Raffi is considered to be the impulse of DeeM’s creative energy.

Raffi Niziblian, Creative Director of Deem Communications

With a BA in Communications Studies and an MA in Community Economic Development from Montreal’s Concordia University, Raffi offers growth with lots of empathy. At the ripe age of 33, he made the bold move to establish himself with his family in an emerging country, the smallest of the post soviet republics, Armenia: “In many ways, it was a turning point for me, both professionally and personally. I found like-minded friends with whom I share values and vision and a career path that has taken me far across the borders of Armenia”.

Raffi is a natural-born communicator and leader. While engaging with the team, partners, and clients he exudes transparency, authenticity, and clarity and expects the same in return. This is how he motivates the team to think and act in ways that drive tangible, quality results. In Montreal, his community-focused Field Executive position at Scouts Canada allowed him to work with a divers groups. Later, as the Country Coordinator for the Land and Culture Organization, he polished his leadership skills by seeking young volunteers globally to rebuild villages in rural Armenia. He was then hand picked by the CEO of a newly established Telecom to build and lead the Commercial Department. Raffi’s tenure at VivaCell refined his ability to recruit, train and retain a team of 300. Finally, he ventured on starting his own communications company that would, 17 years later, become a brand name in the sector or creative and strategic communications. DeeM CD Raffi Niziblian’s interview with CEO coach and Executive Team Retreat Specialist Jonno White👇

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Life. What I mean is the unexpected turn of events. From natural disasters, to conflicts to economic instability. There is much you can predict and even more than you cannot.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

As far as I can remember, I was delegated to lead. In the classroom, at the youth clubs, in the workplace. To me, it felt like a natural progression. I especially adopted the role within my 16 years of service as a scouts leader. Working not only with the youth, but also their parents, the community leaders, other troop leaders, headquarters and even media. The skills I developed as a volunteer would then become the basis of my career. Today, leadership feels like an instinct, but it is one I nurture by cultivating new information and approaches to adapt to the ever changing world we live in.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I have become an early riser. Possibly it’s an age thing. But I have embraced it as a positive. This is where I have a couple of hours to myself. Sometimes I share them with my wife who joins me for coffee. We talk about our schedules, our pains and achievements. We motivate one another and start the day. As a father of 4 (with 3 of them adults now), I make sure to give at least an hour or so to speak with each of them about their day. It may seem as a chore, in reality, it is a pleasure if you consider it as one of your life priorities. The days are always sporadic from meetings at some government ministry, or an international institution. It is coupled with a business lunch/coffee and then a short conversation with one of the employees. I believe in knowing the team beyond their job titles. Evenings are for entertainment, friends and culture. Yerevan is one of the best places for culinary experience, classical or contemporary music an performances and friends are always available, as the culture requires. I read books less. I listen to more podcasts. I scroll the feed and send reels to my closest friends. I am conscious of the time spent on my social media platforms. I am a gym goer. I am a conscious eater. Health has become a pivotal aspect to my wellbeing. So, I try to sleep at least 7 hours (possible a power nap, if I can catch one).  

4. What’s a recent leadership lesson you’ve learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Nothing is forever. Everything is temporary. Once one accepts this, life in general becomes more beautiful. Over the span of 17 years as the Founder of Deem Communications, I have lived through many ups and downs. Each down (and up) has taught me to think and be different in circumstances. This helps in decision making, in human relations and financial management. The post-covid, and the 2 devastating wars in Armenia in 2020 and 2023 have changed the way society lives. The work force has become more demanding, less productive and capricious. The younger generation have a different outlook on life as we, Generation Xers do. Recently, I have discovered the concept of Generation N (novel) that considers a cross generational segment that is defined as a digital-first group. This has intrigued me. I want to learn more about technology and its impact on behavior. AI and bots have changed us as societies. If we do not learn to adapt and learn to manage and deal with them, then we become obsolete. This is the biggest lesson I have learned in the past couple of years.

5. What’s one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

No Logo by Naomi Klein. In my earlier years, I was captivated by brands and branding. I became an addict and started reading about how they effected customer purchasing behavior and consumer decision making. This phenomena drove me to embark on alternative economic development models that center on the human rather than the product. Today, my communications method is focused on a concept coined by Thomas Coombes, called Hope-based communications. It is the notion of communicating to our audiences on how we want to see the future and build it around collective hope, as it is the only factor that keeps us going. I lead all of my strategic communications and campaigns with this methodology. I also practice it at the workplace with my team and even our partners and suppliers.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Learn to learn. Watch, listen and observe other leaders you admire and respect. Then unlearn what you see to be faulty in your own approach.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

Covid-19. In the early months of 2020, my team and I were working with the EU Delegation to Armenia. We had developed a concept and plan for the Europe Day events to be implemented in May, nation wide. Lockdown was announced in March. 2 months to go before D-day. As the Delegation was to decide to cancel the celebrations, I designed and pitched a concept that was risky (at the time). It comprised of a virtual event that would use online tools to engage the public in an otherwise very unconventional activity. The idea was approved and I took the lead. I had to manage from the screen of my laptop and mobile phone a 10-day long series of activities that involved TV broadcasting, flying air balloons, producing A/V content, managing online discussions, an SM contest and more.This experience was one of the most impactful in that I demonstrated agility and adaptability to a given circumstance. What’s more is that I was able to convince an otherwise more conservative client to take a chance on an innovative idea and approach. It also gave me a crash course on new tech tools that I still use today.                                                                                             Original source