Evan Nierman: Founder, Red Banyan

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Evan Nierman brings deep experience in public relations, marketing, crisis management, online media and public affairs to his work as Founder of Red Banyan. Throughout his career he has provided strategic communications counsel and media training to senior business leaders, government officials, private individuals, and a leading Presidential candidate. Evan and his team advise and represent corporations and non-profit organizations across a wide range of industries, often guiding them through high-stakes, complex situations and conceptualizing and executing effective communications campaigns. From offices in Washington, D.C. and South Florida, Red Banyan uses strategic PR to help clients effectively define their brands, develop powerful messaging around their products, services or people, garner press attention and achieve important organizational goals.  

How did you get into the industry?

I have always been a writer and communicator, and every one of my positions has been within the realm of strategic communications.  Twenty years into my career, I continue to be fascinated and excited by the ways organizations can convey messages to key audiences in effective and compelling ways.

I began my career in Washington working for one of the country’s leading advocacy groups, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). At AIPAC, I supervised all aspects of 15 print and electronic branded publications, and helped organize large-scale national events in Washington, D.C. That position gave me tremendous experience and allowed me to hone my skills as a professional communicator, editor, speechwriter and media liaison.

Years of working at the crossroads of policy, communications and politics gave me a thorough understanding of how to deal with highly sensitive issues and to navigate high-stakes situations. As the principal of a boutique PR firm specializing in high-stakes and crisis communications, I opened the Washington office for the LA-based firm and handled some of our most complex and challenging clients.

When I founded Red Banyan in 2010, I decided to create the kind of agency that I wished had existed when I was younger. We have come a long way since then, with offices in Florida, D.C. and Texas.  We serve a variety of national and international clients, helping them use communications to achieve their goals. And even though I have worked in this field for two decades, I still feel excited every day about my work and the industry.

Any emerging industry trends?

The PR industry has always been a very fluid and ever-changing environment, which is part of what has kept it so interesting for me personally.  I am a lifelong learner with an interest in technology, so this field suits me very well.  The past five years have been a particularly exciting time in communications, due in large part to the access to information provided by smart phones, the blurring of lines between reporter and consumer, and the prominent role of social media in our lives.

Never before has reputation management been more in demand. In an environment where crises spread like wildfire in mere minutes, organizations and their communications consultants must be prepared to managing high-stakes communications challenges. In the coming years, CEOs, brands and companies will increasingly rely on their communications teams to actively protect and enhance their reputations as part and parcel of their ongoing PR efforts.

Live video is another trend emerging as a major part of social media strategy for all brands. Live videos already gather billions of views on Facebook, Periscope and other platforms, and we expect that they will increasingly dominate the media environment in the near future.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Talent acquisition is a major focus for a firm like ours, which provides an intensely personal and high-touch experience to every one of our clients. Ours is a very fast-paced industry that requires a unique blend of various skillsets, and it is often hard to identify candidates for Red Banyan who are exceptional in multiple areas. Some candidates we review have solid writing skills, while some are good at pitching or media relations, but identifying and recruiting a growing team of gifted, well-rounded PR pros can be difficult.

Red Banyan has been very good at attracting and retaining outstanding team members. We have assembled a deeply talented team of highly-skilled and experienced professionals who work in a collaborative fashion, and I am very proud of that. However, I know that our approach is the exception and not the rule when it comes to firms in our industry. 

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

My vision for Red Banyan is to remain 100 percent dedicated to our core values, even as we expand.  These values are: Results and Responsiveness, Integrity, Commitment and Can-Do Attitude, Accountability, and Speed. These are values that inform everything we do and guide our team through interactions with clients, journalists, vendors and everyone else. Part of my responsibility as the Founder and leader of Red Banyan is to ensure that our company values are instilled and carefully nurtured in everyone who joins our team.  It has enabled us to reach our present level of success and will be even more vital as we reach the next levels of success.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

In the comings months and years Red Banyan will execute a bold and ambitious plan to maintain the matchless quality of our work while simultaneously expanding its client base. Since its foundation, our agency has been on a strong growth trajectory and we will not be slowing down any time soon. We recently expanded our social media service offerings, and are ramping up our hiring efforts in anticipation of further expansion.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Adhering to our core values and assembling the right team of talented, high-integrity professionals has been crucial for our success as a company. The unique combination of smart and strategic thinking with a never-say-die work ethic has enabled Red Banyan to earn our clients’ trust and to build our reputation and grow through referrals to become a top strategic communications agency. Anyone can throw money at promoting his or her own brand, but promotion without results will ultimately end in failure. We are very selective when it comes to building out our team, and are only interested in people who not only possess a strong skillset, but also are a good cultural fit and reflect the relentless Red Banyan mindset.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

The hardest lesson, but also one of the most valuable, came in the earliest days of the company.  At the time we were a scrappy startup with just two clients.  When the marketing budget of our biggest client was not approved, we were told to freeze work, and in an instant the company lost over 65% of our annual revenue.  It was a painful experience, but also instructive.  It underscored how essential it is to have a diverse client base and not to rely too heavily on any one client, regardless of the size of the account or what you perceive to be the strength of the relationship.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Since we work with a very diverse portfolio of businesses and organizations, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. A major non-profit organization, whose reputation and fundraising efforts were under threat due to sensational accusations of wrongdoing, had an exceptional experience working with us.  Our crisis PR division defended their reputation and empowered the company to fend off salacious media attacks and continue to operate.

On the other hand, the CEO of a startup company enjoyed an ideal outcome when our team helped them elevate their brand, establish credibility and generate market equity by securing positive coverage in key media outlets.

What all ideal client experiences have in common is the way Red Banyan becomes an extension of our clients’ teams. Our relationships with clients continue long after a particular engagement is over.

How do you motivate others?

I always try to lead by example. Words can only take you so far if they are not supported by actions. I am a driven person who is extremely demanding of myself, and what I ask of myself I would never ask of anyone else.  For me, there must be constant awareness not to let those perfectionist tendencies impact how I manage others.  Instead, I try to always praise a job well done and to motivate the team by ensuring that everyone has a clear understanding of where we are and where we are going.

My vision for the future is itself inspiring, and my principal role as the leader of Red Banyan is to ensure that every team member can visualize where we are going, and wants to be a part of achieving our collective goals.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Always continue to learn. The PR industry is one of the most fluid and ever-evolving industries out there. Things were drastically different for professional communicators ten years ago, and they will be completely different ten years from now. To truly be successful in public relations, you must always know what’s going on in the world around you, and that includes staying on top of the latest technology trends. No matter how much experience you have in this industry, you should never stop learning.