Digital Strategy Consultant with Brooke Clay

Millennials are taking the workforce by storm. They are climbing the corporate
ladder and branching off to start their own businesses. Some are pushing
boundaries in stride, while others are still trying to figure out where to push,
especially in the digital world.

Meet Brooke Clay, a digital strategy consultant and owner of Rural Gone Urban.
Brooke knows what its like to question the age old saying, “That’s just how we’ve
always done it.” Her push against that notion is how she got to where she is today.
Pushing the boundaries

When Brooke graduated from Oklahoma State University with her master’s in
international agriculture, she began her career on the client-facing side of a
commodity organization. She quickly found that she needed to branch out of the
agriculture industry so she could bring something new back to it.

“What I found was every board proceeding I went to and every staff meeting I went
to, everyone was referencing the agency,” Brooke said. “Well, ‘the agency said’ or ‘At
this national meeting, the agency said.’ I didn’t understand why my opinion, what I
was thinking and my pushback wasn’t valuable. So, I left traditional agriculture on
purpose because I wanted to have as much clout in those meetings as whoever the
agency was.”

As a natural-born boundary pusher, Brooke does not like when someone tells her
she can’t do something. She tends to take those moments as a challenge to say,
“Watch me.”

“Because I’m naturally a boundary pusher sometimes I have to watch myself, and
make sure that I’m being respectful in the way that I do it,” she said.
Despite being able to push boundaries in a natural way, Brooke does recognize that
the practice can be difficult to do. The best advice to pushing boundaries is to ask
the question, “Why?”

“I would say the easiest way to start pushing back — especially if you’re in a new job
at a commodity organization, which is a natural path for many agricultural
communication students in their first job out of school — is to ask the question,
‘Why.’ Why are we doing this? You’ll find in a lot of commodity groups, there is a set
agenda for the year. They do the same things every year.”

Finding a mentor


Brooke believes having a mentor can be an extremely helpful resource no matter
what stage of your career you are in. Mentors can be a sounding board for ideas and
advice. But, how do you ask someone to be your mentor?

It’s as simple as just asking, according to Brooke.

“You just have to ask,” she said. “I have two very specific examples. I have an intern.
I didn’t really know I wanted an intern. Honestly, I didn’t want an intern. I didn’t
think I needed an intern, but last year I received an email out of the blue from a high
school sophomore, who said, I would love to meet your for coffee — she couldn’t
even drive yet. I want to learn more about what you do. She ended up pitching me
why she needed to be my intern and she wanted to work for free.”

Brooke said she was sold immediately because she asked and she presented it as a
mentorship and learning opportunity.

“Now, she is officially an intern,” Brooke said. “She gets paid, and we have this
natural, great mentorship where I get to work her through some projects.
Sometimes we’re not even working on Rural Gone Urban projects, we’re working on
projects that she’s interested in personally.”

Another example Brooke cited as a personal mentorship experience involved
Hannah Borg, one of the hosts of Fast Ag News.

“Hannah Borg sent me a Twitter direct message and said, ‘Hey, I would love to hop
on the phone for 30 minutes. Do you have time?’ I told her my availability and we
ended up talking on the phone for an hour. She asked me about my job, told me
about what she might want to do in life. I think if you don’t ask, you won’t know.”
Building a business

Brooke is extremely familiar with starting a side hustle while working a full-time
job. That’s how she created Rural Gone Urban. But, she firmly believes there are a
few boundaries you cannot cross when building your own business.

  • Don’t steal clients — Depending on where you work, there will be a conflict
    of interest with your side hustle and full-time hustle. Do no try to pull clients
    from your full-time job to service in your side hustle capacity.
  • Distinguish full-time hustle hours from side-hustle hours — Make sure
    you are never working on your side hustle at the same time you are getting
    paid for your full-time hustle. That’s a moral like you can’t cross.


To learn more about being a digital media strategist, follow Brooke on social media:


Twitter: @ruralgoneurban
Facebook Page:


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Alex Lowery