Going for Gold: Reflections on Gold Quill Award Submission (Part 1 of 3)

Thoughtful leadership and outstanding communications strategies are the two pillars that describe the International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) Gold Quill Award. As professional communicators, that’s something we aspire to, and what better way to learn than to submit your best work for peer adjudication? With the 2011 Gold Quill deadline now behind us, Account Services Coordinator Anila Ahmed (AA), Director of Internal Communications Strategy Tal Henderson (TH), and Internal Communication Strategy Intern Christina Bonner (CB), Livewire’s newest addition, weigh in on the process.

This was the second year that Livewire submitted to Gold Quill and, for the first time, we were able to produce five entries to four different categories participating in all three divisions (Communications Management, Skills & Creative). Influenced by Livewire’s success in the previous year we began to reflect on our hard work over the year, demonstrating our success not only within the parameters of the Award requirements, but also for ourselves.

Sitting down for the first time, post-submission, it became clear that we had gained both confidence in our submissions but also significant learning related both to our internal documentation and award writing process.

Below are some highlights.

What we learned Part 1:

  • Identify Gold Quill-worthy projects early and use the submission template to create a rough draft that can be used later for your entry or as a case study in your workplace
  • Fresh eyes are essential – having completely fresh-eyes review your submission is essential; you won’t believe what isn’t clear or what you’ve repeated.
  • Gold Quill provides a great “stretch assignment” for junior team members and an interesting on-boarding project for new members.


(Excerpts from our conversation)

TH: This was your project Anila, let’s start with that. What was most interesting?

AA: I didn’t do any of the writing, but going back and reading all of the projects I learned about a lot of things that I was never really involved in [around the office]. It was also interesting to see how people come together to build the write-ups and the artworks from a Project Management (PM) perspective. This was the first time I was in charge of management and making sure that things were done on time. That was an interesting learning experience.

TH: How did you find that?

AA: Hard – as we had other projects at the same time. Given that this isn’t a client-facing project it’s hard to make it a priority [for others]. You get that, but at the same time it was on my plate to get out. It was a priority for me but not for my resources.

TH: Christina this was your first time doing anything like this, tell me about it.

CB: It’s interesting coming from an academic background and working with proposals and grants and coming into this setting. For me it was those funny moments during the Gold Quill process that really stood out. When a business spells the word ‘business’ incorrectly, when we are editing and finding the same word many times in a document. Those things are funny and useful.

TH: You’re bringing up my ‘global’ example again aren’t you?

AA: ‘Employees’ and ‘global’.

TH: Global, global, global.

AA: And I think that happens when you have one person doing a lot of the writing. It is hard for them to sit and look at it and pick out those mistakes.

CB: Exactly

TH: After about version 16 you stop reading it at all.

AA: You start relying on others.

TH: Each sentence then becomes the only sentence that describes the whole work. You start thinking of it as “this sentence has to encapsulate the entire project”… and the next one as well. I think Christina found, I swear, 8 instances of the word “global” in one page.

CB: Yes, and those were the ones that I documented.

TH: That does not include the ones you left in.

CB: For you Tal given that this is your second time at this, what would you say is most interesting to you?

TH: Well it was amazing first of all having an official person there to edit and someone running the project because last year I did both of those roles and [last year] I was not primary writer […] One of the interesting things to me was, this time, pressure to win.

[…]

After our initial recap and decompression, we began to launch into what, in our minds, makes a winning award submission.We reflected back on the challenges that we faced and how, as a communications firm, we can continually be working towards being more effective communicators.

[…]

CB: In the end we need to find what part of the event was magical.

AA: I agree, we need to see what each submission screams and then goes from there.

CB: We need to think about what Livewire did? It’s about process…

AA: Going back to process. The fact that Tal rewrote a submission that was initially written by someone involved in the project – you went back and rewrote it. From your point of view that must have been hard.

TH: Interestingly, the person who did the original draft, I don’t know is close enough to this particular audience of the adjudicators.

AA: That’s just it, you know that audience.

TH: But I didn’t know the project (laughter). This was the submission that we certainly learned the most from because it was the most difficult to get out.

… continued in part 2.

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  1. Lois Tupper

    I really enjoyed reading this exchange, especially Anila’s “discreet candor” about project managing a deadline driven project that is not client facing, but is still DEADLINE DRIVEN.

    As I come up the learning curve on how to write these submissions, I have 4 main take-aways: 1) Livewire has a huge advantage in doing post-initative surveys to measure results… trust me, this isn’t the norm amongst internal communications agencies in Toronto; 2) In development, start with the survey results and work backwards, to build a bullet-proof case; 3) don’t be shy about building in the inherent problems in the needs/opportunity or audience sections… makes the results that much more dramatic; 4) have Tal do the final pass from topline strategic.

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