take the first step such as a presentation to your team or department before becoming more exposed.

Two useful personal brand narratives

I’ve found these two themes adaptable to many contexts both inside and outside of large corporations. Their beauty is that they are complementary to having a strong core competency and they are memorable. They also work no matter what stage of your career you are at, they merely evolve in form.

Creativity

The clearest parts of the creative process are getting inspiration from many sources and coming up with ideas. Make sure you read and are exposed to a wide variety of sources and demonstrate that exposure in team meetings and presentations by talking about “ideas coming from X lens”. Try to take ideas or projects from very different parts of the organisation and see how they might come together for mutual benefit.

Disruption

Keeping a tab on disruptive forces and trends in your field is a great way to demonstrate technical knowledge and show that you’re in touch with the bigger picture. I used to track the legal tech space when at Baker McKenzie and occasionally gave presentations updating my marketing department on how the trend was evolving.

 

 

 

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