IAM659- CEO Provides Strategic Communications Counsel

Podcast Interview with Evan Nierman

As Founder and CEO of Red Banyan, Evan brings 20 years of high-level experience in public relations, crisis management, marketing, online media, international relations, and public affairs. Throughout his career, he has provided strategic communications counsel to top business leaders, government officials presidential candidates, and private individuals. Red Banyan provides PR consulting crisis management and media training. The firm also uses strategic public relations to help clients effectively define their brands, develop powerful messaging around their products and services, garner press attention, and achieve important business goals. Evan and Red Banyan serve clients throughout the U.S. and internationally from offices in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.

  • CEO Hack: Waking up early and exercise
  • CEO Nugget: Hire earlier
  • CEO Defined: Being humble, responsible, and focusing on others



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Intro 0:02

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 0:29

Hello. Hello. Hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Evan Nierma of Red Banyan. Evan, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Evan Nierman 0:39

Super excited to be here.

Gresham Harkless 0:41

Yeah, super excited to have you on and what I want to do, which is read a little bit more about Evan so you can hear about all the awesome things that he's doing. As the founder and CEO of Red Banyan, Evan brings 20 years of high-level experience in public relations, crisis management, marketing, online media, international relations, and public affairs. Throughout his career, he has provided strategic communications counsel to top business leaders, government officials presidential candidates, and private individuals. Red Banyan provides PR consulting crisis management and media training. The firm also uses strategic public relations to help clients effectively define their brand, develop powerful messaging around their products and services garner press attention, and achieve important business goals. Then Red Banyan serves clients throughout the US and internationally from their offices in Florida, Washington, DC, and Atlanta. Evan, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

[restrict paid=”true”]

Evan Nierman 1:31

I think you just covered everything. So it's been great joining you.

Gresham Harkless 1:36

Exactly dropped the mic from there. But since I covered exactly what you're doing, doing now, I wanted to hear a little bit more about your beginning. So you can take us through your story and what led you to all the awesome things you're doing now.

Evan Nierman 1:46

Sure. So it all goes back to when a man met a woman in Shreveport, Louisiana. Just joking, we're not gonna go into quite that much.

Gresham Harkless 1:55

That's a match, that's a match podcast.

Evan Nierman 2:00

G-rated for your listeners. In all seriousness, I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, and I couldn't wait to get out of Louisiana. So I went to Washington DC, which is the center of where the action is. kicked off my career actually doing several internships when I was a student at George Washington University, really loved GW love being in the heart of the city, ended up going from GW to one of the top advocacy organizations in the country or the world did that for about seven years left to go work in high stakes and crisis PR represented some foreign governments, some celebrities who got into some really sticky situations, left there, after about two years to move to Florida, of all places to work at a startup, worked at the startup for about 18 months, and then decided, You know what, if these guys can start something up, why don't I start something up.

And it had been something that I'd already been thinking when I worked at the PR firm in DC, where I opened the DC office, everybody else was in Los Angeles. So when I left the startup, about eight years ago, I started Red Banyan, and I had no clients and no employees, a lot of optimism and hope. But if I look back on that time, I don't know what the heck, I was thinking I had a two-year-old at home and an infant and living in a rental house in Florida. And my wife was like, I'll give you one year. And at the end of that year, if this isn't working, we're going back to DC. So I said, Okay, give me one year and one year got to the end of it seemed to be going okay, and kept going. And here we are eight years later, Roland strong.

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Gresham Harkless 3:42

Awesome. There's nothing like constraints, you know, put in that make you make you do the best that you can do. So when your wife had put you put that year in, it sounds like you were able to kind of use that momentum to really get things grounded and accelerated from there.

Evan Nierman 3:56

Yeah, well, look, it's it's that notion of burning the boats do or die when you have no choice, but success, you're going to find a way regardless of what it takes. And in my case, you know, with a baby and a two-year-old son, and my wife relying on me, failure was not an option. And so I think in the early days of the business that drove me, plus, I'm a very high energy person, to begin with very goal-oriented, but that added pressure, which I think you know, we're living right now in a time of intense pressure. And I think a lot of people are either crumbling, or they're finding a way to dig deep and find strength they didn't know they had and persevere through this COVID-19 pandemic.

Gresham Harkless 4:35

Yeah, absolutely. And the same goes what no pressure, no diamonds. So a lot of times that pressure usually can make or break you and determine exactly what you're able to do. But it sounds like you've dealt with a lot of people that had a lot of pressure situations that you know what we're dealing with a pandemic but just in general, like things that are popping up. So could you kind of take us through exactly the services? I know I read some but can you take us through exactly how you work and exactly what you're providing for those clients?

Evan Nierman 4:59

Sure. So The way I explained it to people who don't necessarily know what crisis PR is, or strategic communications is, with our firm has two main types of clients, those who want to get in the press and those who need to get the hell out. Now, everybody always wants to talk about the ones who want to get out. And I'll come to that one next. But I'll start with the one that's a little more conventional. And that is going in as consultants operating as an extension of the companies, the corporations, the nonprofits, understanding what's their fundamental goal, organizationally. Once we know that, then we advise them on how to use communications in order to accomplish that. And it may be helping them with their internal communications and how they motivate their staff.

It could be how they talk with their investors or customers, it could be helping them with their social media, it could be speech writing for the CEO, it could be pitching them for conference appearances, or getting into the media. That's really you know, what Strategic Communications entails. On the flip side, the sexy side that everyone always wants to talk about at a cocktail party is the crisis PR the high stakes and crisis work. And that's where, you know, people get into situations sometimes because life comes at you fast. We help organizations and individuals who are facing complex circumstances, and we help them navigate and find a way forward. So that when they're facing a situation where it's bet the farm, bet the company, their reputation is on the line, they're relying on someone to come in who's got the experience and the skill set necessary to help them weather the storm and then come out dry on the other side.

Gresham Harkless 6:44

Awesome. No, I definitely appreciate that. I don't know if you find this, but just when I was thinking about it, I heard what you're saying seems like a lot of them might overlap in the sense that communication is such a big part of it. So whether you're I guess controlling the message more or maybe the messages being, you know, created for you have to maybe I don't want to say reframe, but you have to make sure that the message that you want to get out as getting out, it seems like there are different situations, but sounds like there's a lot of synergy between the both of them.

Evan Nierman 7:12

Absolutely. I mean, there are two, two sides to the same coin, if you will. And at the end of the day, you know, what does an organization have, it has information and it has a message. And organizations that are able to consistently deliver a message that breaks through the noise and produces the desired effect. Those are effective communicators. And they see that success reflected in their brand promise, their brand loyalty, their sales, their revenue, their retention of their cut of their customers, and also retention of staff. But if you're not driving the message, and you're not doing what I would describe as pressing the truth if you're not advocating your message and getting your perspective out there, then you're leaving a vacuum, and you're leaving it to other people to define you. And when that happens, you're rolling the dice, because you can rest assured no one is going to advocate for you the way that you are going to advocate for yourself.

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Gresham Harkless 8:07

Yeah, absolutely. A lot of times, I'll say You know, you got to make sure to get out the pencil or the pen and write your message, write your story. If you don't, then somebody else will write it for you to kind of let it at whim. So I definitely appreciate you for touching on that. So I want to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce. And it can be for you personally or your business. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

Evan Nierman 8:29

Secret sauce? I think we've got an, I think got a couple of different secret sauces. And when they come together, it's like a gumbo.

Gresham Harkless 8:38

Hey, got it Louisiana coming out.

Evan Nierman 8:40

By the way, the weekend is in Louisiana. I think one is entrepreneurship is to me 100% mental, you could wake up on a Monday and have a set of circumstances in front of you and be overwhelmed and say, I don't know how I'm gonna handle this. I'm stressed out. I don't know how to take care of this client's situation. Oh, man, I feel like we're overextended, you name it. You can be feeling down you could be feeling unsure, unsure of yourself uncertain high anxiety. You're gonna wake up on Tuesday with the same exact fact pattern and feel like a different person. And so to me, business and life are 100% mental. Now by that, I don't mean you know, I'm not advocating going up to the top of a building and jumping off and will yourself not to get smashed on the concrete. I'm not talking about ridiculous situations like that.

But I know from my own personal experience, and I see it all the time with the clients that we're facing because a lot of times we come to people when they are psychologically at a very low point. Part of what I see as our role as crisis managers is to guide them motivate them and help them understand If all is not lost, there is an opportunity here to move forward. And for me personally, I think that mental aspect is key. The other thing is ruthless discipline. You have to be willing to rise and grind, day in, and day out. And you know, this metaphor of it's not a it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. I think that's not true. And I'll tell you why. And this is someone who used to run, you know, sprint distance triathlons, and short five K's but also ran marathons. I think effective success, successful entrepreneurs, they're finding that sweet spot somewhere in between, where they're not sprinting all out and burning themselves out.

And at the same time, they're moving much faster, and they're racing forward at a pace that other people aren't willing to do. And then someone, someone told me once that they had this, this saying about entrepreneurship. And now that I've teed it up, I'm probably going to botch it because I haven't thought about it in a few years. But it was something along the lines of, you know, an entrepreneur is willing to live in a life in a way that most people won't so that eventually, they can live like most people can't, some version of that, and to me that that's very true, you gotta be willing to put in the time, and the effort and the dedication to persevere no matter what. And if you're willing to persevere, and you've got that discipline, you can win, you can succeed.

Gresham Harkless 11:31

I truly appreciate that. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So that could be like an app, a book, or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Evan Nierman 11:44

Wake up early, I get up every morning at 4:30. In the morning, I'm at the gym by five. If you take care of your body, you're taking care of your mind too. So for me, exercise is one of those things that's essential. And if you do it first thing before you even check your email or pick up your phone, and then you've got it done, you can check that off the box and you've had a success. You've started your day with success.

Gresham Harkless 12:08

I want to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. So that could be like a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. Or if you can happen to a time machine. What might you tell your younger business self?

Evan Nierman 12:18

Ooh. So there were a lot of questions in there. Which one do you want me to focus on?

Gresham Harkless 12:23

Which one do you want to say something related to PR, or do you want to say something related to what you might tell yourself?

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Evan Nierman 12:27

The piece of advice that I wish someone had given me and I'd listened to is hire earlier. So when you're a solo entrepreneur out there, who's muddling through and hustling, and you think, I can't hire someone else, you're wrong. You have to find a way as soon as possible to hire someone to help you.

Gresham Harkless 12:51

So now I wanted to ask you what I call my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different quote-unquote, CEOs on the show. So Evan, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Evan Nierman 13:02

To me, it means being humble. It means being responsible CEOs who focus on themselves, they're never gonna lead people properly.

Gresham Harkless 13:16

Definitely appreciate that definition. And I appreciate your time even more, Evan, what I wanted to do is passionate about that mic so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional, you want to let our readers and listeners know. And then of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out all the awesome things you guys are working on.

Evan Nierman 13:29

You can find us online at, you can find us at Red Banyan on Twitter, we're on Facebook, we're on Instagram, we're on LinkedIn, I would actually encourage you also I accept LinkedIn invitations personally. So my name is Evan Nierman looked me up. And in terms of, you know, understanding what we do, come to our website, check it out, you'll get a glimpse, and you'll get an understanding for those business owners out there that are actually having a tough time right now. Because these are days in this in the days of this global pandemic that are having an issue.

One of the things that we wanted to do to show how much we care not just what we can do but that we care is we're actually offering people the opportunity to book 15-minute power sessions with us at absolutely no cost. If you're going through a challenge in your business, and you just want to talk to one of our experts and get some insight into how to weather this storm and how to deal with this crisis. You should just go to our website and book a consultation and one of my team members arrive we'll be glad to help you in any way we can because these are challenging times.

And it's important for people to know communicating in this day and age is easier and that you have platforms you can use email you can use the phone you can use text, FaceTime, zoom, you name it, it's limitless. But you got to say something and you need to be communicating and talking to the people in and around you, whether that's family, friends, customers, etc. So I just want to also convey because we're in a difficult situation right now, my best wishes to everybody and and I would just challenge the CEOs and the solopreneurs. And everyone who's out there hustling hard right now, these are the types of moments where you find out what a leader is made of. So ask yourself, am I up to the challenge? And I suspect you are. And so these are the days where we're in the crucible. This is a moment where you have to dig deep. And if you thought, if you think you can't do it, or you think you can, you're right.

Gresham Harkless 15:42

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. And we will have the links and information in the show notes just to make it easier for people to follow up with you. But I definitely appreciate you know, all the awesome things that you're doing and your team is doing as well, too. And I think you're absolutely right, where there's, you know, we use the sports metaphor before, you know, there's not necessarily a playbook for a situation like this. But, you know, I think it's so much to be able to reach out and to communicate and tell people No, you know, where you stand what you're doing, but at the very probably even higher levels to be of service and be able to use our zones of genius to be able to get back to all the people that are going through difficult times. So appreciate you for doing that my friend and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 16:19

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

[fusebox transcript]


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