We had an interview with the Vice President of Red Banyan, Vlad Drazdovich. Red Banyan is a global crisis communications management and PR firm that helps organizations and individuals navigate high-stakes sensitive situations where their bottom lines, reputations, and even their very livelihoods are threatened. As we understood during the interview, their work isn’t simple and is more nuanced and complex than it might seem.
Vlad described a few of their recent engagements to give us examples and a clear understanding of how Red Banyan assists its clients. It was really impressive to see that Vlad didn’t reveal specific names or brands to protect their client’s privacy. Red Banyan not only assists its clients but also respects their privacy.
One of the engagements Vlad described was with a museum in Florida. Red Banyan helped the museum turn a hateful attack into something positive and ultimately beneficial for the community. The other engagement was about Red Banyan assisting a team of lawyers representing victims of financial fraud to expose the criminal who was in hiding. The media coverage they helped produce generated a tip leading to the criminal’s arrest and a 20-year prison sentence.
According to Vlad, crisis management is not Red Banyan’s only specialization. The company also clients get positive media attention and positions them as leaders in their industries. He further explained how Red Banyan leverages its thought leadership expertise, as well as its deep relationships with local, regional, national, and international news outlets, to generate media opportunities and insert their clients into the news cycle.
Vlad was happy to talk about the expertise of Red Banyan during the interview. He didn’t forget to talk about how he got into the crisis management field and what is to come for Red Banyan as a crisis management firm. Vlad believes that Red Banyan is quickly becoming widely known as a go-to firm for crisis PR.
Vlad, you are the Vice President of Red Banyan, a global crisis communications management and PR firm. What exactly does a global crisis communication management and PR firm do?
As a crisis communications agency, we often help organizations and individuals navigate high-stakes sensitive situations where their bottom lines, reputations, and even their very livelihoods are threatened. In such cases, the Red Banyan team helps clients tell their stories in the most effective ways possible.
However, crisis management is not our only specialization. We also work with numerous clients whose goals are to garner positive media attention and position themselves as leaders in their industries. In those cases, we leverage our thought leadership expertise, as well as our deep relationships with local, regional, national, and international media outlets, to generate media opportunities and insert our clients into the news cycle.
This is perhaps the most simplified way to describe our work. The reality is a lot more nuanced and complex. As a strategic communications firm, we use all the available communications tools to help clients achieve their business goals by delivering the right messages to all relevant stakeholders. We build and bolster their brands, craft perceptions that become reality, influence public opinion, and protect their business interests. This, in turn, requires us to be well versed in a variety of fields, including business, media relations, government, law, and even psychology.
Can you give us an example of a situation Red Banyan manage?
To protect our clients’ privacy, I can’t reveal specific names or brands, but I can tell you a little about a couple of our recent engagements.
After someone spray-painted racially charged imagery on an exterior wall of a Holocaust Museum in Florida, museum officials sought guidance on how to appropriately respond.
Our crisis management experts immediately formulated a PR strategy to turn this hateful act into something positive and ultimately beneficial for the community. First, we ensured that this event was spotlighted by both Jewish and mainstream news media across the country. Then, we helped the Museum organize a “Unite Against Hate” community gathering that was attended by people of various races, religions, and political beliefs. The purpose was to celebrate education and take a stand against ignorance.
Red Banyan’s crisis PR team also helped the Museum secure support from the White House, which sent a powerful letter that was read aloud at the event by the Museum’s executive director. As a result, we helped the Museum use this ugly affair as an opportunity to raise support and donations from a broad cross-section of the community.
On another recent occasion, Red Banyan was engaged by a team of lawyers representing victims of financial fraud. They needed help exposing the wrongdoing of a criminal and pursuing justice for his victims.
Our team conducted press outreach to find additional victims, growing the class action lawsuit from a single victim with claims of $30,000 to dozens of plaintiffs from nearly 50 states claiming $35 million in stolen funds. In the end, the media coverage we produced helped expose the criminal, who was in hiding, and generated a tip leading to his arrest and a 20-year prison sentence.
I am very proud to be able to do this work that not only protects our clients’ reputations, but sometimes also exposes illegal and unethical activity, and helps victims restore justice.
The company expanded in California in July 2022. What was the inspiration for expanding in California?
As a crisis management firm, Red Banyan often works with public figures, including celebrities. Our founder, Evan Nierman, as well as our Senior Vice Presidents Dave Quast and Kelcey Kintner are regularly invited by top national news outlets to comment on some of the biggest debacles in the U.S. show business. From the infamous cases of Jussie Smollet and Erza Miller to Johnny Depp, Will Smith, and Alec Baldwin, if you follow pop-culture news, chances are, you’ve come across Red Banyan’s assessments and commentary in various news media.
So, California has always been an important region for us. Establishing a physical presence there has allowed us to better serve not only our celebrity clients, but also the variety of organizations and technology startups located in the Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and all over the state. Not to mention, we’re saving a small fortune on plane tickets.
Who are the ideal clients for Red Banyan? Is it government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, or someone else?
At Red Banyan, we often say that we have two main types of clients: those who want to get into the press — and those who want to get out.
Over the years, our firm has worked with a number of household names, including companies, non-profits, public figures, politicians, and even presidential candidates. We don’t limit ourselves to any one specific type of a client. I’d say that our ideal client is someone who needs our services and has the means to afford them.
I should note, however, that we also regularly engage in pro-bono work, helping organizations and individuals who really need our help, but don’t necessarily have the means to pay for our services. For me, these are often the most rewarding types of clients to work with.
Can you tell us about Red Banyan’s specialties in the crisis communication management industry?
When it comes to crisis communications specifically, we have extensive experience in managing a wide array of crises scenarios, from product recalls, data breaches, and disgruntled employees, to arrests of senior executives, government investigations, terrorist threats, bet-the-company litigation, and even international armed conflicts.
What we do for each client depends on their specific situation because no two crises are ever the same. For example, a CEO that is being grilled in relation to their company’s recent layoffs may require on-camera interview preparation while a whistleblower exposing their organization’s wrongdoing would benefit from litigation PR support. While the particulars of every crisis will differ, we have enough experience, having handled thousands of different crises, that we know which best practices to bring to every category of crisis, so we are never starting from scratch, and we can make a positive difference for our clients from the moment we take their cases.
In recent years, however, we have mastered a new crisis PR specialty – “cancel culture” defense. The phenomenon of “canceling” a person, a business or a brand because of unpopular remarks or views is a toxic trend that has gained significant momentum in our society and continues to cause a lot of harm to countless businesses and individuals. When these online attacks spiral out of control, crisis PR firms like Red Banyan are called in to help reverse the damage. I can confidently say that Red Banyan is currently one of the nation’s leading firms on crises related to “cancel culture.”
Some people will argue that a crisis management firm wants to suppress the truth before it gets out and put a spin on stories. How would do you dispute these arguments?
Yes, such perceptions exist, but they are incorrect when applied to the best practitioners in the industry, like Red Banyan. Just as in anything else, there will be bad actors who prioritize profit over their conscience. However, this is not how we do business at Red Banyan. In fact, fighting for truth is so important to us that we made it our motto. If you visit our website, you’ll see the words “Press the Truth” displayed prominently on the homepage.
Our experience has shown us that sooner or later, truth always comes out on top. This is why rather than trying to spin a story or peddle half-truths, we find it more effective to lean-in to bad news, take ownership and responsibility for mistakes, rectify mistakes, and, in so doing, regain the confidence and trust of stakeholders.
This simple principle is what drives our crisis communications services, and we help our clients embrace the same approach when we work with them. It allows us to face tough issues head-on and determine the best way possible to handle and direct even the most complicated situations.
Vlad, you graduated from Florida Atlantic University before gaining a Master’s Degree at Harvard. Did you ever think you would work for a crisis management team or were your employment plans and dreams different?
Not at all. In fact, I didn’t even know crisis management firms existed until I started looking for a job in my senior year of college. However, I’ve always been interested in communications, and I was immediately captivated by the challenge of finding the best way to communicate with various stakeholders during a crisis. It’s quite unlike any other profession I can think of. Despite having worked in this industry for the better part of a decade, it still feels new every day. Since no crisis is ever the same, there are always new challenges to solve and new skills to master.
This continued quest for self-development is what prompted me to go to Harvard where I focused on international relations. Geopolitics has been another one of my interests because it combines a variety of disciplines, such as economics, culture, geography, and political science to understand the impact they have on society. Studying international relations has enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of global issues and become better at finding solutions for complex challenges that require a more comprehensive approach.
In July 2022, Red Banyan placed second in International Awards for Communications Excellence. What do awards mean to the firm’s growth and reputation within the industry?
We don’t necessarily rely on awards for growth. Due to the nature of our work, we can rarely talk openly about the success of our engagements. However, we do take pride in the awards we receive. We were very honored to be recognized with the recent Davos Communications Award for crisis management earlier this year. To us, honors like these serve as tokens of recognition and respect among both our peers and independent observers.
Red Banyan has been in business since 2011. It has thrived in a competitive field. What is the future for Red Banyan and yourself at the firm?
Red Banyan is quickly becoming widely known as a go-to firm for crisis PR, and our clientele continues to grow every year. But we don’t just do crisis. We are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to expand and grow our non-crisis portfolio of clients who recognize their return on investment in strategic communications.
As such, we will continue to diversify our service offerings and expand the public relations and marketing side of the business. Some of the new products we have recently launched include first-of-its kind crisis PR prevention training, as well as a general media training program.
We will also continue to grow our offices across all major metro areas of the United States. To sustain this continuous growth and expansion, we are focusing on building our talent pipeline. We are actively searching for professionals with the right mindset and embodiment of our values and skillset. As for myself, I look forward to continuing to grow with the firm, having the privilege of working with some of the most exceptional colleagues one can wish for.
Choose two of your favorite quotes and write them here
There are two quotes that have been very motivating for me over the years. Every time I find myself facing an intimidating challenge or feel like I don’t have the energy to take on a new task, I find strength in these two quotes:
“Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.” – General George S. Patton
“People do not lack strength; they lack will.” – Victor Hugo
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
There are so many things that immediately come to mind: I’d love if humanity rid itself of war, poverty, crime, pollution, etc. But as I think about it, I wouldn’t change anything on a fundamental level.
Simply putting people in an environment where bad things are impossible would not do humanity any good – just like it would not do a child any good if their parents did all their homework for them. To progress as a species, we will have to learn how to overcome our vices and work together to solve the challenges facing humanity on a global scale.
Don’t get me wrong, I want the world to be a better place. But it can only happen when all of us make a conscious effort in that direction without any limits on their inherent rights and freedoms.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I hope you and your readers find this interview informative. And for everyone who is interested in learning more about crisis PR and how companies can navigate difficult situations, I highly recommend a book by Red Banyan Founder Evan Nierman titled Crisis Averted: PR Strategies to Protect Your Reputation and the Bottom Line. It’s available in hardcover and audio formats on Amazon. This book is full of real-world crisis scenarios our team has managed over the years, and it can serve as a great resource for both business owners and industry professionals looking to sharpen their skills at crisis PR.
Learn more about Red Banyan at https://redbanyan.com/