Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. Choose to do something or don’t; to “try” is to pretend like you are committed to your goal.
Evan Nierman possesses more than 20 years of professional experience in public relations, marketing, crisis management, online media and public affairs. Throughout his career he has provided strategic communications counsel and media training to private individuals, senior business leaders, and government officials, including a leading Presidential candidate.
Prior to forming Red Banyan, Evan Nierman served as Director of Communications for a fast-growing, highly scrutinized start-up where he represented the company and guided the CEO through challenging media interviews. Previously, as the founder of the Washington office for a boutique PR agency specializing in crisis management and foreign affairs, Nierman was responsible for conceptualizing and executing communications and public affairs strategies for the Embassy of Ethiopia and its Ambassador.
Nierman began his career at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of America’s leading advocacy groups. At AIPAC he supervised all aspects of the organization’s 15 print and digital publications, including editing its flagship journal on Middle East policy, which was distributed biweekly to every office on Capitol Hill.
Since founding Red Banyan in 2010, Nierman and his team have been advising and representing corporations, non-profit organizations, and foreign governments, often guiding them through high-stakes, complex situations and steering executives through interviews with top-tier national and international media.
From offices in Washington, D.C., South Florida, and Georgia, Red Banyan uses strategic PR to help clients effectively define their brands, develop powerful messaging around their products, garner press attention and achieve important organizational goals.
Where did the idea for Red Banyan come from?
The idea came from my desire to create a strategic communications firm that I wished existed when I was younger and looking to get started in the field. I knew that the only way I could truly find the type of environment where I wanted to work every day, and to enjoy the freedom to pick and choose our clients—was to start my own agency.
I began by outlining our core values – Results, Integrity, Commitment, Accountability, and Speed. Since then, I’ve used them as the guiding principles of Red Banyan. We have assembled an incredible team of talented professionals who truly embody these characteristics. Ten years later, we have grown into a successful international crisis management firm unlike any other.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Much of the year I am traveling to meet with clients or to speak at various gatherings.
When I am at home and in my typical routine, I have my entire day mapped out in time blocks by areas of focus. I wake up at 4:30 a.m., work out between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., and then am entirely dedicated to personal and family time until 8:00 a.m.
From 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. I am focused exclusively on work with an eye toward investing maximum focus on the unique actions I take that move the needle in our business.
As a morning person, I’m sharpest and best focused before lunch so I load up my schedule with the highest value, most thought-intensive work before lunch. I reserve time in the afternoons for one-on-one meetings and lower-value activities that I can perform when I’m getting tired.
Several nights a week I am involved in work or community commitments, but most evenings I like to dedicate 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for family time. I’m fast asleep by 9:15 every night, which keeps me well-rested and ready to jump out of bed before my alarm the next morning and do it all over again!
How do you bring ideas to life?
At Red Banyan, we utilize a S.W.A.T.-team approach to plan and execute our communications strategies. Our multidisciplinary team consists of the brightest professionals, including creatives, former journalists, and Washington insiders. We draw on our collective expertise and connections to produce results that create a real impact for our clients. I always get excited at the creative energy harnessed for our brainstorming sessions around how to add value for our clients and drive their organizations forward.
What’s one trend that excites you?
One of the things I love about the PR industry is that it’s a very dynamic and ever-evolving environment, so there is always something to be excited about. One of the more impactful trends over the past several years has been the convergence of big data and PR.
Widespread access to consumer information sourced from billions of internet-connected devices has changed the way brands and agencies approach public relations. Thanks to all that data, it is now possible to develop and execute much more precise campaigns tailored to very specific audiences. This is not only changing the way PR pros work but also the very media landscape in which we operate, which I find fascinating and exciting. The question now becomes: how can PR professionals harness that power and combine numbers with nuance?
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
To increase my efficiency and minimize distractions, I only check email at three set times each day. I hate the reactive posture that email produces and I subscribe to the philosophy that email is someone else’s to do list for you. The other key thing about email is to only touch those messages once—delete them, file them, or immediately take action on them but don’t keep those messages hanging around in the inbox for reading and re-reading. Multitasking is the great lie and the flawed norm of the rising generation in the workforce; you aren’t doing multiple things at once – you are rapidly switching between or among tasks. In most cases, you would do any one of those things better if you were only focusing on one and not moving your concentration from one activity to the next.
What advice would you give your younger self?
You can do it. This is really all the advice anyone should ever need because there is nothing we cannot achieve if we truly believe in ourselves. Set big goals and don’t be afraid to fail. Generally, if you aim high and come up short you are still infinitely further along than if you had never tried for that big leap. Also, don’t hesitate to write down your goals and measure your progress toward them. Goals without relentless execution are nothing but fantasies.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe that the vast majority of subjects taught in schools are a total waste of time for the students, and that some of the most important topics are the ones that are almost never imparted to children. Some examples of classes that I think would be wildly more valuable than ones currently forming most schools’ core curricula: personal finance, negotiation, interpersonal communication, entrepreneurship and public service.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I do a daily morning huddle with the entire Red Banyan team. It happens every single day at the exact same time, regardless of what’s going on in the world or within the company. It’s sacrosanct. We have several offices in several different states, so we use our video chat to get everyone in one room face to face at 9 a.m. This simple 15-minute meeting builds team cohesion, aligns us on our priorities, and sets the tone for the rest of the day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My main growth strategy comes down to a simple concept: expand and nurture relationships. The best way to earn the trust and long-term loyalty of customers/clients is to show not just in word, but also in deed, that you are with them. In a largely transactional world where people amass “friends” and “followers” as a way to boost their influence or earning potential, most folks appreciate authentic relationships. My personal and professional relationships are indistinguishable from one another because the other party knows that I am going to do what I promise. That ethos of authenticity and accountability permeates my company Red Banyan, and lies at the heart of our current and future success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
There was one episode in the early days of Red Banyan that has taught me a valuable lesson. We were just a startup at the time with only two clients. When one of the clients’ marketing budget wasn’t approved for next year, we saw our revenue go down by 65 percent in an instance. This was a scary moment that we ultimately were able to overcome, but it taught me the vital importance of having a diversified client base.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Our kids risk their lives online every time they log on. It is a topic that I explored during my first TEDx talk several years ago. I would love to see a business step to the fore with a well-designed app-based product that helps people better regulate their posting habits and ensuring that they share with care and post with purpose.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently spent $100 purchasing chocolate bars for my daughter to help her launch a business and take her first step as an entrepreneur. At just 10 years old she understands the term cost of goods sold, recognizes the difference between an investment and an expense, and can explain the enormous difference between revenue and profit.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
SignNow, which is an app that lets you open, review, sign, and send contracts or other documents. It’s what an app should be: simple to use, a huge time saver, and something that you wonder how you lived without.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend two that have helped me perhaps more than any other books, and I read an average of three per month. The E-Myth by Michael Gerber and The Big Leap by Gaye Hendricks. If self-discovery and growth are what you seek, then those two books provide essential guidance.
What is your favorite quote?
“Do or do not – there is no try.” Words of wisdom from Master Yoda. My colleagues, friends, and family hear me quote it all the time, and it hangs framed on the wall of my office.
• Multitasking is a lie; it’s flipping between multiple things rapidly and usually doing them all worse than if you focused on one.
• Big data is changing public relations as we know it.
• As Michael Gerber preaches, to grow, you should spend more time working “on the business” and less “in the business.”
• Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. Choose to do something or don’t; to “try” is to pretend like you are committed to your goal.