Flagstaff Communicators

Mike Russell telling his COmmunicators story

Meet & Greet at Collins Pub, March 2012

Recently I was asked to help out with a local organization that I had been a part of a few years back, the Flagstaff Communicators.

I was first introduced to Communicators 10 years ago in its early heyday when it was well above 100 members. My story starts even before I knew it existed. I had begun my first job in the industry of graphic design at a book publisher, Northland Publishing in Flagstaff, Arizona. It was a wonderful job. I was surrounded by the various professionals in the industries I loved: photography, illustration, journalism, design and art directing. All these fields working together producing beautiful books with loads of visual content. I was also introduced to the world of copy-writing, marketing, sales and distribution all within a homelike office in my hometown of Flagstaff, just below the magnificent San Francisco Peaks. I couldn’t have dreamed of anything better. Unfortunately economy and corporate buyouts caused the office to slowly shut down, I was laid off and left to fend as a graphic designer in a small town. My next job was also a publishing house but not as desirable in that the subject matter was not my subject of choice and the software was outdated. The people were not as focused on the visual as they were the bazaar subject matter, which I don’t wish to offend so will leave out. Let’s just say I was isolated in that I was not a “believer” of the subject matter. This is where Communicators came in. I read an ad about the group in a local “rag”, Live Magazine. It was a marketing organization that met monthly for networking with other marketers, photographers, illustrators, writers ect… It sounded familiar to my days at Northland and I was in.

Upon going I was welcomed by local professionals from all the fields and work places that I was trying to get into. It was a great experience, though my boss at the time did not look favorably on the length of my lunch excursions once a month as it was always tough to keep it under an hour. Nevertheless I went regularly and even invited office staff, we were like a secret society, sneaking out to a group of greater ambitions and hope. After 4 years at this job I would move on to a public relations company in town, a job that I felt more confidently about. They actually asked me to get involved with Communicators and my boss at the time invited me to a board meeting, they needed help and I couldn’t say no, so began my board participation. I became the event coordinator, it was a great position as I got to pick the meeting topics and work with the speakers. I learned a great deal about the Who’s Who in Flagstaff.

This job unfortunately didn’t last a year due to one of the owner’s finances so after loosing a second good job I decided to go out on my own and took the freelance plunge. Communicators was there to help me promote my business and meet new clients. Unfortunately I was better at promoting Communicators than I was my own business. Eventually I ended up at my current job working for the City at the Convention & Visitors Bureau, promoting the very city I grew up in. At this point I had been involved at the board level for about 4 years, having served as President the last two I decided to take a break from the group to focus more on my current job at the Flagstaff CVB. The job’s tourism and government components presented a new challenge and I felt it was time to let other community members take the reins of Communicators.

Mike Russell speaking at a luncheon on "How to speak Visual".

Invited to speak at a luncheon on "How to speak Visual".

Where I work now I am surrounded by sales, marketing and public relations professionals who often are not at the office due to the nature of their work. As a graphic designer I feel chained to my desk so I had been looking for ways to get out of the office. Two things occurred over the last couple of years that brought me wanting to come back to Communicators. First was Twitter, when I started growing into a network of online professionals I found myself reminiscing about the old days of Communicators. I began attending tweet-ups on a regular basis to fulfill that need to get out and meet people and even stepped up to help Paula Monthofer, the local tweet-up aficionado, coordinate three tweet-ups while she was on maternity leave. The other thing that happened was my former board member base who had also taken a break from the organization called me out and asked to get together with each other for an old-time lunch. This was a great feeling, to have people I met with on a regular monthly basis want to get back together for no other reason than that we enjoyed each others company. This also brought back the good vibes of Communicators. When finally Star Hunter and Frank Moraga called for help from former Communicators I was quick to say yes and so here I am, once again on board and ready to help build not only a new membership base but also a new channel of my life.

In tweet-ups we use the acronym IRL, meaning “in real life”, as in “I finally met so-and-so at a tweetup IRL”. Communicators is all about the IRL. In today’s world of online networking, webinars and video conferencing we need more than ever to gt out and meet people IRL. If you are reading this and you are from Flagstaff I hope you will give the organization a chance, you truly do get out of it what you put into it. I put ten years in and it helped me every step of the way.



About mikerdzign

Graphic designer/social media addict: CVB tourism design by day, Mac owning freelance business by night. Lover of Flagstaff, AZ. View all posts by mikerdzign

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