Studio City was bubbling with ambition as ColorComm LA hosted the CBS LA Summer Reception at CBS Studio Center with top Network Executives, earlier this week.  Panelists included, Norma Provencio Pichardo (Executive Director, Television Academy Foundation), Karen Horne (Senior Vice President, Programming Talent Development, NBC Universal), Sara Kantathavorn (Head of Celebrity Relations Awesomeness) and Moderator, Tiffany Smith-Anoa’i (Executive Vice President, Diversity, Inclusion & Communications, CBS Entertainment).

Various tastemakers and creatives of color gathered around the quaint and posh Carla’s Cafe Ballroom as we mingled over hors d’oeuvres and wine. As the setting sun peaked through the windows, ColorComm representatives corralled us toward the seating area so we could begin what would turn out to be an enriching evening.

[bctt tweet=”“Find what makes you special and make the best of that opportunity.” – Karen Horne #ColorCommLA ” username=”HBR_Media”]

From the jump, Tiffany made us all feel right at home, initiating the evening with, “I want this to be as if we’re conversing in a living room,” urging us to jump in with questions and comments, rather than relying on the standard Q&A session at the end of the panel.  First, the ladies regaled us with their respective stories, all coming from different backgrounds (from the traditional to the non-traditional, and everything in between), yet sharing one significant thing in common: persistence (but, not peskiness).  Each panelist made sure to keep a healthy balance of level-headed uplifting, urging us to remain relentless in our pursuits – and reminded us that, “no” can simply mean, “not right now.”

[bctt tweet=”“Don’t block a yes in fear of a no.” – @TSmithAnoai #ColorCommLA ” username=”HBR_Media”]

[bctt tweet=”“You’d be surprised how many times someone will say YES if you ask.” – @TSmithAnoai #ColorCommLA ” username=”HBR_Media”]

Of course, the most popular topic du jour was the dreaded N-word — that’s right — networking. The audience murmured with a hint of incredulity and cynicism underneath their laughs, at the mere sound of the word.  Networking is an oft-mystical concept, and no one really knows how to perfectly navigate it.  The panelists all agreed; however, they noted that networking’s biggest secret to success consists of several things:

  1. Creating and maintaining organic give-and-take relationships.
  2. Standing out from the crowd (there was a great tip about sending snail mail and handwritten follow-ups amongst the sea of digital).
  3. Persistent follow-through, and the implementation of effective research.

[bctt tweet=”“It’s not just about finding relationships, it’s about keeping them.” – @SaraKantathavor #ColorCommLA ” username=”HBR_Media”]

These key components are non-negotiable when it comes to securing a long-term mentor or sponsor in the industry.

The conversation then evolved into the nitty-gritty: navigating micro-aggressions in a White-Male-dominated industry.  One woman in the audience asked about facing racially-charged comments within the workplace and how to best handle them.  Norma immediately chose the weapon of humor, biting back with enough snark where you come across calm and collected, all while the point hits home.  Sara and Karen echoed these thoughts, reiterating how important it was to “know your worth.” Getting far in this industry — especially as a woman of color — heavily relies on self-worth. The overarching theme was, “there is a reason you’re in the room.”

[bctt tweet=”“Be creative in your approach so that you can stand out in the crowd.” – Norma Provencio Pichardo #ColorCommLA ” username=”HBR_Media”]

[bctt tweet=”“You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” – @TSmithAnoai #ColorCommLA ” username=”HBR_Media”]

The evening closed with a general chat about marketing and branding oneself. In the past few years leading up to today, the media/film/tv industry has become a sort of a “seller’s market.” Each woman on the panel stressed to use social media to our advantage.  More often than not, the same people we were looking to meet… are looking for us.  If they are looking, we have to have something for them to find.  Tiffany encourages us to stay curious and open, communicating with not just colleagues and higher-level senior execs, but all the way down to the security guard, as this industry is essentially held up by relationships.

[bctt tweet=”“Don’t wait for permission to do what you want.” – @TSmithAnoai #ColorCommLA ” username=”HBR_Media”]

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Tonja Renée Stidhum is a screenwriter/director with cheeks you want to pinch... but don't (unless she wants you to). She is made of sugar and spice and everything rice... with the uncanny ability to make a Disney/Pixar reference in the same sentence as a double entendre.

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