Quick Q&A with Neil Griffiths on Gold Quill

Before we know it the Gold Quill season will be upon us again – and only just earlier today the UK chapter hosted Gold Quill and EMErald winners Gideon Bernto and Mark Birch of BB&A fame with Lindsay Eynon chairing.

Mark and Gideo presented the award-winning work they did with Anne McCormack on a major safety initiative for Anglo American – and it was clear why they netted an award – from planning through execution to the impressive results, this was a solid piece of work indeed.

Now for something like this we’d normally have Neil Griffiths on hand for expert commentary on the wider Gold Quill (and EMErald) process. He co-ordinated the 2011 judging and is professional development lead for Europe & Middle East for 2011-12 … but being a jet-setter, he had a plane to Montréal to catch – yet just prior to boarding I grabbed a quick few minutes with him to get my facts straight around Gold Quill.

Here’s the Q&A:

Gold Quill – What is it?
In short, it’s IABC’s annual awards of excellence for professional communication – so recognition of peers by peers, as all entries are evaluated & critiqued by communicators.

What’s involved?
Essentially, communicators submit their best work from the previous year into one of 27 categories (from writing to social media, from internal comms to strategic comms planning). They create a work plan that details the goal, objectives, tactics and evaluation for the project and then illustrate what they did by including a work sample. The idea is to show how using strategic communication made the difference for a particular organization in the context of the project. The GQ section on iabc.com/gq has great information about the submission requirements (ignore the outdated content).

Then your entry is evaluated by a first panel of judges. In the EME region, it’s a panel of senior communicators (ABCs, previous GQ winners, etc.), who evaluate all entries against IABC’s standard evaluation grid. The rating scale is 1-7 and those with an average score of 5.25 and above go forward for final judging at what’s called the Blue Ribbon panel. This is an international panel of distinguished judges, who then take a second look to determine the overall GQ winners.

At both review stages, entrants are provided with feedback on why their entry received its score. There is an emphasis on learning and improvement in the feedback provided.

Is it worth it?
There are anecdotes galore about how winning a GQ Award has changed people’s careers. For sure, preparing an entry is a lot of work and requires considerable time and effort. But the value of getting professional feedback on your work, using the framework for strategic communications planning to improve your performance and, if your project makes the grade, getting official recognition from an international organization is not to be underestimated.

If you do make it all the way, you are featured in CW magazine, get recognition at World Conference and get to use the GQ winner logo. There’s also a trophy that can take pride of place in your office.

If you don’t win, you’ll receive feedback as to why your entry didn’t make it, and suggestions for how to improve it. After all, it’s a learning experience.

Not sure I get the EMErald Award bit…?
Entrants from the EME region are automatically considered for the regional distinction by virtue of entering GQ. Essentially, anyone who scores 5.0 to 5.24 at the first round of judging receives an Award of Merit; all those who go forward for final panel at the international level (5.25 and above) win an EMErald. The reason we do this is so that the best work from the region is recognized no matter what the outcome at the international level. It gives entrants added standing in their home region and is a way for us to raise the profile of communication best practice in EME.

So, you really don’t have to do anything extra to enter EMErald. Your GQ entry fee goes even further in EME!

To sum it up?
We strongly believe that the GQ framework can strengthen your approach to professional practice. It fosters better comms planning and, if you can get your people on board, demonstrates the strategic value of communications in your organization. Going through the GQ process is an opportunity for professional growth and raises your profile at the regional and international level.

We hope that you go for it! Please keep your eye on the GQ website for this year’s calendar and submission information.

Key links:

  • For the facts on entering: iabc.com/awards/gq/
  • For inspiration from across Europe & Middle East: europe.iabc.com/2011-emerald-winners/

Key contacts:

Neil Griffiths (Europe & Middle East)

Mike Pounsford (United Kingdom)