A look back: IABC Nashville in 2020

An edited and abridged version of this article “IABC World Tour of IABC Chapters: Nashville” was published in the December 22, 2020 issue of The Bulletin, IABC’s weekly newsletter. 

Based in the heart of “Music City,” IABC Nashville is a small – but mighty – chapter that has been accomplishing impressive things, despite the global pandemic this year. Our chapter has showcased that we can accomplish anything, irrespective of our size or circumstances. Our members are diverse, representing an array of industries and backgrounds – from health care companies, public relations agencies, marketing firms, public and private corporations, government, universities, and nonprofit organizations.

Before we entered the “new normal” of Zoom meetings and virtual events, communications professionals could attend our in-person IABC Nashville events and experience true southern hospitality at its finest – something in which IABC Nashville takes great pride. Whether attending in-person or virtual, communicators can continue to make authentic and genuine connections at IABC Nashville events (and you never know, you may even meet a talented musician or songwriter there!)

Our chapter – like many others – had to shift to all virtual events in the early spring of this year, but that didn’t stop us from continuing to offer valuable networking and professional development events just like we normally would. In fact, we embraced the opportunity that virtual events provide to collaborate with others, and reach and support more people in the communications industry.

Here’s a brief recap of some of the remarkable work that IABC Nashville has accomplished this year:

Making the most of virtual reality:

  • We made a seemingly seamless pivot from 100% in-person to 100% virtual meetings and events, overcoming the challenges that accompany a change of this magnitude – like setting up a Zoom account and learning how to use it! Following two successful in-person events in January and February, our chapter hosted twelve successful online-only events this year.
  • Our July professional development workshop, “Write to Win: Mastering the Art of Award Submission Writing,” featured regional IABC awards program leaders as guest presenters, with over 130 attendees from all over the world who learned about award entry best practices. A special thanks to the IABC Southern RegionIABC AtlantaKansas City IABC, and IABC South Carolina for their collaboration and support in making this event happen.
  • In November, we broadcasted our 2020 Music City Gold Pen Awards on Facebook Live. A total of 36 awards were presented during the broadcast which was hosted by emcee Danielle Breezy, Chief Meteorologist from WKRN-TV Nashville News 2, and featured special guest singer-songwriter and American Idol semi-finalist Sarah Lake (because #MusicCity). In addition to the communications award entries, we also recognized individuals contributing to our chapter and the communications profession with our 2020 IABC Nashville Leadership Awards. This was our chapter’s first ever virtual awards program, and it was a huge success!

Using social media as a powerful tool:

  • IABC Nashville saw impressive social media growth this year, which allowed us to maintain an online connection with our members during this time of social distancing. Overall, we saw a 14% increase in Facebook followers, a 21% increase in LinkedIn followers, and a 10% increase in Twitter followers. Additionally, we reached almost 4,000 people on a single post: our virtual 2020 Music City Gold Pen Awards ceremony! We also saw increased engagement on Twitter when we started live tweeting during our professional development events. If you aren’t already, follow IABC Nashville on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter

Retaining a commitment to diversity and inclusion:

  • After the unjust murders and social injustices that have been taking place in our world, IABC Nashville reaffirmed our commitment to supporting and encouraging diversity, equity, and inclusion in the regional and global communication community. Our chapter promptly developed a statement that was used by the global IABC community as well. Read the chapter’s full statement.
  • Our chapter hosted discussions with experts on critical topics such as gender identity/parity and diversity and inclusion strategy. In August, we facilitated a panel discussion titled “Talk the Talk AND Walk the Walk” where local experts shared their insights on strategic ways to create a corporate culture of diversity and inclusion – whether you’re a small business or large company. 

Seeing steady and increasing growth:

  • Despite the difficult economic situation of 2020, IABC Nashville was still able to see growth this year by recruiting new members. In fact, we were proud to be awarded with the Small Chapter Growth and Small Chapter Retention awards as part of the international October Member Month campaign.

IABC Nashville is rightly proud of what we have achieved this year and are looking forward to the future ahead. We look to continue to grow our chapter membership in 2021, and we are excited to continue engaging members, partnering with our IABC colleagues, and trying new things.

As a famous Nashvillian herself, Dolly Parton once said, “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try!”

On behalf of the IABC Nashville executive board of directors, we wish you a safe and happy new year. See you in 2021! 

A Season of Gratitude and Reflection

By Mollye Dietrich, 2020 IABC Nashville President
It’s hard to believe that we have a little over a month left of 2020! With everything that has happened over the past months, it is easy to become jaded and not find gratitude this year. Confusion, loss, and sacrifice: we have all made adjustments to this “new normal” of a global pandemic world. Like many of you, this year has taken a toll on me and has been a test on my patience and optimism. As we approach the “Season of Gratitude” with Thanksgiving and the holidays approaching, I have reflected on the “little victories” of this year I have experienced that maybe you have as well.

Here are my Top 8 Things I’m grateful for in 2020:

1) Outdoor Walks: Going on long nature walks has been a saving grace for me during these times of the pandemic. Stepping away from my computer and iPhone to get some fresh air has given me clarity and gratitude for living in the present moment. 

2) Family Bonding: I am very blessed to be a Nashville native and have my parents, brother, and sister-in-law, plus my nieces nearby to lean on during this time. I’ve enjoyed more quality time with them than I have in the past few years, plus I have found an even deeper sense of gratitude for them.

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That’s a Wrap on the 2020 Music City Gold Pen Awards!

Thank you for joining us in recognizing business communicators from across Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky for their professional achievements and brand campaigns.

About the Event

IABC Nashville broadcasted the 2020 Music City Gold Pen Awards on November 2 on Facebook Live. Danielle Breezy, Chief Meteorologist from WKRN-TV Nashville News 2, served as emcee, and singer-songwriter and American Idol semi-finalist Sarah Lake was the musical guest. A total of 36 awards were presented in categories ranging from change communications to nonprofit campaigns. Photos from the awards celebration are posted here.

From Our President 

“It is an honor for our chapter to recognize these communications professionals for their outstanding work and campaigns,” said Mollye Dietrich, IABC Nashville president. “From internal communications teams to public relations agencies, this year’s group of winners displayed the very best in business communications throughout Middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky and are paving the way for our region to be recognized as one of the nation’s top locations to be a communications professional.” 

Congratulations To Our Award Winners! 

The award winners represented a range of industries, including strategic communications, public relations, non-profit, marketing, media relations, healthcare, and more. The teams at GSH Media and Keycom both took home numerous awards for their work in media relations, nonprofit campaigns, publications, audio/visual, social media programs, and special events. Words By Joe Diorio received the Best of Show award for the writing entry “A Few Words About Words” receiving the highest score out of all submissions. This year’s award winners and categories include:

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A message from IABC Nashville: COVID-19

As many of you are aware, President Trump declared a national state of emergency over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak last week, and the CDC issued guidance on in-person gatherings, including a recommendation of social distancing of groups of 10 or more. The number of people affected is rising fast and has begun to impact those in our region. The IABC Nashville Board of Directors is actively monitoring the situation with the health and safety of our communications tribe as our top priority. As a result, the following actions are being taken:

  • Effective immediately, all in-person IABC Nashville networking events, professional development luncheons, and the 2020 Music City Gold Pen Awards will be postponed until further notice. The threat of COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation and one that we must take seriously. Our Board of Directors will continue to monitor the situation and will rely on guidance from federal, state, local governments, and the CDC.
  • We live in a digital age and now is the time to embrace the technology that we utilize in our day-to-day lives. Our Board of Directors will be strategizing on ways we can potentially offer professional development opportunities to our members digitally. For the latest updates on these developments, be sure to check our website and social media channels, including Facebook and LinkedIn. In the meantime, we recommend visiting the IABC Academy website offering excellent online training programs and courses on various topics.
  • Several of you have already registered for events in March and April. As previously stated, all proceeds from our networking mixer that was to be held on March 12 will be donated to the Community Foundation of Middle TN to help with Nashville tornado relief efforts. IABC Nashville will provide a full refund or a credit toward any other IABC Nashville event that you may have already registered for. We understand the importance of in-person meetings, but we must be vigilant in doing everything we can to mitigate the risk associated with COVID-19 – and that means keeping our community safe.

This is a challenging time for our city, our nation, and our world but we are #NashvilleStrong and will get through this together. Please continue to take care of yourselves and take care of each other. We look forward to networking with you in person soon. If you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email

Warmest Regards,

Mollye Dietrich
2020 IABC Nashville President

It’s all in the details: Five tips for a successful event

By Kellie Davie, APR
Vice President of Awards, IABC Nashville

Business communicators are often tasked to plan and execute the “tactic of all tactics,” a special event. It could be organizing a conference, hosting and running an awards reception, or an event that draws in hundreds of people. Whatever the subject, special events are an effective way to reach audiences in-person and in real-time.

They also can be a bear to run.

Throughout my eleven-plus years in communications, I have helped or took the lead to plan and implement dozens of special events: hotel and restaurant grand openings, trade shows, a week-long fashion show, professional development luncheons, and most recently the Music City Yoga Festival – an annual fundraiser benefiting local wellness nonprofit Small World Yoga attended by several hundred yoga enthusiasts and affiliated exhibitors. Each event has varied in budget size and audience demographics, but the formula for executing them remains the same: it’s all in the details.

Above: Music City Yoga Festival

Being a detail-oriented individual is vital in becoming a successful and respected professional in any field, but it is critical in that of business communications. The ultimate test of this skill comes when implementing a special event for your organization. Here are my five tips in planning and executing a successful event:

Develop a Structured Plan

Like any marketing communications campaign, events need to be structured with intent and purpose, not created on a whim. When developing an event for your organization, consider the following outline:

Goals: Does this event help to advance the mission of your organization, and will it bring back a strong return on investment from execution?
Objectives: Develop SMART objectives: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time specific. Are your objectives designed to change audience behaviors and perceptions of your organization, or are you trying to raise general awareness or a product, service, or client? Strategies: How will you go about reaching these SMART objectives and accomplishing the event you are planning?
Tactics and Tools: What are the communication channels and tools you will need to not only get the message out about your event but to execute it with quality, on-brand and on message?

Above: Ribbon-cutting for the Omni Nashville Hotel

Create Detailed Timetables

A successful event is 1,000 things happening on time and in order. A timetable makes that happen. Use every tool available to develop timetables to collaborate with your event team. Google Sheets, Trello, and Basecamp are three tech tool that help keep everyone on the same page. While every organization varies when it comes to its planning processes, there are some standard documents you should make when planning any event:

Timetable: A detailed timetable of what is happening and when is critical in the event planning process to ensure details are not missed. I like creating these in a Gantt chart format that illustrates a project timetable to make it reader-friendly for various teams.
Task List and Affiliated Task Ownership: Task lists can help everyone understand their responsibilities. They also facilitate clear and consistent internal communications to remain clear and consistent.
Run of Show (ROS): Put simply, this is a document that shows what happens when. A Run of Show is essential for speakers/presenters, production teams, and all internal stakeholders involved to know how the event program will run and the specific times each transition occurs. And they cannot be too detailed. David Green, host of NPR’s “Morning Edition,” has a ROS that even includes scripted lines such as “Good morning, I’m David Green.” A good ROS leaves nothing to chance.

*    BONUS: It is also helpful to become familiar with other event planning documents including Banquet Event Orders (BEOs) for catering setup, stage plots for audio/visual teams, and detailed scripts for speakers.

Above: Nashville Fashion Week

Know Thy Budget

This sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how often I have seen budgets thrown into disarray when someone gets a little too excited about décor, entertainment, or gourmet food and beverages. Good communication is the key to successful budgeting. Consider the following to help you plan a budget savvy event:

Everyone Must Understand the Budget Limitations: Work closely with your organization’s accounting department to understand how much money is allocated for the event and keep track of all revenues and expenses by creating and updating an event income statement. Trust me; your accounting manager will love and thank you for doing this.
Consider Sponsorships: Are you planning an event on a shoestring budget? Consider reaching out to like-minded brands on sponsorship opportunities. Not only will sponsorships help offset additional costs, but sponsors can help spread the word about your event by sharing it across their communication channels. A “win, win” if you ask me!

Communication is Key

This goes without saying in our profession, but healthy communication practices are critical when planning any event. Everyone involved with your event, whether its attendees, production teams, or sponsors, should be kept informed with the latest updates on what is happening and when. Make sure you are keeping the following in mind to streamline communications with your event planning:

Accuracy: Are all your promotional materials and communication channels (i.e., websites, social media handles, news releases, and e-newsletters) for the event accurate with dates/times, location, presenters, and registration details?
Clarity: Are your event materials easy to read and understand for both internal and external audiences? Does your event messaging and programming reflect the objectives you are trying to achieve?
Team Meetings and Updates: Be sure that all who are involved with implementing the event are continuously updated throughout the planning process leading up to the big day. Schedule regular meetings to review timetables, get status updates on tasks and troubleshoot any possible concerns. Meeting in-person or over the phone goes a long way, plus it ensures communication details don’t get lost in email chains.

Above: Good planning leads to things like IABC Awards

 Be Kind

Deadlines, ticket sales, catering and managing a timetable and a budget is stressful and can represent high-stakes tactics for an organization. It’s stressful and can bring out the worst in people, so it is essential to maintain professionalism and show gratitude to those who are involved. As the saying goes, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” so remember to be kind and respectful to others throughout the planning process.

Keep Your Cool: Murphy’s Law is real; anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Be prepared to go straight into problem-solving mode if a speaker fails to show or a delivery isn’t made and find solutions to work around any event issues. You are in control of your work and emotions, so do not let a setback cause damage to your reputation post-event.
Maintain Professionalism: You may be the only one keeping your cool when a problem occurs. That’s where your problem-solving mode can be beneficial. Astronauts and scientists at NASA always expected someone to go wrong during a space flight (and something almost always did). The key is to work the problem and you do that by remaining professional. Expect to isolate that lone wolf who does lose their cool; they aren’t solving the problem(s).
Show Gratitude: Everyone involved with planning the event is putting in extra time to make it a success. Be sure to keep your teams motivated by continuing to thank them and give praise on excellent accomplishments. A genuine “thank you” or “great job” goes a long way with team members and volunteers.

At the end of the day, producing a successful event is all about creating a memorable experience and helping your organization reach its goals. By keeping these tips in mind the next time you plan an event will help you to strengthen your professional development and bring even more value to those you serve.

While we are on the subject of events

 Are you interested in sharpening your event management skills? We are looking for volunteers to serve on our IABC Nashville Music City Gold Pen Awards Committee. The Music City Gold Pen Awards is an annual celebration taking place in late August/early September that recognizes Middle Tennessee professionals who exemplify excellence in strategic business communications, management skills, thought leadership, and creativity. Opportunities to get involved with the committee include judging, marketing communications, event logistics, and sponsorship outreach. Please email kdavie@keycompr.com by Friday, March 20, if interested and available.


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