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Expanding Your Influence (Dorie Clark) Transcript

Course Lab – Episode 94

Expanding Your Influence (Dorie Clark)

Abe Crystal: There’s actually a direct trade-off between production quality and speed of iteration. And so, if you are looking to learn from your students and improve quickly, you can’t do that with super high production quality video that maybe you have to go to a studio or hire a videographer.

Ari Iny: Hello and welcome to Course Lab. I’m Ari Iny, the Director of Growth at Mirasee, and I’m not in the studio with my co-host Abe Crystal, the co-founder of Ruzuku, because he’s on sabbatical. But he’s going to record the debrief with me when he gets back.

Today, we welcome Dorie Clark to the show. Dorie has too many accolades to list, but here are just a few. She is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, keynote speaker, and educator who has been named three times as one of the top 50 business thinkers in the world. She’s also been named the number one communication coach in the world and one of the top five communication professionals in the world.

The New York Times said that she’s an expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives. Thanks for joining us today, Dorie. We’re really excited to have you on the show.

Dorie Clark: Thank you, Ari. I’m really glad to be here.

Ari: Awesome. So to kick us off, could you give us a 30,000-foot view of yourself and how you came to be doing what you’re doing and to the world of online courses?

Dorie: So there was a lot of reinvention up front in my career as I was trying to find my way in the world. So I initially wanted to become a professor and I got turned down by all the doctoral programs I applied to. I became a journalist and promptly got laid off in the massacres of the early 2000s. I went into politics and worked on a number of high-profile campaigns, but they all lost. And so eventually I found my way to working for myself.

And one of the really amazing things about working for yourself is that under that rubric, there’s so many elements of what you can do. And so these days, I have a mix of corporate consulting and speaking, running masterminds and working with individuals. And a big chunk of it, of course, is also online courses that I do, which gives me a better way of reaching people at scale. And I try to bring to bear some of the things that I learned along the way in terms of marketing and communications and brand building and all the things that I picked up in my board of previous careers. So I’ve now been working for myself for nearly 20 years. So I try to share those lessons with others.

Ari: Awesome. So you have many different courses, as I understand it. One of them is the Recognized Expert Course and Community. Could you tell us a little bit more about that?

Dorie: Absolutely. So that is really the flagship course that I have been working on. I launched Recognized Expert in 2016, initially it was just a small pilot. As I know, Mirasee likes to advocate making sure that you’re carefully testing the premise. So I initially launched it and made it available on a pilot basis to about 40 people, and it has grown from there. It’s, over the past eight years, we have more than 800 people who have gone through the course and are part of the community.

And what’s really exciting is that ultimately this is a course about things. And this is a little bit counterintuitive for courses because often the drumbeat is, you know, give them something attainable, give them something they can do fast so they can see momentum. And I think that’s very good wisdom. And yet my course is about how to become a recognized expert. That almost categorically does not happen overnight. So that’s why we give people lifetime membership in the course in community because it really is a journey.

But as we’re recording this literally just yesterday, five people in the Recognized Expert community were named to the Thinkers 50 radar list. Thinkers 50 is an organization that names and identifies the top 50 business thinkers in the world. And the radar list is sort of their farm team, essentially, where they’re spotting people who they believe are most likely to make an impact on the future of business. It’s not a huge list, it’s 20, 30 people.

And so having five of them come from the Recognized Expert community is just such a powerful testament to what we’ve been able to do in terms of creating an ethos of really helping people get their thought leadership out there into the world.

Ari: That’s amazing. Not surprising, but amazing. So I have a bunch of questions related to this. So the first is, of the people who come into your program, recognized experts, how do you support them kind of to build further from there?

Dorie: Well, ultimately, the way that I think about becoming a recognized expert and sort of the framework that the course is built on is there are three elements. There’s content creation so that other people are able to see what your ideas are. It’s kind of hard to be recognized as an expert if people don’t know what the ideas are. There’s social proof, which is identifying the levers to essentially make it easier and faster for people to get it, that you know what you’re talking about.

And then the third is network, because you need amplification. You need, first of all, a community of people around you to help make your ideas better, but you also need those ideas amplified at a certain point and to become part of the cultural conversation. So we work with students through those pieces and really help them figure out what does that look like for you as an individual?

Because everybody is coming in with sort of different assets and resources and places where they’re strong or weak, but we help them figure out things from writing for high profile publications to figuring out how to grow their network and connect with more like-minded people, ways to start kind of getting into the conversation or affiliate with the university or things like that.

So we really help people on each of those matrices, figure out how to just get a little further along than they were before.

Ari: Awesome. Very cool. So my next question is around the format of the course, my understanding is that you have kind of both the ability to give people a self-paced experience and in parallel also a very regimented experience that they can go through. So tell us more how kind of you have those parallel tracks and how that’s been working for you.

Dorie: Yeah. So obviously when people are embarking on this kind of, you know, long term process of becoming a recognized expert, there’s going to be a certain percentage of people that really kind of wants a curriculum laid out for them because it’s like, well, where do I start? What do I even do?

And that’s a lot of people. That’s probably most of us. And so when somebody signs up, there is a sort of set curriculum that we send out by email like, okay, week one, here’s what you do. Read these articles. Here’s the homework posted in the group. Et cetera, et cetera. But also, we do make all of the materials available to people right away.

And so I make a point of telling people, look, if you’re in kind of binge mode for whatever reason, you’ve decided, oh my God, it’s my new year’s resolution or, oh, I’m on sabbatical from my job. So I have all of this time. You don’t need to artificially pace yourself if you really want to dive deep. So there’s more than 50 hours of course material available.

So people can go nuts if they want to and they have full access to it. But I try to thread the needle by giving them both options. Also, at least once a year, sometimes twice a year, we actually do a sort of official launch where we have a cohort of people who are signing up all at the same time. And that can be nice, just a way of meeting people, of sort of having that community feel.

I mean, you can run a marathon tonight in your neighborhood if you really want to, but it feels a lot more exciting to sort of train and run when it is the Montreal Marathon. So we also have the cohort experience for people who want to do that. And if you sign up at a random time, what I tell people is, great, do whatever you like, do what feels good now, and then we will put you in the next cohort so that you can be part of that community experience as well.

Ari: Awesome. And that was going to be my next question. If people can essentially restart the curriculum kind of in the paced way at any point, or is it based on the enrollment? So when you have a cohort, whoever wants to join in can, or can they restart the drip whenever they want to?

Dorie: Yeah, it’s both end actually. I want to make it maximally accessible to people. So what we tell participants is you join once, you’re in. I don’t want them to ever have to think about it again in terms of their payment or whatever. I want them to get that done with upfront. And then for the rest of their lives, they can just enjoy being part of the Recognize Expert community, so they can rejoin as many cohorts as they want.

If they email us and say, oh, hey, can I kind of start the thing over again? We will reset it for them so that they can do it on their own timeline. But ultimately, What I tell people is, of course, the path to becoming a recognized expert, there’s not any guarantees, there’s not a fixed timeline, but on average, because I’ve now seen nearly a thousand people working to go through this process over nearly a decade, what I’ve seen is that if you make the concerted effort toward really doing the work, you begin to see results in about two or three years.

Now, it’s definitely not overnight, but also, it’s kind of an imaginable distance. Like, oh, okay, two years from now, I can sort of see that. And then if you consistently do it, for about five years, you start to see major results. I’ve seen that time and again. And for me, it’s, it’s really exciting for it to be borne out because since the program is eight years old now, we actually are really starting to see students and participants who have achieved a pretty high level of acclaim in terms of the work that they’ve done. I mean, you know, Ron Carucci, who’s a member of the community, has written 80 articles for Harvard Business Review.

I mean, it’s just a stunning level of output for his intellectual property and sharing his ideas with the world. We have multiple community members that are Wall Street Journal bestsellers. We have multiple community members that have TEDx talks with a million, two million views. So it’s really cool to begin to see the results of that for people.

Ari: That’s awesome. And so with the community and the course being eight years old, what is different now than it was when it started that you feel has made a big difference that if you knew back then, you would have kind of started there, but now you do know and would like to share with our audience.

Dorie: Oh, there’s a few things that we’ve certainly added over the years to enhance the experience. I’m definitely a minimum viable product kind of person. So when we started, it was super scrappy. I launched it as this kind of trial beta. We did everything on Zoom. We just like recorded it. You know, it was very casual, essentially, like, let’s see if this works. But, you know, once it became a going concern, we recorded actual real videos and began to add on things over time because as more people joined, as this became a bigger part of my work, and you know, there were more people in there for more revenue that you could use to put back into it, we began doing different things.

So since 2018, we’ve done live monthly webinars. So we now have this huge library of webinars where we’ve talked in depth about different issues that are of interest to members, whether it’s about how do you get a corporate board seat? Or how do you get an academic teaching position? Or what does it actually mean to start a podcast? Or how do you get to be a guest on lots of other people’s podcasts? And we have members from the community come in and sort of do guest star presentations to talk about their experiences. So that’s pretty cool.

We also didn’t start out having a community element. I was really thinking of it as like just a course, a recorded course. But it turns out, of course, as you know, this is one of the crucial elements that people love as a way of connecting with one another. So the community element became really big over time.

Ari: Very cool. So, shifting things a little bit and changing tack here. So you have the online course and you have multiple other courses. And, as you mentioned, you also do a lot of other things. And so, I’m curious as to the way that you balance everything that you’re doing because I know that there are a lot of course creators out there that maybe want to build courses but don’t only want to be building and running courses.

Dorie: Yeah, I certainly like to do different things just for keeping it fresh, keeping myself both entertained and close to the ground in terms of the issues that I’m dealing with and the data that I’m getting. But over the past few years, one of the mantras that I’ve had is that in terms of the discretionary time and energy and effort that I’m putting in, the places that are best to put in those efforts are with things that are scalable. And it’s nice to have a million coaching clients, but you’re putting out a significant amount of effort.

And once that client goes away, they go away. Whereas if you’re putting a lot more effort into your course, whether it’s marketing it or creating a great library of content for it, that stays and that process remains and can be kind of an engine for you moving forward. So I always try to kind of keep in mind a North star that like, yes, it’s fun to do different things. It’s good to be diversified up to a point. But where you’re investing, you want to invest in something that will take care of you in the future as well.

Ari: And do you have people supporting you in that? Meaning, you know, they’re running the course while you’re not around? Or are you really with your hands on everything?

Dorie: I have my hands on most things in my business. I deliberately decided when I first started working for myself in 2006 that I never wanted to have employees. I was not interested in kind of building a big enterprise. And so I have a couple of part time assistants. One of them helps a bit with the course, but in general, it’s me sort of diving in and doing things.

So I lead the monthly webinars and he’ll do some sort of behind the scenes scheduling type things, or if somebody forgot their password, you know, customer service type things. But for most of it, I’m driving.

Ari: Awesome, so it is scaled, so you’re not dealing with the small stuff, but the face time, the things that are like presenting and so on, you’re still showing up to do across your various courses, or is it just the one course that really takes up the majority of your time?

Dorie: Recognized Expert is the only course that I run personally that has a kind of ongoing community element. I have a couple of other courses that I run and sell myself off my website, and those are purely recorded content. So there’s a tiny bit of customer service associated with it. And occasionally, I will add new updates.

For instance, one of the courses is called Writing for High Profile Publications, and we did a recent update where we talked about how does AI factor into all of this, which is kind of an important question. But in general, once the material is fixed, it’s relatively fixed.

Ari: And is all of it on your website as far as these kind of evergreen courses or are they also other places?

Dorie: No, for those ones, I’m selling it directly. I also do have another sort of arm of my business though, where I do courses for other entities. And so over the years, I’ve done a lot of courses for LinkedIn Learning, for Udemy. I’ve done one with CreativeLive. I’ve done a few with a company called ExecOnline. For many years, I did stuff with a company called Skillsoft. So there’s a pretty wide variety.

Ari: That’s really interesting. What made you kind of decide to diversify in that way, putting your content on, is it your content in other people’s platforms?

Dorie: Yeah. So it is content that I created, but which they essentially requested. So they said, we want a course on X. We want a course on interpersonal communications, or we want a course on listening skills, or we want a course on professional networking. Go do it. And so I created the content and then it is, and there’s different degrees of it, but in general, they are responsible for sort of the recording, the production of it, et cetera.

And it’s up on their platform and they are the marketing engine. So like for LinkedIn Learning, for instance, it’s not that I’m really actively marketing it. It’s more that they have a large base of both individuals and enterprise customers that have subscriptions and then people watch it as part of that.

If the platform is successful enough, and certainly in the case of like LinkedIn learning, they have a huge reach at this point, it actually is really good for discoverability. And so people who are not familiar with me stumble across my course, find it, they’re essentially helping to market me, which I appreciate and I’m earning money in the process. But they’ve had partnerships with a bunch of different airlines. For several years, if you flew Delta, they had a little thing on the seat back where you can watch a LinkedIn learning course. And I would constantly be getting pictures from friends of like me on their seat back because they had some of my courses.

So it’s just kind of a nice way to earn some revenue and grow your base. The key thing for me in terms of how I thought about it is that the courses that I did for other entities are ones that I certainly can do and I felt confident doing it, but they’re not so much in my wheelhouse as that I would ever have chosen to do a course and market it directly myself. So I consider it to be non-competitive content outside the scope of where I’m really focused.

Ari: Got it. And were you approached to create these programs or to partner with these different organizations? Or did you approach them? Like, essentially, is this a viable path for a course builder? Or is this really a, if it happens, great, explore it, but not really the path.

Dorie: No, I mean, people can certainly do it. I’m always a fan of targeted outreach. It varies how I sort of got in with them. I think for about half of them, they approached me and for half I sort of wheedled my way in. But in all cases, when I was wheedling, it was through a colleague that had a connection there, and I asked if they could make an introduction. So I think part of it is sort of the detective work of figuring out, like, who do I know that knows these people and would be willing to vouch for me?

And it’s not always a slam dunk. I’ve recommended a lot of people for LinkedIn Learning that have made it, and I’ve recommended a lot of people that haven’t. Because by now, of course, they have a pretty built out course library. So it has to be the match of the content with the presentation skills. But yeah, absolutely. It’s a great idea for course creators.

If you know someone who’s on a certain platform to reach out and ask them, like, what do you think? Is this good? Has it been a good experience? And if yes, would you be willing to connect me?

Ari: Awesome. Okay. So my last question is, what is your kind of piece of advice? Something that you wish you would have known when you started that would have made the path easier?

Dorie: Yeah. So when it comes to course creation, I certainly feel very lucky because early on I knew just as friends and was aware of the work that you guys were doing at Mirasee. So I was able to be smarter about the initial stages of the process. When I profiled Danny in my book, Entrepreneurial You, I told the story actually about his ill-fated first course creation where, you know, he built the perfect, amazing, beautiful thing that’s all the things you need. And then no one bought it because he hadn’t really tested it properly. And so that just echoed in my mind as, okay, thank you, Danny. We are learning collectively from your mistakes so that we do not need to do that. So that was really helpful.

So from the beginning, I was very much sold on let’s test it. Let’s iterate it. Let’s keep it lean. Sometimes I have people come to me and clients or people in the Recognize Expert community like, hey, you know, this company approached me and they’re willing to help me build out my course. And you know, these, oh, and they have this film crew and it’ll only cost $30,000. And I’m just like, oh my God. I’m like, yeah, I just like, you know, start freaking out. I’m like, don’t do it.

I mean, cause like filming stuff is the easy part, right? The hard part is finding product market fit. But the good news is that you can do it for free. I mean, the videos that are on my course site, which it’s brought in close to 2 million dollars through my different online course sales. This is not incidentally counting the money that I’ve earned from my partnerships with other platforms. And literally like the filming, I did it either just from Zooms that we’ve recorded or on my iPhone for the videos that I wanted to look really spiffy. This was not a high expenditure thing.

If you have high quality content and a good product market fit, you don’t need to be spending a lot of money. You can keep it lean and still be very successful. So I think for me, that’s really the mantra that I’ve tried to hue to.

Ari: Awesome. All right. Where can our audience go to learn more about you and all the awesome things that you’re doing?

Dorie: Yeah. Thank you so much, Ari. I appreciate it. So yeah, if folks want to dive in and learn more, my website is And I will especially guide people, again, if you’re interested in the Mirasee universe, check out my book, Entrepreneurial You, which actually has a whole chapter about course creation and lessons in it. You can go to and get a free toolkit that I created and learn more about the book. And that’s one of the best places to dive in.

Ari: Awesome. Thank you so, so much.

Dorie: Thanks. So good to talk to you.

Ari: Likewise.

Danny: Now stick around for my favorite part of the show where Abe and Ari will pull out the best takeaways for you to apply to your course.

Abe: All right, Ari. let’s catch up on what we learned from Dorie Clark, you know, really one of the leading experts on how to become an expert, which is an interesting field. So yeah, what should people who want to become experts and become successful course creators take away from Dorie’s experience?

Ari: I think there’s a lot that people can learn from Dorie. So, of course, you know, things related to her expertise, but also in the way that she approached building her program and kind of understanding what her program is trying to do and understanding the long-term nature and kind of building the program around that.

So, you know, it’s not a short curriculum, people go through it and then they’re out. She really built it as a, this is an ongoing process that people are going to need to go through for multiple years. And this community and this program is there to support them throughout that whole process with ongoing additional content that she is creating, which I think is really, really interesting.

Abe: Yeah. So the idea of long-term impact as opposed to what’s kind of the sort of immediate takeaway. It’s also an interesting balance because if you think about selling your course often what people want to hear is like, this is going to help me right now. But the truth is you can’t become a recognized expert and have your work in prominent places overnight, even if you follow all of Dorie’s steps.

And so you do have to follow her recommendations over a period of time. And so thinking about what is the long-term impact that your courses is going to have really, really important. I mean that it’s also covered in learning design models like backwards integrated design where they talk about the idea of don’t think about what you’re going to teach your students tomorrow, first think about what are they going to be doing and what’s the impact of your course going to be on them five years from now. And so letting that long term impact drive what you’re actually having people do.

Ari: Yup.

Abe: A couple of things I noted from her is even though she might seem like someone sort of famous in her specific niche, right, where he publishes in prominent places, she sells a lot of books, she’s well-known within her niche, it doesn’t mean that she has to get overly fancy with her content creation or courses. And so specifically she talks about that in the context of it’s more important to have product market fit with your offering than to have super high production quality.

And I think that’s something that is a bit confusing or counterintuitive to people who are coming into courses. And maybe your idea of an online course is something mainstream like masterclass, for example, or some very high-profile YouTuber that’s put out a course that’s shot in beautiful broadcast quality video. And that’s really a different world.

Most courses that we see, you know, people being successful with and break our niches like Dorie, the videos really don’t have to be anything fancy. In fact, some very successful courses don’t have any video at all. It’s about solving a need and delivering that long term impact, not making it look super fancy.

And I think that’s an area where people really get stuck with courses. We’ve been talking about that for years, but it still very much happens, especially in today’s kind of video driven world that you think, oh, I have to look like what’s on TV. I have to look like what’s on the top YouTube channels. And you really don’t. It’s not what people care about.

Ari: Yeah. It’s really just about the transformation that you can create for people. And if it’s pixelated, that’s fine because they’ll still get a transformation.

Abe: Yeah, I mean, just one final beyond that, too, because we haven’t talked about this in a while and Course Lab is that there’s actually a direct tradeoff between production quality and speed of iteration. And so if you are looking to learn from your students and improve quickly, you can’t do that with super high production quality video that maybe you have to go to a studio or hire a videographer and then you have to do tons of editing and then you have to refine the edited version and make sure the audio is polished.

That’s something you should do when you have something very evolved that you’re basically ready to lock in. Whereas if you’re going to be creating your pilot and then your second pilot and then a revised version of the course, it all needs to be quick to change. And so it has to be much lower quality and simple or you’re never going to get through that process.

Ari: Absolutely. And I would also kind of push back on the idea that in order for it to be high quality, it needs to be super highly produced. I mean, camera technology has come a long way and you can create really nice videos with your phone at this point in time. And so there is definitely an element of it’s very easy to get to good enough and good enough is really good enough, and you don’t need to worry about much more than that.

Abe: And then one final quick point is that one of the ways that Dorie’s growing her reach is by growing through third party platforms like LinkedIn Learning. And so that’s just something interesting that course creators who are looking to grow should probably consider exploring are like, are there ways that other people can basically sell your expertise for you? And that could be a lot easier way, you know, to reach a bigger pool of potential customers than trying to do everything yourself.

Ari: Absolutely. I wouldn’t necessarily expect that to be, you know, a huge revenue driver, but as a vehicle for reach, I think it could be a game changer potentially. Awesome. And so one last note that is something that Dorie mentioned that I think is worth thinking about is that for her monthly workshops or monthly sessions that she does with her community, she sometimes brings in community members to deliver those.

And so I think that’s a really good reminder for course creators that you don’t necessarily need to be creating all of the content. If there are experts in your area, experts in your community that can come in and support your community. Lean on that. You don’t need to be the best at everything. You can bring in others to support your community and kind of be that expert for them.

Abe: Yeah, agreed.

Dorie Clark is a prominent author, keynote speaker, and educator who helps individuals and companies get their best ideas heard in a crowded, noisy world. You can learn more about her at That’s

Thank you for listening to Course Lab. I’m Abe Crystal, co-founder and CEO of Ruzuku here with my co-host Ari Iny. Course lab is part of the Mirasee FM podcast network, which also includes such shows as Once Upon a Business and Making It. This episode of Course Lab was produced by Cynthia lamb. Post production was by Marvin del Rosario. Danny is our executive producer.

If you don’t want to miss the excellent episodes coming up on Course Lab, follow us on YouTube or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And if you’re enjoying our show, please go ahead and leave us a starred review. It really does make a difference. Thank you. And we’ll see you next time.

Ari, who have we got coming on the next episode of Course Lab?

Ari: Next time we have Monica Badiu. Monica is a copy coach who specializes in helping course creators increase revenue through customer centric copywriting.

Abe: That is something that course creators definitely need.

Ari: Absolutely.

Abe: And someone agrees.

Ari: Yeah, you can keep that in.