Why are social media posts like the cobbler’s children?

Finding good writing on social media can be like finding the proverbial unicorn.

A guest blog by Joe Diorio

The end of 2019 represents not only the end of another year, but the end of a decade.

That’s prompting no shortage of #grateful type posts on social media. Sadly, there is more than a bit of repetition to all of them, since the posts all start out the same way.

“So grateful for …”
“So happy to see …”
“What a year this has been …”

The problem with this is that if everything reads the same, then nothing may be read at all. The scan and skip nature of reading online material makes it way too easy to gloss over these posts.

It’s not just end-of-year messages, either. After IABC Nashville presented its annual Music City Gold Pen Awards, the avalanche of social media messages about the awards mentioned a lot except what was done to win the awards. Here’s a sample of what showed up in my various social media news feeds:

“Congrats to all of today’s award recipients!”
“We are thrilled to announce …”
“Wow, we are in awe …”
“So proud of you …”

At the risk of making everyone hate me, we are communicators, right? Then why are our social media posts so – what’s the word? – dull? Repetitive? Uncreative?

OK, everyone put down the torches and blunt objects and please read on before sending me a variation of a “WELL, YOU TRY IT” email. Don’t kill the messenger (a variation of that phrase can be traced all the way back to Sophocles in 442 B.C., but I digress). We all know the demand for quick and up-to-the-nanosecond communications is leaving good writing in its wake.

Dull writing is the proverbial kiss of death for marketing communication professionals. A decade after Nicholas Carr asked in The Atlantic asking “Is Google making us stupid?” we seem to be forgetting that the single most important job for us is to communicate.

We get it that you are proud, happy, and thrilled to have won, but go a step further and tell us why. Rather than saying “we are thrilled to announce” how about:

  • “Teamwork and a dedication to the goal of increasing widget sales by 10 percent resulted in our being recognized with a Music City Gold Pen Award.”
  • “A team from our agency and our client who believed we could pull off an event that
    heretofore never took place in Nashville was honored…”
  • “We taught consumers something they never knew before …”

In other words, use social media to tell your followers what you did, how you did it, and why you did it. We all have scores of social media accounts we follow. Identify those nuggets of wisdom that made your communication effort an award winner and lead with that. And along the way omit the needless and, sadly, self-serving words. Everyone should plan their social media posts about their awards as carefully as they plan the communication activities that garnered them said awards.

In 2009 I had the privilege of meeting Ted Sorensen, who wrote so eloquently while chronicling the presidency of John F. Kennedy. He explained the need to communicate clearly and effectively with a brilliant shaggy dog story.

He said a salesman was setting up shop to sell seafood. First pass at a sign: “Fresh Seafood, Fish for Sale.” Well, he thought, who would sell stale fish? So he shortened the sign: “Seafood, Fish for Sale.” Heck, fish ARE seafood, so the word “fish” was dropped. But if he’s selling seafood in a store, then why say it’s “for sale”? The final sign, eloquently and to the point, read, simply, “Seafood.”

And, by the way, I’m confident he was proud, excited, and humbled by the chance to open his store.

Happy new year, and let’s write carefully out there, people. 

Joe Diorio is a Nashville IABC member and a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. You can sign up for his newsletter, “A Few Words About Words,” by visiting his website

Would you like to be a guest blogger?
Email us at iabcnashvilletn@gmail.com

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A Poulet-zer Prized Mascot

A guest blog by Joe Diorio 

Fans of the Nashville Sounds know it’s not unusual to see a very different team on the field from one year to the next. Change is the nature of the game in the minor leagues as players move on to another team, or even to the major leagues.

But since April 17, 2015, one uniform for the Sounds has been consistently worn by the same individual. That would be “Booster the Rooster,” the Nashville hot chicken, who continues to be an integral part of the Sounds’ marketing and outreach efforts.

Booster is a goodwill ambassador for the Sounds, and he can be found at all the Sounds home games. He’s also frequently seen on the road, or on a Metro bus, or downtown on lower Broadway handing out tickets to Sounds home games. He appears at corporate events, charitable events, even the occasional private party. In early June he’s sure to be seen at more than a few events aligned with the CMA Music Festival, Nashville’s celebration of country music.

“Booster is what we like to call a ‘free range chicken’,” explains Buddy Yelton, mascot coordinator for the Sounds. “When he’s not here at the stadium he’s venturing out to downtown, saying hello to people who are out and about on their lunch break. He goes to schools, to the children’s hospital, charity runs and a lot of grass roots appearances, all the while spreading the word about Nashville Sounds baseball.” 

Although closely aligned with Nashville, Booster hasn’t appeared on another thing that’s closely associated with Nashville: he hasn’t been on a pedal tavern – yet. “He’s not against a pedal tavern,” Yelton says. “We just haven’t worked out the scheduling.”

The underlying, heck, the overt message is: Booster is all about fun. “Booster is a big kid. He can hang with the two-year-olds as well as the college kids and adults,” explains Yelton, who knows a thing or two about the team mascot after having been the mascot coordinator for the Sounds for the past 20 years.

Business entities choose many ways to market themselves. Mascots are a popular marketing tool for professional and collegiate sports teams, and Booster has established himself as the feathered face of the Sounds, the Pacific Coast League AAA minor league affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers. 

Booster came about, so the story goes, when the Sounds first moved to First Tennessee Park from Herschel Greer Stadium in 2015. Allegedly a Sounds souvenir baseball was accidentally knocked into a deep fryer containing chicken. “There was an explosion, and the next thing you knew there was Booster,” Yelton says.

The team likes to use social media to engage with fans and get a feel for Booster’s effectiveness. Follow @SoundsBooster on Instagram and Twitter and you can see where Booster will show up when he’s not at the Ballpark. You also can see who’s following him, and who “likes” or retweets his photos.

“It’s real grassroots marketing for us,” Yelton explains. The Sounds take photos of Booster with fans and post them to social media, and the fans often tag Booster in their posts. “It’s a 21st Century way for gauging our effectiveness,” Yelton says.

Yelton admits that while Booster seems immensely popular with fans, he sometimes gets confused with other mascots. When the Sounds play the Memphis Redbirds, for example, the minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, Memphis fans confuse booster for the Cardinals mascot, “Fredbird.” And occasionally, a youngster has thought Booster was Elmo from Sesame Street. 

“We haven’t done any DNA testing to see if Booster has any relationship to the San Diego Chicken, though,” Yelton says, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Booster is available for events. Just tweet him for details.

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Joe Diorio is a Nashville IABC member and a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. You can sign up for his newsletter, “A Few Words About Words,” by visiting his website

Would you like to be a guest blogger?
Email us at iabcnashvilletn@gmail.com

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A Twitterstorm on Twitter about the weather

A guest blog by Joe Diorio

Over a century ago, journalist Charles Dudley Warner* wrote in The Hartford Courant that “everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” Nowadays, meteorologists are doing something about the weather when they talk about it.

Case in point: on December 23, 2015, tornadoes roared across northern Mississippi and middle Tennessee, killing 13 people. As then-WKRN meteorologist Lisa Patton was delivering her report that night she reminded viewers, “I’m using my ‘mom’ voice right now.” Her underlying message was clear: Take what I say seriously.

Patton’s action showed that how we say something is equally important as what we say. And it can come across clearly via the written word. David Drobny, one of three voices behind the NashSevereWx twitter account, demonstrates this regularly in his weather tweets. He also says Patton was “spot on” in her tone of voice on that December evening.

Life-threatening weather events are rare, so many times Drobny will have fun with meteorological terminology by poking fun at his preference for scientific terminology over water-cooler jargon. For example, as a storm headed toward Nashville in January he wrote: “Pro-snow weather terms [include] ‘deformation zone,’ [and] ‘frequent mentions of the ‘dendritic zone’ (impress people by saying ‘DGZ’) … Anti-snow: ‘dry slot,’ ‘dry air monster,’ ‘the low went north’.” He quickly followed up by adding “we cannot be close friends if you like ‘freezing rain’ [or] ‘ice storm’.”

With freezing rain and ice possible, but increasingly unlikely, on the weekend of January 19 and 20, someone tweeted their relief that their drive via I-65 to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center was clear. Will Minkoff, another one of the @NashSevereWx authors, responded “We could all use some culture.”

While Nashville was in the grip of an unusually bad cold spell, NashSevereWx tweeted “26 degrees at the airport. Colder in the hollers.” The tweet was accompanied by an image of John Travolta from the movie “Pulp Fiction,” photoshopped to show him in a large snow drift and holding a snow shovel.

That same day he posted a poll on Twitter, asking readers if bridges and overpasses – which we all know freeze first – are the same thing. Fifty-eight percent of the nearly 400 votes cast over a 60-minute period said they were different. The technical difference does not matter. “The point is they are both elevated and therefore cool off faster,” Drobny says. He was not setting transportation policy. He was driving home the point that drivers should be wary of slick bridges and overpasses.

(FWIW, Dictionary.com says “overpass” – the noun – is a road crossing over something, whereas “overpass” – the verb – means to pass over or traverse a region or space. It also defines “bridge” as a structure passing over something. Let the arguing begin. Break out your Venn Diagrams!)

Drobny’s tweets are indeed humorous, but they all have a bit of weather education included. (BTW, since I didn’t say so earlier, “dendritic” means having a branched form resembling a tree. A good term for a growing weather front, methinks.)

“I try to be humorous,” Drobny explains. “People need to see a lighter tone when I am not concerned, then when I am concerned, and the jokes and good humor evaporate, hopefully people understand the gravity of the situation.”

Drobny started NashSevereWx in 2010. “Friends were contacting me during severe weather wanting to know conditions where I lived (he’s in Williamson County) or worked (downtown Nashville). Weather data and software that had been only for the NWS and local TV meteorologists recently had become available to the weather nerd community. I snatched it up. I was equipped to follow storms myself. Friends were pestering me for information, and I wanted to give to them. Turned out it was easier to put it out there for them on Twitter rather than take multiple phone calls and reply to several text messages.” The Twitter handle gained followers at a rapid pace and Drobny realized he’d need help managing it.

Drobny is an attorney by day. NashSevereWx is something he and two friends –Andrew Leeper and the aforementioned Will Minkoff– run as a hobby, but the hyper-local nature of its weather reporting (it covers only Davidson and Williamson counties in Tennessee) has grown its Twitter presence to over 158,000 followers. Nowadays they have a media partnership with the National Weather Service in Nashville to add more specificity to their tweets.

“Most of what you see on Twitter is me,” Drobny said. “Andrew and Will also tweet, but their primary responsibilities concern other parts of our operation.”

The gang at NashSevereWX may not have a “mom” voice, but they do manage to leverage language to entertain and get their point across.

*Yes, it was Warner, not Mark Twain. Go look it up.

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Joe Diorio is a Nashville IABC member and a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader. You can sign up for his newsletter, “A Few Words About Words,” by visiting his website.

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