Pride 2024Pride in the Media

Stellar Storyteller

David Clarke is recognized by PRWeek for his work and advocacy.

David Clarke (Image courtesy)

Everyone has a unique story to tell, and Baytown native David Clarke is devoted to making sure they get told. Clarke works as the deputy press secretary for New York City Public Schools after years of cutting his teeth as a writer in Houston. This Pride Month, he will be recognized for his work in PRWeek’s “Pride in PR” list and will continue advocating for his community to make workplaces, and life, better for people who identify as LGBTQ.

“When I was teaching special education in Baytown, I was also writing for BroadwayWorld Houston as the site’s sole contributor. I got to meet a lot of publicists, and I realized it was a really cool job,” says Clarke, who reviewed shows at Theatre Under The Stars, Houston Grand Opera, and more. Drawing inspiration from one of his favorite television characters, press secretary C. J. Gregg on NBC’s The West Wing, the educator kept the career option in his back pocket. “I didn’t know I could go to school for communications to be a press secretary. That was something I discovered later in life.”

“When I was teaching special education in Baytown, I was also writing for Broadway World Houston as the site’s sole contributor.
I got to meet a lot
of publicists, and
I realized it was
a really cool job.”
—David Clarke

Having transitioned to teaching 7th-grade writing, Clarke continued to hone his craft, writing roughly seven articles per week for BroadwayWorld. His work eventually caught the eye of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “My reviews of Houston Grand Opera had been seen by their publicity team,” he says. Hoping for a job offer, Clarke accepted an invitation to meet, résumé in hand. “The first question I was asked was if I had ever thought about living and working in New York City, and I responded, ‘Only my whole life! It’s been like a lifelong dream!’”

As a PR and communications professional, Clarke has served as senior communications manager for NYC Pride | Heritage of Pride, Inc., audience engagement specialist for The WNET Group, communications manager for Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater, publicity manager for National Sawdust, and publicity assistant for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.

“Starting on March 13, 2024, I began working as deputy press secretary for New York City Public Schools,” he explains. “I, along with a communications team of publicists, social media professionals, and marketers, help tell the story of the nation’s largest school district. We have roughly 1.1 million students enrolled across about 1,800 campuses. I do a lot of communications and outreach around school safety, high-school sports, and other beats as well.”

Considering the magnitude of the school district, Clarke knows there will never be a dull day in the office. “It’s a different type of outreach than I had been doing, which was mostly focused on performing arts and events. This is such a big school district, and because there’s always so much happening in New York, there’s always something interesting and exciting to cover.”

His handiwork is being recognized by PRWeek—an acknowledgment that he doesn’t take lightly. “It’s a huge honor, and I couldn’t be more excited to be recognized for the work I do in publicity by PRWeek. It really highlights the work we do, as openly gay and queer publicists, to make sure other people’s stories are told in positive ways.”

Clarke’s visibility and volunteerism within the workplace and other professional settings is indicative of the environment he hopes becomes the norm across industries. “You can’t show up and be a productive employee if you don’t feel safe,” he says. “It’s really important that safety is communicated at all levels of an organization. Everyone needs to understand that regardless of how they identify, they are safe at work. Otherwise, they’re not going to be productive.”

The celebrated communications pro still makes time for freelance work, blending his love of storytelling and advocacy as a contributor for, among other publications, OutSmart magazine. “It’s such an honor and such a privilege writing for OutSmart, and I love that it keeps me connected to Houston,” he says. “I get to meet incredible people and use my skills and strengths to make sure people know their stories. It puts me in the background and puts deserving people in the spotlight.”

Reflecting on his years of dedicated work that led him to where he is today, Clarke shares words of wisdom for aspiring publicists, writers, press secretaries, and the larger LGBTQ community, saying, “The worst thing that someone can tell you is No—I’ve gotten my fair share of professional rejection. Applying to work somewhere is a lot like auditioning for a role onstage. Every time you get one of those No’s, you can reflect and decide what it was about that attempt that led to you not getting the opportunity. At the end of the day, you have to continue to put yourself out there. You have to try, because if you don’t, you’ll never know.”

Keep up with David Clarke on Instagram @DEClarke85.

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Zach McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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