Graff manages the best of both worlds
The way Christa Graff tells it, she never thought she would choose to leave Deer Valley Resort. Instead, she worked out an alternate route, working for Deer Valley through her new public relations agency, Graff Communications, LLC, allowing herself the ability to focus on her new role as a mother, without abandoning her old family at the resort.
Stepping down from Deer Valley communications manager was a "hard and belabored" decision, according to Graff.
Graff was a mountain host at the resort for three years, was immediately promoted to communications manager, and stayed in the position for nine years. Communications manager was her first job after graduating from the University of Utah with a bachelor of science degree in organizational communication in 1997. She married Steve Graff, the man who told her to be a mountain host in the first place. He continues to be the resort’s ski patrol manager and in the summer, runs the mountain biking program.
When Graff had her first baby, Camden, last April, however, her priorities changed, she says. It wasn’t so much the workload, it was more the flexibility she was seeking: she wanted to see more of her daughter.
"It’s been a dream of mine to own my own public relations business," she explained. "When I had a baby, all my priorities changed so it sped up the decision-making process. In the late fall, I thought about doing my own thing, but it’s hard to leave something you love."
February 1, Erin Grady became communications manager for the resort, while Graff got a business license to begin Graff Public Relations. Her clients already include Talisker Deer Valley, Ski Utah, Flashpoint, LLC, an advertising agency, and the Red Apple School Supply.
During the Olympics this year, she worked for the U.S. Ski Team, to manage the domestic perspective, holding down the home base as they went to Turin, Italy. She also continues to do contract work for Deer Valley for special events including the National Off-road Bicycle Association competitions, once the snow melts.
"Deer Valley is a client, and I’m so grateful," Graff said. "I think it’s a win-win situation for everyone. I know the resort so well."
Graff recalls Coleen Reardon hiring her on as communications manager even before she graduated college. As a Deer Valley mountain host, she learned to pitch stories to the media, by helping to lead tours on the mountain for visiting press, but she thanks Reardon for taking a chance on her in the beginning.
"I was truly in the right place at the right time," says Graff. "This is a resort that has been voted one of the top three ski resorts in North America for six years now. It was a great opportunity."
At Deer Valley, Graff’s responsibilities included pitching stories to the media, including "Town and Country," "Bon Appetite," "Travel and Leisure," and "Forbes," and helping to run World Cup competitions. During the 2002 Olympics, she served as the Olympic Media Sub-Center supervisor for the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, and managed the press office at the resort.
As one of the faces of Deer Valley, Graff traveled throughout the year, especially in the fall and spring, with annual trips to London and New York for Ski Utah, and to various international destinations with the Society of American Travel writers.
Graff has created a niche for herself in her house to designate "office space," so that she can delineate where home begins and work ends. Sometimes the line blurs, she confesses. Instead of one client, she has many, which means a lot more background work. In the future, she hopes the company will grow, but for now, she said, it’s just getting started.
"It’s a big challenge. I knew the Deer Valley product for so long and I knew it so well and now, instead of learning one company, I’m learning many," she explained, adding, "It’s a fun challenge. Every day is exciting and every day is so different."
To contact Graff Public Relations, LLC, call 640-7921 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The agency specializes in tour and travel, restaurant and real estate industries.
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