Is there any way to communicate privately/directly with an individual member? I'm aware of Chat but how do I invite someone outside of the context of the comments section?
Contacting individuals outside of chat is not available, by design, despite many requests. Please see
Any way to send a personal message to another user? (answer: nope);
How do I contact other users? (answer: Instant messaging or private messaging is not available);
On the other hand, you may invite a user to chat directly from the user's chat profile.