Don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth. In the first couple of years, we undervalued our services. When we adjusted our pricing upward to an appropriate amount, we actually attracted more clients who were a true fit for us. You only have a limited amount of time. When it comes to taking care of clients, oftentimes the clients who pay the least end up requiring the most time while the clients who truly value your work and actually pay you more create less stress in your life.
As a part of my series about the things you need to know to excel in the modern PR industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Evan Nierman.
Evan possesses 20 years of high-level experience in public relations, marketing, crisis management, online media, international relations, and public affairs. Throughout his career, he has provided strategic communications counsel to top business leaders, government officials and presidential candidates, and private individuals.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
a. When I started my career in Washington, I was working for an outstanding organization that found itself embroiled in a crisis through no fault of its own. I saw the organization engage a crisis communications firm and I had the opportunity to work with them directly because I was the in-house communications point person at the time. When I saw how they operated and how they assisted the organization, I knew that was where I wanted to spend the next part of my career, focusing specifically on high-stakes and crisis PR as a way to help organizations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
a. There was one time I was inside of a CEO’s office for a discussion, and the conversation escalated. One of the people in the meeting actually took a gun out of his pocket and pointed it at somebody else. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed, and the individual put the gun away, but it was a surreal experience. Not something you would expect to see in the workplace, to put it mildly. I learned a lot that day about de-escalation; it’s an important skill to possess and I’ve used it since then in a less dramatic fashion.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
a. I once showed up for a presentation meeting with a prospective client having left it to my team to prepare the PowerPoint. When I opened my laptop two minutes before the meeting started, I realized that they had used the wrong name and logo of the company. Thankfully, I caught the mistake before I plugged in the laptop and showed up on their conference room screen. When they asked, “Do you have a presentation you would like to pull up?” I said, “No, just some notes to go for myself to guide the conversation.”
The lesson I taught my team, as a result, was this: details matter. And I have never since shown up to give a presentation without personally proofing the work beforehand.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are working on many interesting projects with a range of small and medium-sized businesses that are caught up in the “cancel culture” phenomenon. These are privately held businesses literally fighting for their survival since other people determined that they’ve done or said something offensive for which they need to be punished. It’s interesting to uncover the details of these circumstances and shows how easily critics and even reporters can hop on the bandwagon of criticism without any attempt to actually uncover the truth.
We are also involved with several litigation PR matters, working to counter misinformation and ensure that the truth prevails, not just in court, but also in the court of public opinion.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
1. Try to get paid upfront. Sometimes small businesses can be at the mercy of big clients and are forced to spend hours simply trying to get paid for work that has already completed. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but it’s something that most small businesses have to contest at some point.
2. Don’t let your accounts receivables grow too big. I learned the hard way that companies who are slow paying you, or not paying you at all, maybe in financial difficulty. Unfortunately, I’ve had two major clients go bankrupt, which left me unpaid for services rendered.
3. Don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth. In the first couple of years, we undervalued our services. When we adjusted our pricing upward to an appropriate amount, we actually attracted more clients who were a true fit for us. You only have a limited amount of time. When it comes to taking care of clients, oftentimes the clients who pay the least end up requiring the most time while the clients who truly value your work and actually pay you more create less stress in your life.
4. Say “no” more than you say “yes.” Your time is too precious to be wasted on people who aren’t serious. Rather than scattering your energy and your efforts across multiple projects, zeroing in and focusing will allow you to make tremendous progress in a short amount of time. Your energy is best spent driving you toward a singular destination. In other words, narrow your focus rather than trying to be all things to all people. For Red Banyan, it’s important that we stay in our lane, by focusing on communications and PR.
You are known as a master networker. Can you share some tips on great networking?
a. The key to effective networking is being a person who values relationships over transactions. Transactional people are looking for a short-term payoff, focused on their interests alone. I believe that building relationships with people over time is a more rewarding and high-integrity way to conduct yourself. If you are a good resource for the people in your network and help them, then good things will come back to you, many times over.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
We employ a great digital marketing firm called Wizard Digital which helps us with our digital marketing efforts. In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to give two TED Talks and a number of speeches at prominent conferences, and those have helped establish my credibility and ultimately led to lead generation as well.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Every year, I reread the book The Big Leap by Gaye Hendricks. It’s not a business book per-se, but more of a psychology and empowerment book. That book, probably more than any other, has helped me by leading me to spend more time focusing on the areas where I can fulfill my maximum potential. I’ve read more than 100 business books by a range of authors, but The Big Leap stands alone as one that I always encourage people to pick up and benefit from. So much of business is mental and if you are strong mentally, you’ll end up being strong financially.
Because of the role you play, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
a. I think there’s an epidemic in this country of people who are stressed out and out of shape and are living a sedentary lifestyle which is exacerbating all of their problems. I’m a big believer in the Greek philosophy of a sound mind in a sound body. People must understand the mind/body connection and the important role that exercise plays in your life to keep you not just physically fit, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually grounded as well.
This was really meaningful! Thank you so much for your time.