CLOUT, LLC is a marketing and public relations agency supplying strategic marketing communications counsel and turn-key public relations tools as well as tactics that empower companies and brands to grow their bottom line, influence the markets they serve and protect their corporate reputations. Former McDonald’s Corporation senior marketing communications executive, Michon Ellis founded CLOUT, LLC.
Ellis is a Growth-oriented Entrepreneur, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer with nearly 25 years of global and domestic business development, marketing, and communications experience. As an influential leader, he forges strong senior stakeholder relationships, expands market share, and generates business opportunities. Michon Ellis is recognized as a high-impact decision-maker, persuasive presenter, C-level communicator, and cultivator of high-performing cross-functional teams.
CLOUT recently announced its newest client, the IRONMAN Foundation. The IRONMAN Foundation creates positive, tangible change in race communities by engaging athletes and volunteers to take part in programs that show service through sport and commitment to the community.
“Creating meaningful change in The IRONMAN Group race communities is what drives the IRONMAN Foundation. Our programming was created to support, empower, and uplift our race communities as well as individuals from all backgrounds around the world,” said Audra Tassone-Indeck, Executive Director, IRONMAN Foundation. “Even with the success we’ve experienced to date with our service through sport, it is important that we recognize opportunities to develop further and reach and support more people. We’re pleased to have CLOUT’s strategic counsel and support in implementing key PR and community outreach strategies to successfully achieve our mission of tangible and lasting impact for our race communities.”
CLOUT will also lead engagements for the IRONMAN Foundation’s diversity initiative, Race for Change™, at the grassroots level. Duties include developing and implementing strategies and tactics, in partnership with leadership from diverse communities, on how to best remove barriers that might prevent Black athletes and other minority groups from taking part in triathlon events.
“We are excited to play a lead role in driving the meaningful work being done by the IRONMAN Foundation and also work to welcome more diverse athletes to endurance sports,” said Michon Ellis, founder, and CEO of CLOUT. “We intend to build awareness and support the IRONMAN Foundation’s mission which is to create positive, tangible change in race communities through grant funding and volunteerism.”
The Chicago Defender spoke with Michon Ellis about CLOUT, LLC, their latest partnership with the IRONMAN Foundation, and the importance of Black professionals in marketing and public relations.
Chicago Defender: Talk to me about CLOUT, LLC and how the partnership with the IRONMAN Foundation came about?
Michon Ellis: CLOUT, LLC is a PR agency headquartered in Chicago. We serve as clients all over the country, and we help them with everything from publicity for their products and services to crisis management work, to strategic coaching and executive coaching. Like any other business, the IRONMAN Foundation wants everyone to have access to their events and grow their fan and participation base. They wanted to build on the efforts they’ve already put in place, so they brought us on board to help further develop their diversity strategy and draw more people of color to the sport.
Chicago Defender: There are plenty of PR firms with diversity divisions but not many Black-Owned PR companies. What inspired you to start your business?
Michon Ellis: That’s a good question. After the murder of George Floyd, I began getting phone calls from brands, managers, and companies asking, “Hey, should we put out a statement? Should we say something? Should we not say anything”? I would take on a few of these consulting roles and before you knew it, I had a business. It all centered around these companies not knowing what to say. They were, afraid to have conversations internally with employees about race relations.
I saw an opportunity in that. I felt we could not only be competitive in the business, but we would be authentic in it. So, when I have conversations with CEOs and business managers, I can speak to them from an authentic place of personal experiences. I bring these experiences with me as a Black man and Black business owner.
Chicago Defender: You are a former executive with Mcdonald’s. So many Black executives transitioned to entrepreneurship over the past two years. 2020 really allowed Black people in corporate America to take stock and branch away from the corporate world. It appears a new legacy of black entrepreneurs is growing and taking all of the education, training, and knowledge they’ve received and plowing it back into black communities. Was that your motivation in starting CLOUT, LLC?
Michon Ellis: Yes, I think so. I learned a lot from my time in corporate America, but I came to the realization that I wanted to control my own destiny. I wanted to do it my way. CLOUT allowed me to hit the reset button and do just that. With over 15 years of experience, I’m applying all of those best practices and training to my own business, and we are growing and winning.
You are right. As entrepreneurs, we are taking those lessons, and we’re saying we can do it for ourselves. I’m also willing to work with and hire young black talent. They may not have degrees from top universities. They may be in junior colleges or have no college degrees at all but if they have the hustle and grit, that’s who I want to work with. Sometimes they just need coaching, mentorship, and opportunities.
Chicago Defender: What else do you love about CLOUT and the work you are doing now?
Michon Ellis: I like being able to control the narrative of our communities. That’s why I focus on multicultural markets and telling our stories. There are so many cultural nuances that general market media or PR agencies miss. They may get those broad strokes but if you don’t understand those cultural nuances, you can make huge mistakes that will get you in plenty of trouble.
That’s why partnering with companies like the IRONMAN Foundation is so important. IRONMAN said we want to work with a Black-owned agency to help us navigate this the right way because we believe we have something of value to offer. However, they want to be respectful to the community as well.
Chicago Defender: What’s your vision for CLOUT, LLC?
Michon Ellis: I want to grow it and create jobs. I think we’re getting ready to see a renaissance in media and journalism. I also believe there is going to be a rebirth in PR, and we are going to work hand in hand with media companies and brands to tell those stories. I want CLOUT to not only be an industry leader but a place where those who are interested in journalism or media relations can come and enjoy a successful career.