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How Inspiration As A Brand Can Be Powerful With Michell C. Clark

Michell C. Clark inspires thousands daily with his cross-platform content.

How can you inspire with a single tweet?

I chatted with Michell C. Clark about how he thinks strategically and encouragingly about his cross-platform presence and how his brand is based on daily affirmations.

Clark is a 31-year-old writer, strategist, husband, and father who writes affirmations for creative entrepreneurs committed to bettering themselves and the world around them. The Woodbridge, Virginia native graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013. Post-grad he honed his skills as a writer and researcher for brands and cultural institutions including the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Clark is the author of Keep It 100: daily affirmations for millennials who are tired of being called millennials, and is probably working on his next book as you read this biography. Clark has built a personal following of over 200,000 human beings across Instagram and Twitter. He is deeply invested in leveraging his platforms, access, and skillset to build community. In the summer of 2020, Clark and his wife, Duanecia Clark, founded their agency, The Creative Summer Co., which leverages strategy, content, design, and research to empower mission-consistent, Black-owned and Black-facing brands and businesses. The agency focuses on helping clients to drive sustainable growth, and establishing brand identity.

Clark is an advisor and contributor to Foster Co-Writing, a community-driven collaborative writing platform that helps writers to produce their best work, from ideation to publication. Additionally, Clark is the co-founder of a writing room within Foster called Writing Our Way Out, which provides support, encouragement, and mentorship for writers who leverage their craft to write their way out of complicated emotions, into community with like-minded individuals, and into opportunities that align with their higher calling. 

Clark curates a weekly series called #SpreadLoveSunday—every weekend, he leverages Instagram to highlight ten empowering, inspiring, or encouraging sentiments shared by other writers. Clark has worked on social media campaigns with the likes of HBO, Warner Brothers, and Starbucks. As a journalist, he curated and wrote a year-long interview series with MTV News focused on interviewing people with compelling stories to empower and inform readers.

He currently resides in Richmond, Virginia with his wife, Duanecia, and their daughter, Ada.

Chan: How did you get started thinking about social media as a way to build your following?

Clark: Before I had a business plan, or industry connections, or the courage to wholeheartedly go after what I wanted for myself, I knew that social media was a way for me to connect with people. Reputation is currency, and for an independent creative it is invaluable. I started to create content intentionally on social media in 2012, as I was finishing up my undergraduate degree and sought to drive more traffic to my music blog. I was in Richmond, Virginia, which has a beautiful creative scene but doesn’t offer the types of opportunities that you can find in a New York or a Los Angeles. So, I started to think of social media as my gateway to meeting people who lived in those bigger cities, worked in industries I wanted to get into, or shared similar interests with me.

Chan: I see you post many quotes by others – what has been your favorite quote and why?

Clark: I read and write a lot, so I find a lot of quotes that speak to me. I could give you five today and have five totally new ones to share with you next week. I’m currently drawing a lot of inspiration from this quote by choreographer Martha Graham. She was talking about dance choreography, but I think this quote will continue to speak to a lot of people:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

I’m also frequently inspired when I scroll my social media feed—fellow writers such as Joel Daniels, Maryam Hasnaa, Malanda Jean Claude, Alex Elle, Jova Ferreyra, Sopha Rush, Malanda Jean Claude, Brianna Wiest, and Billy Chapata inspire me, both as a writer and a human being.

Chan: Have you had a meaningful moment with an audience or follower that inspired you?

Clark: In November of 2020, I was struggling to stay in a good headspace—the pandemic had been dragging on, with no end in sight. I missed laughing with friends. I missed the spontaneity of my old life. I needed a spark. So, I wrote about it. And I shared bits and pieces of my feelings on social media. A few days later, I got a message from a painter named Will Raojenina, who asked if he could drop off a painting that he wanted to gift me. The painting was beautiful, but the message behind it was what made the interaction unforgettable.

The painting says “AMOUR”, which means “LOVE” in French. It’s a mixed media painting, so the letters are actually three-dimensional. You can only read the letters when you look at the painting from the right angle. As Will told me that day, the painting is a reminder that love is complex, and confusing—but that even when it’s hard to see, the love is always there. Sometimes you just have to shift perspective before you can see it. The painting is sitting in my living room today. On days when I find myself navigating difficult emotions, it serves as a reminder that a better mindset is one perspective shift away.

Chan: What social platforms do you like to focus on?

Clark: I use Twitter and Instagram the most. Twitter is a great space to ideate and test different styles of writing. Twitter is a gym for writers—it’s where you build the muscle that can only come from repetition. Twitter moves quickly. You can share a lot of writing and not overwhelm people’s feeds. Because of how fast the platform moves, Twitter is also a playground for writers. There’s a lot of opportunity to fool around, test out new ways of writing, and bounce ideas in real time.

Instagram has been more of a slow burn for me—I was adamantly disinterested in it when it started to gain popularity, but over time as I’ve found my niche it’s become one of, if not my favorite of all social media platforms. Instagram is a space where I can create an experience around my thoughts—whether I’m adding stock footage and a favorite song to a reel, or designing a post that accentuates my messaging.

Chan: What are you working on next?

Clark: First and foremost, I’m working on myself. Our daughter was born in August 2021. My wife and daughter deserve the best version of myself that I can give them as we enter into this new chapter together. Work comes after that. I’m pushing myself to be more decisive and action-oriented. I don’t really have time to overthink or procrastinate the way I used to.

Career-wise, I’m focused on refining what’s already in place. I write every day. I want to become an even better writer. I want to write things that make people think about themselves in new ways. I want my writing to make people feel empowered. I’m starting to plan my second book right now. I’m committed to making it a book that comes from the heart and resonates with people for a very long time.

My wife and I will be working to ensure that our agency, The Creative Summer Co., speaks more to the season of life that we’re in while still making space for us to achieve our mission of empowering mission-consistent, Black-owned and Black-facing brands and businesses. In our first year or so of business, we’ve grown much more rapidly than expected — we’ve served  a lot of clients, made a lot of money, and received our first Webby Award nomination. That being said, we always want to make sure our business is helping us to create the life that we want to live. We want to take full advantage of the fact that we call all the shots. 

I’m a moderator in a writer’s room called Writing Our Way Out that I run through  Foster Co-Writing, a community-driven collaborative writing platform that helps writers to produce their best work, from ideation to publication. The room provides support, encouragement, and mentorship for writers who leverage their craft to write their way out of complicated emotions, into community with like-minded individuals, and into opportunities that align with their higher calling. I’m excited to keep working with my co-founder Billy Chapata, the Foster team, and the members of the room, to make sure that we’re creating an experience that gives members what they need.

Finally, I’m starting to think more seriously about stepping outside of my comfort zone as a writer and thinking about myself as a holistic communicator. What does it look like for me to have my own show, or record my own podcast? I’ll start to answer those questions for myself, soon.

Chan: Any last words of advice for people or brands who’d like to grow inspirational content?

Clark: Wale said it best—”speak with conviction, or we shouldn’t listen.” If you want to build a brand that inspires or encourages people, you have to really care about what you’re saying and the people you’re speaking to. If you’re treating positive thinking like a fad, or you think of it as a vehicle to make money over everything else, people will notice. You can’t growth hack your way to authenticity. Before you think about profit, think about purpose. Think about why you care. Think about what will keep you interested and committed when you’re not getting engagement or driving profit. Solidify your “why”, and then you’ll be in a healthy position to build a brand that serves people.

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Our work is always to Earn Trust, Build Reputation, Widen Influence to grow your brand and business.

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