Name: Brian (Benyamin) Wallace
Industry: Infographics Experts
Headquarters: Cincinnati, Ohio
When my colleague Yossi Krausz suggested I speak to Brian Wallace, head of
NowSourcing, an infographic-focused media company for “Lunchbreak,” he said, “Talk to him, he’s a smart guy.” He was right, and how.
An infographic is defined as a collection of imagery, charts and minimal text that gives an easy-to-understand overview of a topic. Companies can spend tens of thousands of dollars on a single infographic, because it can tell the story of their brand, company, product or organization in a unique way. Unlike a “regular” image, text or video, an infographic tells the story while also presenting facts, data and important information for the consumer.
Enter Brian Wallace and his company NowSourcing. Unlike many websites that provide infographic templates, NowSourcing creates custom infographics. But there is more to it than one might think. Brian has a full team of strategists, data researchers and designers to complete a single infographic.
Brian and his team have created custom infographics for well-known clients such as Google, Adobe, FedEx, Lexus, Microsoft, Skype, Fox News and Twitter to name a few. In addition, NowSourcing’s strategic relationship development enables them to place their clients’ stories on major media outlets such as Forbes, Entrepreneur and Psychology Today.
Brian’s career and life took several winding turns
and is chock-full of inspiration and insightful advice.
“I live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I am as out-of-towner as it gets, but I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Pomona, NY. Pomona was not a Jewish community back then; there were Jews there, but they were not religious.
“My grandmother, a”h, started a jewelry business in lower Manhattan before 47th Street was even a thing. My father took over eventually and ran it until 9/11 killed the business. My mother, a”h, also worked in the family business; she recently passed away.
“I am the elder of two children, and my younger brother is unfortunately severely mentally incapacitated. It was very hard on my family and it made me grow up really quick. I wasn’t religious growing up; we weren’t even ‘High Holiday Jews.’
“Interestingly, though, my high school had many Jews in it, and we had Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur off.
“I went to college at Binghamton University and majored in political science and considered going to law school. I initially wanted to be a lawyer, but I saw that many of my lawyer friends were miserable. I later went on to get advanced business and computer science degrees.
“As a kid, I had an entrepreneurial spirit. I would help my father out at the jewelry exchange in Manhattan, so I got a head start with some business experience. Another one of my early entrepreneurial moments when I was a kid had to do with collecting gaming cards. There were several classic sports cards shops near me, but they weren’t up on the latest trends, what kids were buying. We would buy several boxes of the hottest cards, pick out the ‘hot ones’ and give them to the stores to sell on consignment. We would go from store to store picking up money.
“There are some people who become frum through ahavah. However, there are those who get involved in Yiddishkeit when it’s all fun and singing, but when the ‘fun,’ so to speak, dies down, they find themselves in a tough spot. I’m dumbing it down, but you get what I mean.
“I feel that when someone turns to Hashem from suffering, from yirah, and then recognizes, ‘Wait a minute, Someone holds the key to everything’—then it lasts.
“I will point out that a lot of secular Jews have a concept of being a ‘proud Jew,’ without knowing what that actually means—a subject that has bothered me. I asked family members, what does ‘being a Jew’ mean? You could say that I was always looking. As a young adult, I went to learn in Ohr Somayach Monsey and became close to Rabbi Braun and Rabbi Reich. Along my journey—I am grateful for so many—are a few rabbis who I would specifically like to thank: Rabbi Dovid Winiarz, z”l, Rabbi Chaim Harkavy, and Rabbi Y.Y. Rubenstein. Since our time in Monsey, my family became close to Rav Ephraim Wachsman, and he has been close to us ever since. When my mother passed away, Rebbetzin Wachsman and the rav were there for us in many ways.
“I got married 23 after I met my wife in college. We were both seeking, and we decided to look into Conservative Judaism, as many Jews who are searching do initially. Tragically, our first child passed away a day after being born. As I said, I recently lost my mother, but I cannot compare it to losing my child. It really messed me up; I was dead to the world. Losing our child got us to look more into Yiddishkeit. As a result we slowly became frum. We moved to Binghamton. Later we moved to Monsey to be part of a larger Jewish community. Eventually, we decided that living out of town would be a better fit for our family. At first we lived in Louisville, Kentucky, which once had a thriving Jewish community. These days there are new efforts to reinvigorate the community. Today we live in Cincinnati, Ohio, and due to COVID-19 my company is operating completely remote, so it works.
“My first job out of college was working as a liaison for technology and government relations in a small but wealthy municipality in Westchester County. Next I t went to work for a tech startup that was working on great technology but perhaps was too ahead of the curve.
“I then spent four years working in corporate America at a company called Blyth, a leader in consumer packaged goods, specifically candles and home fragrances. I helped them with their web presence, onboarding new acquisitions and internal technologies. It was a challenging time for me as my son had just passed away. I later moved on, becoming a chief technology officer (CTO) for a small company that operated telecom based technology. They sold their products, and the customer would pay for the product through their phone bill. One of our partners was a frum guy who owned his own company, which really got me thinking. I valued the autonomy that he had in running his own business. Whenever I had to take off for Yomim Tovim and the like, it wasn’t always easy. Although corporate America might be understanding when it comes to the holidays, it’s a difficult balance when you are not making your own schedule in running your own business.
“I decided I wanted to go out on my own and my former company actually became my client. When I began my company, it was the beginning of social media, so we became ‘social media experts’ before it became a well-known industry. This was even before Facebook! I would pitch my services to companies—they thought I was an idiot—but they would call me back within a few weeks. We managed to get quite a few large clients in the early social media days, including John Deere and Rocawear, a popular clothing company.
“I called my company NowSourcing because many people tried to outsource (hire overseas help), and they found it difficult to manage. Since we offered web, media and marketing services in the US, my wife and co-founder came up with that name and it stuck.
“After a while, I came to a stark realization. When you say you are a full-service marketing and branding agency, you’re probably lying. You can’t do all things well; it’s impossible. Today, I am one of 13 members on the Google Small Business Advisory Council, and one of the things I often discuss is the fear of small businesses spending hard-earned money on generic marketing branding agencies.
“I realized that my company was specifically good at three things. We knew how to tell a story, we understood data and stats, and we understood what makes a visual image attractive to the mass consumer. There was a website digg.com, which was ‘the’ site for several years. We managed to get our clients on their home page several times through our creative visuals as well as the relationship I developed with people there.
“I started looking at infographics as something we could specialize in. Over the years, we have represented many well-known companies such as Adobe, Google, Microsoft and National Geographic as well as smaller companies in nearly every industry imaginable, and we have done lots of work for many Jewish non-profits as well. These works went viral. We focused on producing infographics that told the story our client wanted to relate.
“In fact, we created an infographic called ‘The Psychology of Color’ for a local paint company, and we got calls from both Adobe and Google, who wanted to hire us based on that infographic. It is still shared widely to this day.
“Our infographics are constantly seen on many well-known sites, and we don’t pay a single dollar for such placement because it’s editorial coverage.
“NowSourcing was recently recognized by a global ratings agency as being among the top-five content marketing agencies in the world out of nearly 15,000 companies that they track.
“I feel fortunate to be able to help other companies grow in a way that is real and tangible. I can show my clients: This is what you spent, and this is what you gained in return.”
When someone comes to you and says “I want an infographic,” what is the process from start to completion?
The first step is ideation; we need to find the seed of the idea that we want to convey.
We then get our research team involved. They help create the blueprint for what we want the infographic to contain, the emotion, story and data. After the research is done, the design team starts their work. After the infographic is finalized, the final part of our specialty begins: promotion.
I find it absolutely fascinating that you built an entire company around one piece of marketing: the infographic.
It is fascinating. An infographic is its own entity. To us the infographic is similar to fields such as video, podcasts and visual ads. Most people can recall when they saw an infographic that truly stood out to them. It can tell a story in a way that plain text can’t, and it is more memorable than video because the facts are all there to look at again and again.
How do you get someone to notice it, especially in today’s world of zero attention span and quick scrolling?
Great question. On social media sites it may get chopped up, but even that small part will grab someone’s attention. However, its effect is more recognized when someone shares it on social media or blogs about it. Our infographics are most often seen on popular websites and are featured in different publications, which often then share them on their social media. When the infographic becomes the focus and the lead-in of a news or human interest article, it gets noticed.
What qualities do you look for when hiring?
What I’m about to say applies to whether you hire managers or entry-level workers. I ask all potential employees why they choose to want to work at NowSourcing specifically and also to tell us about our company. If they can’t answer those questions, they are not interested in our company. I think entrepreneurs sell themselves short when they hire people who are not interested in their company. If the potential hire didn’t take the few minutes to look into your company, well, that should say enough about them.
What would be the best business advice you can give?
To try to cut out time-wasting activities. We are so busy, yet we waste so much time on things that aren’t productive in a personal and business sense. Sometimes we are obsessed with “being busy,” which stops us from truly being effective for others. Setting aside time for tasks is more productive than doing everything the second it comes to you. You don’t have to answer every email that second on your phone. You can answer so many more if you are at a computer.
Similarly, people feel they need to produce content for the sake of producing content. People post things that have no relevance to others and honestly no relevance to the person posting it as well. I can sometimes go a week or more without posting, especially if I feel it doesn’t add value.
You went completely remote during COVID. Many companies felt it was difficult to communicate with one key employee, let alone the entire team. How did you deal with this new change?
We got rid of all our office leases, and overall it made us stronger. In essence I am a communicator by trade, because that’s what our company does: we communicate messages and ideas. I personally also convey ideas to my clients. COVID and going remote required us to really focus on how we communicate. We use Slack for internal communication, and we use Zoom and Google Hangouts for meetings. Emails are used for new clients or specific requests that are best suited through short email messages. Also, a great rule of thumb is when replying to an email, the shorter the better. Use one to three sentences at most, because it shows that you value the other person’s time.
It’s the daily communication that people find the most difficult.
I agree. On a personal level, I think it’s important to recognize that different people have different communication styles. Some people prefer WhatsApp, others prefer phone calls, still others like email. When you want to communicate with someone on a personal level, you need to use your intuition or outright ask them how they prefer to communicate. I personally like structured and scheduled meetings.
That’s a major key to my business: planning ahead. As much as I like structure and a planned calendar, everything is in Hashem’s hands, and all we can do is do the best we can.
It’s amazing that you are able to get well-known news sites to carry your press releases for your clients.
Thank you! There is a fundamental difference between what people know of as a “press release” and what we do. Most companies write boring press releases about something that most people are not interested in. When we reach out to a site—and when I say “reach out,” it’s because we communicate differently with every single person on every site—we are sending them a story that is catered to their readership. The media wants stories that relate to them, not press releases.
What do you mean when you say you communicate differently with every site?
This goes to what I was saying earlier. If we know that this person likes to communicate via Facebook Messenger, then we communicate that way. Some prefer straight email. Yes, ultimately we need to send an email with the story and the infographic, but the initial communication is via whatever method they prefer. We keep internal databases that list their preferences. We don’t send out mass email blasts and hope someone likes it; we communicate directly with every site every time. If you have a brand, company, organization or product and you want promotion, then find a worthwhile story and pitch that directly. Over time, you develop relationships, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The sites we work with are happy that we provide them with solid content.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make an infographic on their own?
Don’t do it. (Laughs.) There is a fundamental difference between an infographic campaign and a simple graphic. If you want to design a simple graphic and you have graphic design skills, then go ahead and try to study successful infographics to learn how to do so. However, if you want to create an infographic that tells the story of your product, brand or organization then leave that to the professionals.
But if someone either has too small a budget or is starting off on their own, what advice can you give?
Firstly, we work with all budgets. But I would say the key to a successful infographic, and any marketing type image, is the top (header) of the image. It’s sort of like a subject line on an article or an email—all you have is a few seconds to grab that person’s attention, and that line better do the job. The top of an image should also succinctly tell what the person will see in the remainder of the image. It should be attention grabbing. The same psychology goes for ads in a magazine—people look at the top of the ads first and quickly decide, sometimes subconsciously, whether to continue looking at the rest of the ad or flip to the next page.
What is something you feel helps your business that people might find surprising?
I’m the one manning the live chat support on our website. Who better to answer queries on our website than me? When someone wants to chat on our website, I get an alert and I answer it. We once got FedEx as a client through the chat box. I was chatting with someone, and while I was chatting I did some sleuthing and realized that I was talking to someone at FedEx HQ, even though they never mentioned it. I then told him that I’m a big fan of FedEx, and we ended up signing them. People like when you show interest in them.
I also believe that business owners often feel that it is beneath them to speak directly to new prospects; that’s a mistake. Think about this: How did you build your business? Wasn’t it by speaking directly to the consumer? Obviously, having a great sales team is important, but don’t fall into the trap of believing you are too big to speak to anyone.
How do you deal with stressful situations?
The pandemic has shaken up the world, and I think that many people realize now that they are not in control. Hopefully they wake up saying, “Thank G-d, I get to have another day.” But honestly, I woke up that way before COVID. I have the choice for how to spend my time, but it helps knowing there is a higher power.
I do have stressful days, but due to the tough times I have been through in the past, the daily stresses of a job don’t affect me much. As I said, I had a child who passed away, and, as anyone can who has suffered such a loss can tell you, it makes other challenges seem trivial.
I try to slow things down when things are going rough, perhaps take a walk through nature or read a physical book. I stare at computer screens enough, a Kindle is not the same.
In general, I really try to not waste time on things that are really a waste of time, including social media. Ultimately, as I said, we have choices on how we spend our time, but ultimately we are not in control, and knowing that should help one be less stressed about any situation