Evan Nierman, Founder & CEO of Red Banyan, is no stranger to difficult situations.
He’s not Olivia Pope nor is he Ray Donovan, yet he helps people get through crises, in countries all over the world!
His stories are fascinating, and his ability to navigate language and cultures is impressive.
Connect with Wendy - https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendypease/
Connect with Evan:
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/evan-nierman/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/RedBanyan
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/RedBanyan
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/redbanyanpr/
Music: Fiddle-De-Dee by Shane Ivers - https://www.silvermansound.com
ATTENTION: Below is a machine generated transcription of the podcast. Yes, at Rapport International, we talk a lot about how machine translation is not good quality. Here you see an example of what a machine can do in your own your language. This transcription is provided as a gist and to give time indicators to find a topic of interest.
[00:00:34] Wendy: Hi, everyone. I hope you're having a great day and excited for another episode of the global marketing show podcast. Today, I am looking out the window and we've got about eight inches of fresh snow out near Boston. It's still coming down. And my guest is located in Florida where he says it's 75 degrees and sunny, but that's not what we're going to talk about.
[00:00:58] Just giving you a time in place. so today Evan Nierman is with us. Hi Evan. How are you doing
[00:01:06] Evan: today? Hello, Wendy. I'm doing fantastic. Okay. Good. I'm
[00:01:11] Wendy: so excited for our conversation. Let me read a little bit about your background and then we'll jump into it. So Evan Nierman is founder and CEO of red Banyan, an international crisis management and public relations firm.
[00:01:26] Evan and his team have provided counsel to a diverse group of celebrity. We're going to have to dig into that political corporate and private clients, and he helps them navigate high stakes situations to achieve optimal outcomes. So this is really good. First off, I have to start with the crisis manager and public relations for most of the companies that I know in that industry are very focused on one country.
[00:01:54] You went international from the start. Can you tell me a little bit about why you decided to do
[00:02:01] Evan: that? Sure. Well, we live in an interconnected global world. And the days of doing business in one place and ignoring the rest of the world, or frankly, over because the internet has been the great unifier. And so from day one, when I started the firm, we had opportunities to work with clients, not just in the continental United States, but all across the globe, thanks to the power of the internet and the type of work that we do you can do from anywhere, literally anywhere.
[00:02:37] So for the first several years that I had the business, people used to ask me where my office was and I said, my office is on an airplane. My office is in my briefcase. My office is in a hotel by offices, on a train anywhere I have a good strong internet connection and a laptop and a cell phone. That's what I needed to do the work.
[00:02:57] And now as we've grown and expanded, we have team that's spread all across the United States and we actually physically have people in every time zone. Are they working in an office today? Are they working from a porch? Are they on a plane and an auto train on a box with a Fox? I have no idea. And it doesn't matter as long as they're doing a great job.
[00:03:17] So for me from day one, the world was our marketplace and our perspective clients came from all over and that's even more the case today.
[00:03:26] Wendy: I am that we're international from the start. It's hard enough to get clients, let alone big enough ones that are international. And, and, and I say that, but I know a lot of companies that are international are not big companies.
[00:03:38] Most of them are small and midsize. So tell me about what, who your first clients were and how they were
[00:03:43] Evan: international. Yeah, well, you know, as luck would have it, a lot of the work that I did at the first part of my career was related to the middle east. And so from almost from day one, I had clients from that part of the world and not just the United States now, before I actually founded red bank.
[00:04:00] I worked in this kind of business for another firm. That was really essentially the same business model as what we do. And we had clients in north Africa, we had clients in Europe and also in the middle east. So again, for me, where the client is located is largely immaterial. It's. Do they have the sort of problem that I know that we can help them solve?
[00:04:25] And nine times out of 10, the foreign government clients or the businesses that are located elsewhere, they have a specific desire in the United States to either reach a target market or to communicate with policy makers in Washington, whether it's at the administration or Capitol hill, but there's this very big interest in penetrating the United States.
[00:04:50] And the fact that we're we're located here, but yet we're conversant with global politics and current events happening all over the world makes us a good option for them.
[00:04:59] Wendy: Example of a client, like what you do for them. So we understand more about
[00:05:04] Evan: that. Yeah. That's a great question because people always ask me, you know, crisis management, high stakes communication.
[00:05:13] What does that mean? Are you like Olivia Pope on scandal? I love that show.
[00:05:22] Wendy: Is that what you do?
[00:05:24] Evan: Well? So sometimes people ask if I'm the, the male version of Olivia Pope, and then I had other people introduce me as a real life version of Ray Donovan. Now let's start with Ray Donovan that ain't me. I'm not beating anybody with a baseball bat.
[00:05:41] I'm not involved with criminals. That is a hard, no, we are not fixers in the sense of Ray Donovan. Okay. So let's just. Those guys aside. Okay. That is, it's a great show. It's a lot of fun. It's very interesting. And it's not something that has any connection to what I do now. Olivia Pope she's obviously it's made for TV.
[00:06:07] It's supposed to be dramatic. No one has ever staggered into my office, soaked in blood and said they found my girlfriend. She's dead in the bed with me, but I don't know what happened. Help me. It's never quite that dramatic. And for the record, I have never, ever slept with the president of the United States.
[00:06:28] So you take that aside where I'm very clearly not Olivia Pope either. Really? I'm just Evan. Nierman at the end of the day. But I still didn't answer your question of what do I do? I told you what I don't do. So here's what we do. Kind of put me in
[00:06:43] Wendy: the place of, yeah, you're dealing with those problems, but you're not beating people up and there may not be as bloody, but you kind of got me thinking about, Ooh, what other kinds of problems are out there that you are dealing
[00:06:55] Evan: with?
[00:06:56] I'm happy to dive into that. And there's a lot of, maybe not quite as dramatic cases as that, but some pretty darn interesting ones that we can get into a little bit. Although I can't tell you the specifics, but I can give you some of the contours, not mentioning any names, but you know, the way that I describe what we do, if you're going to really distill it is we've got two main types of clients.
[00:07:19] Those who want to get in the media and those who need to get out on the crisis side, they want to get out. They want to change the narrative. They are oftentimes good people or good companies who find themselves in complicated or negative circumstances. Maybe they've got a competitor who is spearing them, maybe a disgruntled former employee.
[00:07:39] Maybe they've gotten a bad review online. Maybe the local media has been tipped off about a story or a lawsuit, but it's not really a good representation of
[00:07:49] Wendy: so real good juicy story. Something that has to do with international. I can trigger you. I know there's one from Haiti.
[00:07:57] Evan: Ooh, that one is really sensitive.
[00:08:00] So maybe we shouldn't talk about that one
[00:08:03] Wendy: and you just say it was uh, you know,
[00:08:06] Evan: sport. Okay. Now right now, every listener's going in there Googling hate sport and my name. So I'm sure they're going to find something related to that. Okay. So I guess you went there and I'm not going to your, this is your show, not mine.
[00:08:21] So I'm gonna, I'm going to go where you've led me. I'm comfortable
[00:08:24] Wendy: with that.
[00:08:25] Evan: I'm very comfortable with it. So without getting into too many of the specifics, there's a high profile gentleman in Haiti. He was accused of the most heinous crimes you can imagine, and involving children and got a lot of bad press and what people didn't pause to do before the reporters started talking about it, bloggers for blogging about it was to actually find out if there was any truth to it and any evidence.
[00:08:53] And unfortunately, we live in a world today where people on the internet are judge, jury and executioner before you've even had a fair trial. And so in this case, this individual was being. Tarred and feathered with the worst allegations you can ever imagine. And some of it was coming from political opponents within his country.
[00:09:14] Some of it was coming from critics who were abroad, were trying to build up their own name or make a name for themselves. And no evidence was ever brought to the table, but yet that did not stop the media from totally destroying his reputation from attacking him and having a very deleterious effect on his life and his ability to do his job.
[00:09:38] So it's, it's a reminder that the world is interconnected. Information moves at the speed of light and reputations that were built up over decades or even a half century. Can be destroyed in a matter of minutes. And that's a scary thing. And it's a threat. It's a threat to companies and organizations all over the planet.
[00:10:02] And for anyone who walks this earth. And so you would do well to heat my advice that it's not a matter of if, but it's a matter of when your organization, where you personally will face some version of a crisis. And the best time to prepare for a crisis is before you have one. So that if, and when it happens, because it will happen that you're prepared and that's the best free advice I could give.
[00:10:27] And if you take away anything from our conversation today, I hope it's that,
[00:10:31] Wendy: oh, there is so much to unpack there. So this gentleman was accused of something that you really believe he didn't do, but it smeared his name international.
[00:10:44] Evan: Smeared his name internationally led to all sorts of legal ramifications.
[00:10:48] I never saw one iota of evidence. In fact, what I saw was a collusion between people who were attacking him and reporters who were used as a cudgel in order to attack his credibility and destroy his reputation. And, you know, unfortunately too often journalists don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.
[00:11:12] And that's what happened in that instance.
[00:11:14] Wendy: So can you ever recover from something like that?
[00:11:18] Evan: It always depends. Every situation is completely different. The circumstances for you may be different for me may be different for a high profile individual in a foreign country may be different for a high flying CEO in the U S it all depends on who you are and what you feel.
[00:11:35] And I think, you know, just in recent weeks, we've seen a number of different major crisis situations here in the U S I think some of these high profile people will recover and they'll ultimately be able to survive the reputational damage and others are damaged goods for whom redemption is going to be a face of forever.
[00:11:55] Wendy: You're not even talking about whether it's the truth or not. It's just how you spin the story.
[00:12:02] Evan: Well, you know, people in my profession, it crisis managers, we, we have this bad reputation. And I think that it's because people assume when they hear the term PR or they hear crisis management or damage control, they have this idea in their heads that these are talking heads.
[00:12:24] These are flacks. These are representatives who will do or say anything in order to spin the story, regardless of the fact that. And that's unfortunate because I can tell you, I personally, at my firm, we don't operate that way at all. And what we're most concerned about are facts and the truth. Not trying to spin stories, not trying to downplay, not trying to distract, but rather if we're doing our jobs, right, the work taking factual information that can be corroborated, it is a hundred percent accurate and real, and that's important because when reporters speak to me or they speak to any member of my team, they talk to anybody from red Banyan.
[00:13:08] They know that if we're coming to them with either a response to an inquiry that they've made to us, or we're proactively going to them in order to pitch them to the idea for a story, they can trust what we're bringing to them, because we would never come to them with something that wasn't a hundred percent true verifiable and on the.
[00:13:28] And you can't say that for every firm that's out there. Certainly every profession has its bad actors, but I think it is unfortunate that people have this negative perception. And again, I'm gonna blame blame, uh, Liam Shriver and, uh, George Clooney, uh, Michael, you know, Michael Clayton and Ray Donovan and these Hollywood trails of what a crisis manager or a fixer does.
[00:13:54] The truth is very different and reality is very different. And it's, it's Hollywood's version, but it's not really accurate,
[00:14:02] Wendy: but I can't imagine being in a situation where I'm a crisis management PR professional, and I get somebody who comes in, who has done something wrong and the facts clearly point to that.
[00:14:18] What do you do with
[00:14:19] Evan: that? It's a great question. And it's something that is inevitably going to be faced down by you if this is your chosen profession. And so there have been instances where someone has come to me and they've asked for help and all signs point to guilt. And there's always a moment in every conversation with the prospective client, where I have a tremendous responsibility to make a decision.
[00:14:53] Is this a person? Is this a company? Is this an organization that I feel comfortable representing and assisting? Now I do believe we as Americans, every single citizen has the right to legal defense. So it's very easy. It's a, it's a constitutionally guaranteed. Right? So it's very easy for a defense attorney.
[00:15:16] To live with taking, you know, if a murderer comes in the door and there's a video of a person committing the murder, it certainly looks like the person did the crime. The defense attorney can take that client on. And then with a clear conscience, say, look, everybody's entitled to a legal defense and they can sleep at night doing that.
[00:15:37] Now I don't necessarily believe that every single person is entitled to PR counsel, or even if you sort of allow that they should, they should have the opportunity to engage PR counsel. That doesn't mean it should be me. It doesn't mean it should be us. And so we have to make a tough call sometimes when clients come to us, where if I've judged that they're not being forthright with me.
[00:16:04] And I get, I have to rely on both probing questions as well as my own gut instinct. And I think my track record is such that I've gotten it right nearly every time doesn't mean that every single time I've gotten it right. And I've had a few surprises, you do this job long enough. And if you get someone who is a really effective liar we all can be fooled.
[00:16:29] And I think you can, you can do your research online and you can see that people as lie, detectors are always fallible and even the FBI and professional integrators can be fooled. But for me, it's more of a question of, do we want to take on this client? Do we want to represent them? And it's a tough call because at the same time, I've just told you every reporter, when they hear from my team, they know they're getting good information.
[00:16:57] They know that it's accurate. My team will never lie on behalf of a client. We'll never tell a reporter something that's not. Um, and so if you have a client who you believe to be guilty of that, which they're accused, it becomes a much harder job to represent them and to make the case. But let me just also remind you and I'm so glad you asked this question because I actually literally hung up the phone with someone 30 minutes ago, who is going to be hiring us.
[00:17:26] This is a person with a great track record, no legal problems throughout her entire career. And she made a mistake and she did something that she shouldn't have done. She was angry. She was mentally upset. She made a rash decision and she did some thing that today she wholeheartedly regrets doesn't represent who she is.
[00:17:48] It's not, it was her on her worst day and it was caught on camera. So guess what? 45, 50 year old. Stellar stellar career stellar reputation up until this point, she knows that she screwed up. She knows she made a mistake. She's accountable for it. She's paid the price for it, but now she wants to move past it.
[00:18:11] And I think people in this era of cancel culture and where people are branded and they're, they're, they're forced to wear a Scarlet letter for life. We need to keep in mind that every single one of us has made a mistake at some point in our lives. And people deserve second chances. And while there may be some people who, you know, I may decide we're not willing to represent this individual.
[00:18:35] It doesn't comport with our values. I'm not afraid to take on clients who have made mistakes, provided they're accountable for them. And they're willing to admit that they've done something wrong, that they could have done it better. And then they truly commit to changing.
[00:18:49] Wendy: Uh, so that's then how you tell the story of apologize accountable and get the message out that the person deserves a second chance
[00:19:00] Evan: often, but keep in mind, Wendy, a lot of times people are accused of things they didn't do and truth be damned that narrative can take hold.
[00:19:09] And so it's really, really important in the earliest moments when someone is being attacked, whether it's online or in the mainstream press, that if the information is inaccurate, they need help getting the facts out. And that's where a firm like red Daniel comes in.
[00:19:24] Wendy: Okay. So give me an example of one that you turned down that may have had an international component to it.
[00:19:31] Evan: So turned out a request from a foreign government who was looking for representation and wanted folks in the United States who understood the political system, knew how to communicate. And this is a foreign government that I believe has interests that are antithetical to American values and has in the past provided material support for what we would describe as terrorists and has supported in both with material, as well as rhetorical and oral support and moral support groups that have attacked Americans.
[00:20:19] And there may be people out there who are willing to take on foreign government clients including governments that have provided support to foreign terrorist organizations. For me, that's a nonstarter not interested part now, what did they want you to do? Represent them in the United States make the case with policy makers in Washington, tell the world that they were someone who they weren't.
[00:20:44] But in, according to my judgment, I thought that, uh, lawmakers already had a pretty good, accurate picture of who they were. And it, for us, it was not a client that we would be interested in taking on. Um, at the end of the day, I have a duty and a responsibility to my team to make sure that we don't take on a client that would embarrass us so that we couldn't stand behind.
[00:21:07] And I feel like I have a duty as an American citizen and a patriotic American not to accept just any client if they, if their beliefs run counter to the United States and they don't report with our values. And so for me, I know there are a lot of people out there who will take their money and they're fine with it.
[00:21:27] They sleep well at night, but they should talk to them and not.
[00:21:31] Wendy: Right, right. Yeah. That's a, that's a really good example. So you've got foreign governments coming in. You've got other people that are, that want your support and it's international. How do you handle the language? And then we'll get into the cultural issues of these type of delicate communication.
[00:21:51] So first, can you talk about language?
[00:21:53] Evan: Yeah. So we're very lucky to live in the United States because we grew up speaking native English and, and so many parts of the world. Now I've had the opportunity to travel for both work and for pleasure around the, around the globe and English to have English in your arsenal, be able to speak English is, is a huge advantage.
[00:22:15] And so we're very, very lucky, very fortunate, very spoiled in the United States. That's the case, but in a lot of these other matters that I've dealt with in the work that I've done. You're talking about people who are coming from a part of the world where English is not their native tongue, while they may have some knowledge of the language, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're proficient or that they speak at about highly technical matters or where nuance matters in a way that a native English speaker can.
[00:22:44] And to me, having bilingual or trilingual people on your team is one important component. If you could find those people and make them part of your team, but it's also there nine times out of 10, that's not necessarily going to be possible and you may get a client coming in and yeah, sure. If they have it, if the client speaks Portuguese or Spanish, you know, I live in south Florida.
[00:23:09] It's very easy to find Portuguese speakers, Spanish, native, Spanish speakers. But when you're dealing with languages that are not as widespread, it becomes really important that you find. Outside partners. So you can rely upon who can provide those services and you can tap into their expertise because nuance matters details matter.
[00:23:31] And just because you have a working knowledge of a language that doesn't mean necessarily, you're going to be able to effectively tell a story in that language or create marketing materials, et cetera. So being able to go nowhere, to look, to find people who can help you with translation and, and, uh, really capturing the essence of what you're trying to say becomes very important.
[00:23:53] Wendy: Yeah. So, so for listeners who don't know, this podcast is sponsored by Rapport International who provides translation interpretation services. So I'm really glad to hear you talking about not just anybody can provide these services. It has to be native speakers who really get the nuances and details. Okay.
[00:24:12] So tell me about a time when you were in a crisis situation that you had to deal with cross languages and how that played out.
[00:24:21] Evan: Well, you know, we can return to the case that you were talking about before, where it was Haiti, and we needed to enlist some help from native Creole speakers. I can think of clients who we've had in central and south America, where we really, we had a working knowledge of Spanish, but it was very tough.
[00:24:42] We would sit with them in meetings and we were really relying upon. Very talented translators in order to ensure that we got all the information that we needed when you're in a crisis situation, nuance matters, details matter. You can't afford to have someone who is acting as a translator or an interpreter who is just giving you broad strokes.
[00:25:06] You really need to know the details of what the people are saying to you in their native tongue. And you have to have a degree of confidence and trust that you're getting a clean translation and that you're getting everything that's very accurate, not just speaking in broad terms.
[00:25:22] Wendy: Okay. So you had interpreters that were in the meeting.
[00:25:26] So, you know, little known outside the industry is translation is written. Interpretation is spoken. So you had Haitian Creole interpreter sitting right there in the meetings with you to facilitate the conversation
[00:25:40] Evan: with the Creole. It was, they were on the phone with us or on a zoom. When we traveled to south America and central America, we actually had interpreters in the physical room.
[00:25:50] We were meeting face to face. So we would have interpreters in the room with us.
[00:25:54] Wendy: Okay. So you th so this reached well outside of Haiti, you had to go to different countries and communicate the information.
[00:26:04] Evan: Yes. We've done that. Where we've been sitting in meetings, whether it's the middle east or central and south America, like I was saying, where we beat it on site interpretation.
[00:26:14] So we needed simultaneous translation or close to it. But there've been other instances where we spoke earlier about how, how is it that you're able to work all around the world? Well, if you have an internet connection, you have email and you can transfer documents. The challenge then becomes, how do you read those documents?
[00:26:30] How do you translate them? Relying on Google translate is not a solution. Uh, I don't believe that that's look, it's great. What Google's been able to do. It's leaps and bounds better than what something is better than nothing, but all you need to do is get a document, dump it into Google translate and you find out real quick what the shortfalls are, and it can only take you so far.
[00:26:55] So it's an important tool, but it's not enough. And so for us, when we're communicating via email, we're, we're always having to enlist native speakers to translate those emails and give us a word for word translation of what we're seeing.
[00:27:13] Wendy: Hmm. Okay. Or really capture the meeting. Yeah. I love hearing what you're saying about Google translate because it's certainly accessible and you can use it and you know where you need a quick, but when you're talking about.
[00:27:24] Topics like you are, you really need something good.
[00:27:28] Evan: So trying to have a conversation using basic a basic knowledge of a language, so you can tell me something very highly technical I have. In my case, I have a working knowledge of Spanish. You can tell me about what you had for lunch and that you ordered chicken and you liked white wine with your chicken and that the beans were hot and you wanted more water and that's fine.
[00:27:51] But when you're telling me, well, the judge referred the case to the jury and there were objections related to XYZ. I need a higher level of Spanish expertise to make sure that I'm not just picking up every third word or I'm getting the gist of what you're saying. I really know the specifics. And in business, you really, the details matter just like in the, in my business crisis communication.
[00:28:16] The devil's in the details, nuance matters and you got to get every word, right? Cause every word could potentially trip you up.
[00:28:23] Wendy: That is so true. Yeah. I was just thinking about the jury and the, you know, all that and it, and it's not only the language and the words, but now you're talking culture too, because not every place in the world has jury trials.
[00:28:36] So if you're interpreting or translating and you've got to make that message get across. If a jury, the word jury comes up, how do you then handle that? So it can, so talk to me about something like that, where you you're running into the culture.
[00:28:52] Evan: Uh, like you said, the judicial systems are different than every culture is different.
[00:28:57] One of the things that that can be very challenging is, you know, we, as Americans tend to be very straightforward in our communications. We think something will tell you. Most of the time politely sometimes not, but we'll tell you what we're thinking. Whereas I have seen in certain cultures, there's a hesitancy to be to directly contradict you or to disagree.
[00:29:25] And so what you may get is people nodding their heads and signaling acquiescence or agreements while they actually fundamentally disagree with you. They just don't want to be rude to your face. And so also having people with you who can help you read between the lines and interpret cultural differences and communication, I think is really important.
[00:29:47] Mastery of a language takes you only so far. But if you really understand the customs and the culture, that's a really critical element when it comes to doing business all around the world.
[00:29:57] Wendy: That's a good point. And, um, I've heard of so many stories where interpreters have served as that cultural broker. Like they'll stop and explain something that's going on.
[00:30:08] Have you ever had that situation?
[00:30:10] Evan: So I'll give you a sort of a funny example of, of when I experienced this. And I was traveling for business meetings in Poland, and we had a number of meetings with some government officials and I, I came downstairs to the lobby of the hotel to meet with the principal person who was taking us to these meetings.
[00:30:34] And I was dressed in what I would describe as professional clothing. Although not formal, maybe in, in America, we would call it business casual pair of slacks, a button down shirt like this, no tie, no suit. So in the U S. If I were needing, if I were shepherding someone from out of the country to a meeting and they were dressed inappropriately, I would say, listen, before we go up to Capitol hill to meet with the Senator, you need to, you need to run back to the room.
[00:31:07] You need to put on a tie, you can't wear shorts, you have to be dressed appropriately. What I showed up in what I thought was appropriate clothing in Poland, the person who was leading me to the meeting said, ah, Mr. Evan, uh, that's a very interesting outfit that you've chosen for our meeting. And I said, okay, is this, is this okay?
[00:31:30] Or do I need something else? Oh, you need to be comfortable, whatever you're comfortable with. But perhaps I don't know, maybe it might be advisable if you were to feel so inclined, you could consider wearing a neck tie and perhaps a suit. If in fact that were something that you thought might be acceptable to you and that which you would not find objectionable and would still be comfortable,
[00:31:56] Wendy: which was a very polite way of saying, go put on a jacket and tie.
[00:32:05] Evan: I said, can you just give me one second, I'm gonna run to the room. I'm going to grab a tie. I'm going to put on a tie and I'm going to grab my jacket. Is that okay? If, if that would be, if that's what would make you feel comfortable? I would not object to that.
[00:32:19] That would be perfectly acceptable. And perhaps, maybe even advisable and that, yes, that would, that would be quite good. Quite good. So I put on a tie, I got it.
[00:32:29] Wendy: That's where the cultural sensitivity comes in because somebody who's not aware of. The, the adding all the extra words might just say, yeah, I'm comfortable.
[00:32:39] Let's go, but feel awkward later on. So that that's a really, really good
[00:32:45] Evan: example. It was memorable. I'm still talking about it, you know, four years later. Cause it was just, he was tired. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that this person also happened to be a diplomat. So he was diplomatic to the nth degree, but I don't think you'd find people in America, although my mother-in-law sometimes goes down this road, even though she's she's American, but she'll say, what do you think maybe you ought to put on a jacket for dinner.
[00:33:10] What do you think to which it's my mother-in-law and I'm not trying to earn any points at this point. I've been married to her daughter for 19 years. So I'm like, yeah, I don't think.
[00:33:18] Wendy: Say you're sensitive to what she might say, but you also know what, but you know, the American culture as to what would be appropriate to wear. Whereas if she was saying that, and then you were in Timbuktu and you knew she knew the culture, you might acquiesce and put on a jacket.
[00:33:38] Evan: That is true. I'm speaking jokingly about her, but she's a lovely woman.
[00:33:43] She really is the perfect mother-in-law and I have got no, no complaints about her.
[00:33:48] Wendy: Really really good example of who the messenger is, you know, when you're in a foreign country and you're in a business situation, you have to be more highly attuned here. It is your mother-in-law who you feel warm to. You've known for many, many years, you know, when you can say yes or no.
[00:34:05] Yes. I think it's a, it's a really good point and not showing her any disrespect at all. It's just opening our eyes to a different situation. So you mentioned Poland and that you were doing work over there. Can you share more about what you were doing in Poland?
[00:34:19] Evan: Absolutely. I can, but I'm not going to.
[00:34:25] Wendy: Okay. Well, I have some other countries here written down Israel, Ethiopia, Georgia, or are those any of the kind of countries I know you've worked in. Can you share any stories there that had interesting language, culture, crisis PR situations.
[00:34:44] Evan: Sure. Well Ethiopia is an interesting one and Ethiopia is a fantastic country with an incredible history.
[00:34:53] And, uh, unfortunately it's going through a really tough time right now. And just to be clear, I'm not doing any work in Ethiopia at the moment. If, if someone from the department of justice is listening and you're concerned that maybe I didn't register appropriately with the foreign agents registration act, I can assure you we're not doing any work in Ethiopia.
[00:35:14] I have not failed with my Farah book document filing. We're not working in Ethiopia. That being said, I, I tell a story actually, in, in the book that I had published last year called crisis subverted. And I talk about a time when I was working in Washington many years ago. And at the time I was working in the Ethiopian embassy and.
[00:35:37] I don't think in the book, I even mentioned that it was Ethiopia. I think I just said Africa, but secret's out now. What can I say? It's okay. And I say this with a lot of affection for Ethiopia. At the time the person I was working with most closely, in addition to the ambassador was the minister who was in charge of communications.
[00:35:58] And he pulled me aside one day. And this is at a time when Ethiopia was really getting a lot of negative press. And there was a lot of emphasis on what was going wrong in the country. At the same time, there was a whole lot that was going right in the country. And Ethiopia was doing, was making great strides in so many different ways, but the narrative and the press, their feeling was was, was focusing exclusively on the negative, not highlighting the positive.
[00:36:24] And this was very frustrating to them. And part of this is, uh, is a cultural difference because. At the time in Ethiopia, there was a strong man who was in charge of the government and he was, he took part in elections and then he ended up staying for a couple of decades. So Ethiopia, his message was we're on the road to democracy.
[00:36:47] Well, it was just happened to be in, in the words of, uh, Paul McCartney, a long and winding road. So I'm in the embassy, I'm talking to the individual, who's supposed to know more about communications and the media than anyone else representing them in the United States. And he says to me, have an idea.
[00:37:09] You're going to write an article and put it into the Washington post talking about Ethiopia. And I said, okay, that's an interesting idea. I'm not a reporter. And I don't write for the Washington post. So I could submit a letter to the editor from the ambassador, or I could help you. I could write an op ed in cooperation with the, with the ambassador that we could give it to the Washington post and ask them to publish it as an opinion piece.
[00:37:41] He goes, no, no, no, no. The news piece said, well, unfortunately, that's not going to work because I'm not a reporter. I don't write for the Washington post and that's not how the media works here. He goes, oh, get it habit. You're going to write the article. You're not going to write the article. You're gonna call the reporter.
[00:38:02] And you're gonna tell him what to write in the article. And I said, and I was being very diplomatic rather than just saying like, are you out of your mind? It doesn't work like that. I was being like my friend from Poland. I was like, well, you raise a really good point. And unfortunately, I don't think that's likely to meet with a good outcome.
[00:38:21] Here's why reporters write their own pieces and their editors, and they help guide what they're going to write about and what they're not going to write about. We can engage with the reporter. We could give the reporter information. We can tell him our side of the story, but he's actually required to get our side of the story, but also a flip side of the story and to get multiple perspectives.
[00:38:45] And then the reporter, he's going to write the piece and he's going to decide what he wants to write and what they'll use. And he goes, okay, I totally understand what you're saying. I have it. You're going to write the article and you're going to give it to the reporter. And the reporter is going to put his name on the article and he's going to publish it.
[00:39:07] Right. I got it.
[00:39:09] There's a note to that approach as well. It just doesn't work that way. And I explain it in a very polite way.
[00:39:15] What ended up happening is we didn't write the article and we didn't tell the reporter to write the article and I didn't write the article and give it to the reporter and have him put his name on it. It was the whole thing was ludicrous.
[00:39:27] Wendy: Yeah. Ever get any better press or any of the good stuff coming up.
[00:39:32] Evan: Sometimes from time to time, we ha we, we managed to be successful at telling some positive stories and getting the word out related to all of the good things they were doing, but it wasn't that week. And it certainly wasn't with the reporter that he had in mind.
[00:39:45] Wendy: There's such a, so explain to me in the listeners, like.
[00:39:51] Oh, like when we hear that story, we can kind of laugh at this, this PR person that just doesn't get it yet. There's a different way of functioning that they laugh at us of how we're doing it. So can you explain how, how that's viewed in Ethiopia or countries that might have more of a system
[00:40:10] Evan: like that?
[00:40:11] Well, it's different in, in some con countries. If you're the party that's in charge or you're the autocrat, it becomes very easy because there are publications who will do it, what you say, and they will do your bidding. And you see that in countries that are unapologetic, unapologetically autocratic. You also see it in some countries that masquerade as democracy.
[00:40:36] But they really don't function like democracies, but that their new system is beholden to the government and is essentially, uh, a mouthpiece for the government. So it really depends on, uh, you have to go country by country basis in order to really understand what the media landscape looks there, looks like there and how you function in that ecosystem.
[00:41:01] And that's part of the issue that people have when they want to get into the U S market. They don't understand how journalists operate. They don't understand how the media works. You know, perhaps they have this view, like my beloved friends from north Africa, where they have, uh, a very disjointed view of what's possible or how things operate.
[00:41:25] And so part of your job as a communications counselor is to guide them to explain what works, what doesn't mean. But at the same time, when we're engaged in communications campaigns that take us outside of the U S where the United States is not necessarily the target audience. I like to engage with other firms, other communications firms that have boots on the ground in those countries, because they have both the language skills that are required.
[00:41:55] And they also understand the cultural sensitivities and they know the media landscape and how to work with reporters in each place, because it's not a one size fits all solution
[00:42:06] Wendy: example. You've got a client that you've got to go out across multiple countries, it's country by country media landscape. So can you tell me about a time where you had a situation like that you had to figure out the country and then when you'd partner, when you wouldn't and what that, I mean, to me that starts getting pretty messy to manage.
[00:42:27] Because you're trying to understand. And then you're trying to judge who you're going to work with because you want somebody who's going to tell the truth. So if you bring it back to the values of your company, it gets pretty confusing and messy. Then how do you
[00:42:41] Evan: give me an example? Yeah, it can get messy in a hurry.
[00:42:44] We were working with one startup company who had a business bottle that worked quite well in the us, and they were making money, hand over fist. And they were excited to expand, not just on this continent, but to start out, going into Europe and in rapid succession, the goal was to roll out operations in a number of different European countries, each of which had a different system.
[00:43:14] And each of which had a different language. So you can imagine you're, you're trying to roll out a new product offering that's happening in. The Netherlands tapping in Spain, it's happening in Italy. It's happening in England all simultaneously. So at the time, no. Well, we had to figure out was how do we manage to penetrate those media markets effectively?
[00:43:40] And you really, I think fundamentally you face a big decision, which is, do you try to hire one gigantic firm that has, is a multinational tends to be a very, very big agency. And they've got offices in all these different locations and they've got native speakers in all these locations. So you're talking about multi-billion dollar, fairly large companies, or do you choose to engage more boutique firms that aren't necessarily as large and oftentimes they're not nearly as expensive, but they're more of a, a niche firm in each of those markets.
[00:44:23] And, you know, what we ended up advising the clients do was to actually not spend the big dollars to hire a single agency with multiple locations, but instead to engage smaller firms in each of the locations, but it showed two things. One, we did get tremendous value from the fact that we could leverage their language skills and the relationships that they already had with media on the ground, in those locations.
[00:44:52] So rather than us trying to create media relationships with reporters and Amsterdam, we could engage with PR firms that had an office in Amsterdam, and that worked with reporters Amsterdam and thereby it just made it the whole process, much more seamless. The other thing is it underscored how important it was for us to tailor our messaging to the different markets while also remaining.
[00:45:20] Which is a little bit of a catch 22. How do you, how do you deliver a consistent message, but not make it seem like you're a weather vane that's just spinning around whichever way the wind blows, but instead you're driving a consistent message, but you're having to tweak it a little bit or speak about it slightly differently for the different markets to ensure that it takes well.
[00:45:42] So it was a, it was an interesting experience. I think we learned a lot from it and I don't know, I'm, I'm a big fan of engaging more specialized, smaller boutique operations than multinational conglomerates, just cause I think some in my experience, the smaller firms have been willing to hustle more and it could be a lot more cost-effective if you're, if you're Coca-Cola and you've got limitless.
[00:46:08] It's probably easier to just engage a massive firm so that everything's running through all of the accounting is doing through one system and it becomes easier if money's no object, but if you tend to be a smaller, medium size is business enterprise, you're probably better off shopping around for someone who can, who can both do a good job, but also not cost you quite as much.
[00:46:31] Wendy: You've formed the relationships with the other PR companies. And when would S and how would somebody know to go to you who can develop those relationships versus trying to find their own agency in each country?
[00:46:45] Evan: Yeah. So there are different ways that you can identify other reputable firms. Those of us who've been in the business a long time, we have a network.
[00:46:53] And so the first thing I would ask if I were looking for a good PR person who doesn't do exactly what I do, but they get, what I do is I would go to other professionals who are in the space. Some of my biggest collaborators people would say are my competitors, but I don't really see it that way. And so I would go to them.
[00:47:12] The other thing is they do have these consortiums where small agencies can band together to join a group where they make referrals and whatnot. I'm not actually a part of, of any of those consortium's at the moment. I've just, it's not something I felt like we needed to do, but that's another way to shorten the learning curve is to engage with a small firm.
[00:47:35] That's a part of this bigger network. And I do think it, it provides a lot of value to some of the members, because if you're a two or three person shop in the U S and you're looking for other really niche, micro boutiques in other locations, that could be a good option or avenue to go down.
[00:47:54] Wendy: That's one thing.
[00:47:55] I hear a lot about those consortium. So there's PR there's marketing, there's legal, there's a CPA and financial firms that have these consortium. So that seems to be very prevalent across industries for, for SMEs to, to form those relationships. So that's good to know. Yeah. And how did you form your relationships with the companies?
[00:48:19] Evan: I asked around and I looked look, I've been very fortunate in my career. Everything has come down to relationships at the end of the day. And you know, I had a a guy I'm involved with an organization called entrepreneurs organization, which helps provide an ecosystem where entrepreneurs are helping one another and really sharing their experiences.
[00:48:39] And in order to lift each other up and be a support network. And we had a guy who was, who was one of our coaches and he said, your network is your net. And it's kind of a quippy easy to understand and even easier to remember phrase that I think holds a lot of value and relationships matter. And the relationships that I formed in my business life and my personal life, it's all kind of this one big tangled, jumbled up mess.
[00:49:07] It's like a ball of yarn that got completely enmeshed. But at this point I never want to untangle it. I actually like it to be all tangled. So I don't spend my time worrying about work-life balance for me. My work-life is my home life. My home life is connected to my work life. It's connected to my family, connected to my friends.
[00:49:26] It's all kind of one in the same, which is how I like it. It's not for everybody. But it's how I like it. And so for me, it's easy to tap into expertise on any topic or anywhere I go. 'cause I've got relationships with people, all the world over and this organization, EO, which is a global organization, which has chapters all across the planet.
[00:49:50] That for me is my, my first stop. So if I'm going to go and we've got a client who needs to do something and in pick somewhere a little bit more obscure, Chad, I'm going to go to EO Africa. And I'm going to ask around at EO Africa for the person. If I need to do something in Singapore, guess what? I don't know anybody in Singapore.
[00:50:11] I don't think I do, but if I tap into the EO network, I bet you, I, I may not know someone in Singapore, but I know someone who knows someone in Singapore, so not more than one person removed from folks anywhere in the world. And I think the internet and the ability then to communicate with those people electronically to do it via email, to do it on a Skype call to do it on WhatsApp.
[00:50:37] You name it? It's it's really incredible. So if anyone's got access to a cellular connection or a wifi connection, You can potentially be in touch with that person. And that's, that's a mind blowing concept. And it's one of the greatest things about the world we live in today. Yes, that's
[00:50:56] Wendy: fantastic. I'm so glad that you brought up EO entrepreneurs organization for listeners who don't know about it.
[00:51:01] It is an organization. You have to have a revenue amount to be able to join. You can go look up entrepreneurs, organization, and it's been a fabulous network. I've I've met people like Evan on there and have made international connections. And this podcast is listened to in over 55 countries now. So if you're in another country, you don't have to be based in the United States to find a local chapter and then participate in more of these global networking opportunities.
[00:51:27] So I'm glad you brought that up. We're running, we're running down on time, but I want to talk about your book that you mentioned. Who did you write this book for? And what's it about?
[00:51:39] Evan: The book is called crisis averted PR strategies to protect your reputation and the bottom line. You can find it. Wherever books are sold, target Barnes and noble, amazon.com.
[00:51:51] Of course, if you like audio books, you can download it on audible and all the other avenues where you can listen to audio books. And the best part about that is I didn't hire a narrator. I read, I was my word, so I wanted to read it myself. So if you, if you go get the book on audible, it'll be like, you're having a knee curled up next to you, reading it to you as you fall asleep at night.
[00:52:12] So, uh, or if you're in your car, it'll be like, I'm right there with you. But the book is about how to protect the single most important asset you have, which is your reputation and how to make sure that you do and say the types of things that will keep you out of trouble in the first place. And if you do find yourself in trouble, I give away tons of information and strategies of how to get yourself out.
[00:52:39] And I wrote the book. For anyone and everyone who could run into an issue or face a tough time in his or her life, which basically means I wrote it for everybody who walks the planet because we're all fallible, we're all in it together. And it was actually a lot of fun to, to write the book. And Wendy, I would say you're, you're probing the ferry artfully for good stories and memorable anecdotes.
[00:53:07] Well, I threw a bunch of some of the juiciest ones into the book. So if you go check out the book, you'll be able to tap into.
[00:53:14] Wendy: Oh, good. Well, yes, I, I appreciate you sharing all these juicy stories because I kind of, I was deciding about whether to go for juicy stories or dig into it's not if, but when, and I decided that the book could answer the, but if not, when, and the juicy stories from you would be really good learning opportunities for us.
[00:53:34] So I appreciate you digging in and sharing what you could cause I've, I've learned a ton. So I always like to ask what's your favorite foreign word?
[00:53:44] Evan: Nice. Favorite foreign word, such a good question. And I have to only pick one now.
[00:53:53] Wendy: Foreign is defined. However you want to define, and if you've got a couple or three or something, you're, you're welcome to share them.
[00:54:00] I'm always
[00:54:01] Evan: interested. So, so I'm a little biased because I've done a lot of work in the middle of. But I'm going to go with the word Salaam, which Salaam is connected. That's the Arabic word connected to the Hebrew word Shalom. And what I love about that word is that it beans. Hello. And it also means goodbye.
[00:54:24] And it also means peace. And to me, that that's an amazing, it's amazing that it could, the three things that are so different. One is greeting someone and getting to know them for the first time or seeing them again, the other is saying farewell to them. And then the third is just wishing them peace and you're wishing them peace with their coming and what they're going.
[00:54:47] And, you know, it's, it's something that I think ties. Linguistically Arabic to Hebrew. And I think we're actually living in a time where conflict between Israel and many of the Arab countries is, is finally, and thankfully coming to an end with a lot of the different countries in recent years, we've seen some amazing strides.
[00:55:08] And I think, you know, governments can have disagreements, they can have policy arguments, but at the end of the day, the more people get to know each other. And the more people understand folks of another culture and they understand that there's so much more that unites us as people than divides us. And to me, the idea of Salaam and Shalom and peace is a, is a good way to think about that.
[00:55:31] Wendy: Isn't that fabulous. I mean, I like, it must be something about working in international, cause our vision, it at Rapport International is connecting people for a peaceful and prosperous world. So I really love Salaam Shalom and the meaning that you explained. Thank you. That was a meaningful one. All right.
[00:55:51] How about a crazy or rewarding cross-cultural experience in work or travel
[00:55:59] Evan: crazy or rewarding cross cultural experience? Hm.
[00:56:05] Wendy: It can be funny. It can be embarrassing. It can make you afraid.
[00:56:10] Evan: Okay. So I'll, I'll make fun of myself cause I'd always prefer to make fun of myself then other people and I don't, I don't mind being the butt of the jokes, so.
[00:56:19] I'm someone who is very interested in learning languages. Although to be honest, I never felt like I had a real ability to learn languages, particularly well. I took Latin in high school. I was a terrible Latin student. My mom made me take it cause she's like, it'll help your sat scores. Okay. That didn't work.
[00:56:36] It didn't really help. My sat. My sat scores were fine, but Latin was not the critical element. And I'm currently studying Spanish. I've got intermediate Spanish. And there was a time where I w I was learning Hebrew and I was, I was studying in the middle east. I'm studying in Israel and traveling to Egypt.
[00:56:55] And I was practicing Hebrew as much as I could, because anytime you're learning a foreign language, you gotta be willing to put yourself out there and worry less about the mistakes and more, just get the experience. And, uh, I said to this woman and, and the verbs that Hebrew are, are masculine and. So it's very specific.
[00:57:16] And I said to this woman yes, I can. I said Lama 10, bead cold,
[00:57:22] Nicole, Eric. And what I meant to say was Lama
[00:57:26] So the difference is middleware it or middleware it. Okay. Do you hear the difference? It's just the placement of two letters. Middleware it, middle haircut. Okay. What I meant to ask her is why are you always late? And instead I said, why are you always ugly
[00:57:46] So, whoops. Thankfully she had a good sense of humor about it. She, she seemed shocked at first. And so of course, when I said it to her, the first time she looked at me and I was like, oh, maybe she didn't hear me. So then I said it again, except louder. It didn't really have the desire to fact. And she looked at me kind of like with the side-eye before the side-eye was the thing.
[00:58:14] And then she corrected me and I understood the horrible GAF that I had just made. It was way worse, by the way, a friend of mine who was also studying in Israel at the time he walked into the supermarket and he asked loudly because he was so proud, he was learning the new language. He asked where is the, he was asking, he meant to ask where's the king, which would have been a foe.
[00:58:35] Ha my law. Instead he said where's he was asking where's the salt. Mala. But instead he asked for the Mela, which is the king. So his, his was embarrassing, but silly mine has got me punched in the face.
[00:58:50] Wendy: I've heard a lot of stories like that with people goofing with language, and it is keeping a sense of humor around it because people know, Hey, at least you're trying my language because that's more important than making the mistakes. But boy, some of them are really funny. So Evan, I've enjoyed this so much and I'm sure people might want to reach out to you.
[00:59:13] Hopefully not in a crisis situation, but more in a PR need what, uh, where can people reach you?
[00:59:20] Evan: You can reach firstname.lastname@example.org. You can reach email@example.com. You can find me on all manners of social media. We're on Twitter, Facebook. I'm on LinkedIn, YouTube, even tick talk now. Although I don't hang out on Tik TOK a whole lot.
[00:59:37] It's more so I can spy on my kids just kidding, but not really make sure that they're posting appropriate things. But if you'd like to send me an email, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. And I do read all my own email and, uh, I answered some of it. So if you send me an email, I might write you back. I probably will.
[00:59:57] If you're nice. Nice.
[00:59:59] Wendy: Yeah. So, so give a nice compliment or tell the, you know, say in the email that you heard them on here and then, then he'll definitely get back to you. Right?
[01:00:08] Evan: I will. And my English is actually flawless. So there's little chance that I will insult you by asking you, you know, why you're so ugly when I meant to ask you why you were so late.
[01:00:19] Wendy: All right. And why don't you just spell your name, your full name and red band. And so people can, can, uh, find you
[01:00:25] Evan: my first name is Evan. E V. My last name is Nierman. N I E R M a N. And the company is red Banyan, B a N Y a N.
[01:00:39] Wendy: Perfect. Thank you so much. I've had a lot of good laughs and this you've been very entertaining, very educational.
[01:00:46] So edutaining is what we, we, uh, reach for on this podcast. Edutaining yes. So thanks so much. If anybody knows somebody who's in a crisis or wants help with global PR Pass this episode, along to them, I, there's a ton of excellent learning here in ways that he's handling cross cultural and cross lingual communications that I'm really impressed with.
[01:01:10] And if you liked this, go ahead and follow the podcast. So that comes up next time. You want to listen to one. We released new episodes every week and you can also go to social media and look for Rapport International where we'll, we will put a one minute or less video clip of Evan and this podcast out there.
[01:01:30] So you can actually see what he looks like. So thanks so much for tuning in and we'll catch you next time.