Golden evaluation directs better communication

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Pulitzer? Nobel? Oscars? Difficult choices to select winners – and a challenge I had sympathy with as an evaluator for the IABC Gold Quill awards recently, A very hard task – but one that is also fulfilling and fascinating.

It’s a hard task because the standard of all the entries from IABC colleagues is high, fascinating to see the range of challenges and innovative solutions and fulfilling to be able to give feedback – and for the very best: special awards. The programme has now be running for 40 years and attracts entries from 25 plus countries from Argentina to New Zealand.

You may ask why do so many busy communicators take the time and trouble to enter?

For it’s not just a question of putting work samples in the post. Within specific categories like communication management, research and training, entrants complete a detailed form including work plans and work samples. Through this process, they are helped with support and advice from the IABC organisers with the well named Midas Touch.

There’s also information and support for the evaluators such as myself. And note – it is evaluator – not judge. When reviewing the entries, evaluators are expected not only give marks but also comment with the aim of giving not just praise but also constructive evaluation. So every entry is a winner – they all receive invaluable feedback to direct better communication.

Over the years Gold Quill has developed: a recent initiative being two evaluators for each entry. We all have out passions and prejudices and to ensure an objective assessment, each evaluator has a partner. Scores and comments from each are reconciled for the final submission.

Virtual judging

For 2015 I opted to be a virtual judge, working online and my “other half” was Andrey Barannikov, CEO of SNP, a communication agency in Moscow (@spncomms). When it came to reconciling our marks on our eight entries it turned out that we shared similar reactions in the main. There were a few differences – he was tough sometimes and I was tougher on others but overall scores were remarkably similar – which was very reassuring.

This was Andrey’s first experience as an IABC Gold Quill evaluator and he felt impressed by how smart and thorough the evaluation system is: “ It leaves no chance for the judges to make quick decisions, encouraging them to dig into each part of the entry. And that is only fair: it takes much time and effort to craft a strong entry, and the participants’ hard work should get all the attention it deserves”. 

Great planning tool

Like me he felt that working in a duet with another co-evaluator is a good mechanism to check opinions and impartial judgement, plus the pleasure of meeting a fellow colleague to develop a new professional contact.

Andrey also saw another plus: “while evaluating campaigns, I’ve learnt a lot myself. How often do we, in our daily business routine, ask all those questions while developing a communication program? IABC Gold Quill guidelines and score sheets are a great planning tool which I would highly recommend communicators to use in their day-to-day job. It helps structure and systemize your thinking.”

I would love to share some of the most innovative entries with you but all is under wraps until the Gold Quill Gala Awards in San Francisco.

However I did notice one development since evaluating the awards two years ago. Entrants are more aware of the need to establish a baseline against which their communication work can be measured.

Despite this there is still some way to go – the measures are often against their own objectives but there are still lost opportunities to move one step further to link those project aims with the organisational goals and success.

Suseew
Susan Walker ABC, www.commevaluation.com
Connect with Susan on LinkedIn
Follow Susan on Twitter via @Suseew

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