Getting Noticed For Your Ideas with Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark

Communication Coach and bestselling author (“The Long Game”, “Entrepreneurial You” and others) Dorie Clark has been described by the New York Times as “expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives”. She’s worked with clients including Microsoft, Google, Morgan Stanley, Yale University, and the IMF.

In our far-reaching talk, we discuss the link between content creation and strategic thinking. Clark starts by introducing a startling statistic – when 10,000 executives were surveyed and asked what the most important activity was for career advancement, 97% said that strategy was vital, and yet 96% reported having insufficient time to think strategically. This time-pressured inability to think strategically can have damaging downstream consequences.

The Problem of Procrastination

Clark believes that a lot of time we lose ourselves in the learning and research phase and never get around to creation. “Some people use learning as a form of procrastination,” she explains. “They use learning as a way of convincing themselves they’re doing the work.”  There comes a point, Clark believes, that you have to make your ideas public, even if they aren’t fully-polished.

Jared Kleinert talks about there being a “heads down” (execution) and “heads up” (ideation) phase of working. Both are necessary modes, but some people are more inclined to focus upon one at the expense of the other. Learning to find a balance between the two states is vital.

Becoming Known for your Ideas

There’s no point in having thousands of great ideas if you’re unwilling to share them, or unable to push them into the public sphere. Key to this is becoming the kind of businessperson who stands out. Clark has five useful tips to aid with this.

1: Write about the People you’d like to Connect With

Particularly on social media, if there are people you want to connect with, directly approaching them out of the blue asking for a meeting is unlikely to work. You want to be offering them something, which is why creating content that mentions them gives you more of an “in”, since you have already created a link, perhaps an article or a mention they can share.

Podcasts, social media feeds, YouTube channels, articles in notable publications – all of these are ways of raising your profile and making yourself more visible to the kinds of people you’d like to talk to or do business with. Twitter can be rather hit and miss, since some notable accounts are rarely used by the individuals who set them up.

2: Proactively Share any Articles you Create

It can take between 2 to 5 years, according to Clark, to build a platform that gets you noticed. Many people become dispirited by such slow progress. One way to improve your chances is with focused content. Says Clark, “theoretically should be writing articles that tie in very closely to your products and your services.” Then offer to send links to these articles to your potential clients.

Clark will plan to land a particular client by first writing an article that ties into their specific needs. That way, they already have something to share in a content-hungry marketplace. “It’s a way of proactively getting it in their hands,” she explains. “It just makes the consideration process go faster. And it lowers the bar for them hiring you.”

3: Use the Content Ladder Strategy

This is an approach to getting content published. If your ultimate aim is the New York Times or the Harvard Business Review, you can’t start there.  Instead, write for a less well-known site or publication and use that to hook a bigger platform, and “ladder up” towards your long-term goal.

Good places to start are with a personal blog, or LinkedIn articles. Thrive Global and Medium are useful outlets for creating content platforms because there’s no initial barrier to entry. Once you have some successful content, you can use that as samples to hook notable editors.

Local and industry-specific publications are good place for content writers to cut their teeth. Writing guest posts for other people’s newsletters can be useful if there’s a significant overlap between your audience and the host’s. Bear in mind that this will gain you readers and experience but won’t be considered particularly prestigious. However, you can also include a lead magnet, to pull readers to a product offering or your own website.

4: Match your Content to the Work you’d Like to Do

This is simply being more strategically focused in terms of the content you write, Clark explains.  She recommends that self-marketers be “as clear as you can [be] early on about who are your prospective clients, what are the services you can offer them? And what are the pain points that they’re experiencing?”

Matching your content to where you can be most helpful to prospective clients is a clear route to becoming hireable. Furthermore, don’t think of each piece as a one-off. Content can be re-purposed, excerpted, shared on social media, quote-mined for Instagram et cetera. Additional value can be derived from repurposing what you’ve created for different media with links and excerpts.

5: Be Specific and Original

One of Clark’s particular gripes is how bad individual biographies can be. In her words: “what makes a good bio, I think is specificity.” It’s crucial to list actual clients, publications, and awards by name.

Another tip for creating content that captures editors’ imaginations is to be hyper-specific. ‘Five Tips on Being a Great Leader’ won’t impress the Harvard Business Review – they’ve published many such pieces long ago. Clark wrote a piece on responding to transgender colleagues – this was niche and fresh enough to attract an editor’s eye.

Don’t push this too far, however. There’s a fine balance to be struck between specificity and obscurantism.

By following these five simple tips, you should be able to create a platform containing content which gets your ideas noticed.

We highly recommend reading Clark’s book, “The Long Game: How to be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World” for more on standing out as a creator or entrepreneur.