Leveraging Affinity Organizations 💪🏼

Friend Request.

Invitation to Connect.
Follows You.
Like many of you, I am active in social media.
I don’t just use it to pass the time, but also as a tool in managing my career. I engage with persons who can potentially help me enhance my personal brand and advance my professional aspirations. I apply a similar strategy with the organizations I join.

Hall of Fame ceremony, 2016

There’s no better example for me, than the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).
I am a lifetime member (joined in 1995),
the founder of the New Jersey professional chapter (2006),
and president of the national Board (2012-14, 2018-2020) serving a second term (first member to do so).
Needless to say, the NAHJ and I have a strong partnership; one that we have both benefited from.
Here are 3 keys to a successful symbiotic relationship with affinity organizations:

It’s Personal

Don’t join an organization that doesn’t mean something to you. When you join a group, it becomes an extension of who you are.

Joining the NAHJ might seem like a no brainer, but it wasn’t a simple decision. Yes, I became a member because I am Latino and a journalist, but more importantly because I believe in its mission of championing for the fair and accurate treatment of Latinos/Hispanics in newsrooms and in news coverage. I seldom saw myself (a Latino) in stories (and when I did; it was negative) and as a professional, I was often the “only one in the room.”

Producing ESPN’s “One Nación”, first bilingual program simulcast in an English and Spanish network

The NAHJ afforded me with the support I needed to navigate the turbulent politics of homogeneous newsrooms lacking diversity and inclusion. I, in turn, provided the organization with an insider, a member who could evangelize to his coworkers and managers the value of the NAHJ.

Become A Leader

My path to leadership at the NAHJ started with me whining to the then Region 2 Director, Joanna Hernández. A regional director is an elected member of the national Board who represents the interests of the organization to members who reside in the northeast.
At a meeting hosted by Joanna, an arrogant, young Hugo Balta complained about a lack of representation of journalists in New Jersey in leadership positions at the NAHJ. I think I punctuated my pompous wah, wah with a “and what are you going to do about it?” It was within Joanna’s right to lash out and set me straight. After all, I publicly embarrassed her. But, being the level headed professional that she is, she did not. Instead, she asked for my help to right a wrong. She empowered me, maybe also challenged me (a little) to do better for the organization.

Celebrating Joanna Hernandez with the NAHJ President’s Award, 2013

Joanna and the NAHJ taught me that it’s easy to complain from the cheap seats and hard to find solutions on the playing field.
The experience of starting a profesional chapter from concept to execution gave the organization a foundation to recruit new members, produce events year-round and fundraise. It gave me a new set of leadership skills that I applied in the workplace, making me a viable candidate for promotions.

In The Service Of Others

There´s no greater gift than to be in the service of others. For me that’s been as a mentor and sponsor of students, journalists and communications professionals in every stage of their career.

My Abuelita Hortencia taught me that “you only take with you what you give away.” She and her wisdom were on my mind when I started a scholarship in her honor to benefit NAHJ students. I’m grateful to the many family, friends and colleagues who help me fundraise each year in order to help students reach their scholastic goals.

the first 4 recipients: Alex Nieves Natalie Escobar Cristal Miranda Brenda Nieto

I built bridges between my former employer, ESPN, ABC News and NAHJ (as I’ve done with previous employers) in enhancing their investment with NAHJ, including valuable paid internships.

Kim Brenniesen, NAHJ student, ESPN intern 2017

Cynthia Esqueda, NAHJ student, ESPN intern 2018

And certainly now, as a talent coach with the NWT Group, I am leaning on my relationships with NAHJ in providing Spanish language, on-air journalists the much needed representation and strategic career management often enjoyed by their English language counterparts. As a consultant, I also help managers leverage their diversity and experience in sifting through a too often homogeneous workplace in order to reach success.
Most of the proceeds from my work with NWT go to funding the Hortencia Zavala Scholarship (HZS).

Clients of the NWT Group

Since returning to the NAHJ Board this year, many members, colleagues, friends, even strangers have expressed their gratitude for the organization’s renewed advocacy. They are generous with their support of my work, but I’m quick in telling them that it isn’t just me (one person), but an organization (national/local board leaders, members and staff) who is standing up to injustice.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ 35-year mission and work has never been more relevant and necessary than it is now. We are under attack on two fronts, as journalists and Latinos. It is our responsibility, a right under the First Amendment, to hold the powerful accountable, demand better coverage from media companies that too often talk about the Latino community in their programs and articles, but don’t  include us in the conversation.
The work of NAHJ president is no easy task; at times it can be intimidating, but this isn’t a time for cowardice. The NAHJ benefits from me, a proven leader and I from an organization with a solid foundation of representing the fourth estate.

Announcing the first ever NAHJ-NABJ National Conference in 2016, with then NABJ President Bob Butler

I am proud of my relationship with the NAHJ, a partnership of mutual benefit. The organization was crucial in helping me find my voice and I use that voice to help my community of Latinos and journalists.
So, before deciding to join any group, think about not only what’s in it for you, but what’s in it for the organization. Like all relationships, it’s a two way street.

(for more articles like these, visit Straight Talk)

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