For the first time for 2020, the IABC Awards Committee will be hosting a week-by-week breakdown of how to create and submit your 2020 Gold Quill Awards entry!  We are calling it “Couch to Gold Quill” entry development program because, just like when you training for a marathon, you’ll be more successful if you do the work a little at a time and build your stamina (entry) week by week.

Visit this page weekly, or visit our discussion thread in the IABC HUB (member’s only) to join the conversation!

Race Day is 9 January 2020 – will you be ready?

3 September – Ed Kamrin, SCMP, Chair, IABC Awards Committee

Hello all,

When I first entered Gold Quill, I started too late. I skimmed the call for entries, quickly realizing I’d never absorb all the information in time. Naturally, I panicked and cursed my fate. And hours before the draft was due to my boss, I cranked one out.

That ill-fated entry didn’t go on to win an award. Looking back at the process, I realized I’d been overconfident. Around the same time, I ran my first marathon, with much better results. And it occurred to me — what if we could break up a Gold Quill entry into a training plan, starting with short sprints and advancing to the tougher challenges?

That’s the idea behind this fall’s “Couch to Gold Quill” plan. Every week or two, we at the IABC Awards Committee will publish a post. We’ll follow the order of sections in the Communication Management divisions, with excursions into Communication Skills.

Like all else at IABC, this will be a team effort. You’ll hear from my amazing committee colleagues — Ritzi Ronquillo, APR; Maureen Healey, ABC; Gabrielle Loring; and Neil Griffiths, ABC, IABC Fellow. They have a lot of awards to their names, not to mention years of experience as evaluators. We’ll also be guided by the wonderful Michele Liston, CMP, IABC’s Awards Manager.

Entries will appear here in The Hub and in the IABC LinkedIn group. You’re all communication professionals, so you know the drill: ask questions, make comments, and share! I welcome your feedback, and I hope you will make this your year to enter Gold Quill – a true rite of passage for our tribe.

10 September – Maureen Healey, Awards Committee Member

This week you’re going to start your Gold Quill Awards entry by getting approval and funding for your submission. See the pricing and deadlines posted on the Gold Quill Awards website at If you’re following along with our ‘Marathon Training Course’ you’ll want to use the regular deadline pricing.

If you don’t have the authority to approve the cost of the entry fee, you can check out our sample justification letter posted on the website. Simply customize it and send it this week to get the approval process started. Find it under Enter/How to Create Your Entry.

In case you need more inspiration: starting the process now will allow you to use any excess year-end funds or will set you up for inclusion in next year’s budget. Either way you can’t submit unless you have approval and funding – this is your homework for this week.

Personally, I’ve worked for employers that wouldn’t pay for the entries for whatever reason. In those cases, I believed enough in the project to both win and be a stepping-stone to my next job, so I paid for the entries myself. And, in some cases, worked on the entry on my own time. I appreciate these aren’t options for everyone. But, if you believe in the quality of your project, you can find a way to get the recognition you deserve.

Good luck! Don’t forget to post any questions here. The Awards Committee is ready with answers and advice. We’re in this marathon with you!

18 September 2019 – Ed Kamrin, SCMP, Chair, IABC Awards Committee

Welcome back to the Gold Quill Awards discussion!

Now that you have submitted for (or maybe even received) approval and funding to submit your next step is to select the campaign(s) you will be entering. Campaigns from the last three years are eligible – as are campaigns previously submitted that did not win.

Think about the campaigns you’ve played a role in developing – you don’t have to have been the project leader to enter a campaign! That campaign that exceeded expectations? How about that campaign where the messaging was spot-on? Consider a Division 4 entry – did your campaign include an event that rocked? How about a social media campaign that got your audience talking?

Didn’t have a million dollar budget? No problem – your campaign will be evaluated not against other campaigns but against an objective excellence rubric.

Don’t think your campaign is “good enough?” Submitting is a great way to get professional feedback across all submission criteria from two experienced communication professionals. So you really can’t lose!

If you are considering submitting a campaign that was created on behalf of a client – you’ll also need to get their permission to submit. Go to for a sample client permission letter that will need to be submitted with your entry.

You’ve got a week – get thinking!


23 September – Maureen Healey, Awards Committee Member

This week your assignment is to select the Division and Category for your submission. You’ll find the list at

A reminder before this step you should have submitted for (or received) approval to enter, attended (or listened to the on-demand replay) of the Entrant Webinar, and identified the campaign(s) you’ll be entering. Good work so far!

We’ve tweaked the categories this year to make it easier to select the most appropriate one. Entries aren’t evaluated against each other, but against an objective evaluation rubric, so don’t worry about your ‘competition’ in a particular category. Not sure which category to enter? Drop us a line and we’ll help.

New This Year for Students: You’ll submit to any of the general categories; there are no separate student categories this year. For the first time we’ll have evaluators with academic experience evaluating all student entries so you’ll get the best possible evaluation and feedback.


30 September – Neil Griffiths, ABC, Chart.PR, IABC Fellow, Awards Committee Member

Welcome to Week 5 of Gold Quill Awards “Marathon Training!”Now the fun really begins – this week we will be crafting the title and description for your entry. While these elements are not going to form part of the score given to your entry, they are crucial elements in paving the way for what’s inside it. The evaluators will see the title and description of your entry as two of the first elements of the entry. Be clear, concise, but also deliberate about what you include. The best examples have punchy, memorable titles and descriptions that summarize the nature of the project, its scope and impact. Note the character limits for each (100 for title; 1500 for description) and plan accordingly. It’s never fun to craft the perfect wording only to have to cut it down!

9 October – Ritzi Villarico-Ronquillo, APR 

Start your work plan:  This section is the crucial start where you build your case and lay the ground work for why the program was done and for what business goal/s it was strategized and carried out. A clear purpose and context defines the perspective (business and communication environment) in which it was implemented and shows how it helped the organization. Some tips: (1) Write the first draft in full detail. Then edit down. Have others read through it and make sure you have a buy-in from your organization on what you are disclosing. (2) Include opportunities that arose. Even in crisis situations, there are opportunities that present itself, sometimes even as long-term advantages. Did it solve a problem, fill a need, use the opportunity to better the organization’s situation? (3) Write simply and crisply. Explain acronyms and local terms, and avoid jargon and staid buzz words. (4) Present both informal and formal research and relevant background information to support the need and the communication strategy chosen. (5) If it is an ongoing program, past results may be included, though these will be only as background information, and will not be part of the Measurement and Evaluation section.


18 October – Neil Griffiths, ABC, Chart.PR, IABC Fellow, Awards Committee Member

This week, we’re contemplating the stakeholder analysis: Effective communication doesn’t occur until the audience receives and understands the message. If the communication planning process does not include a comprehensive understanding of the stakeholders that are impactful to and impacted by the communication activity, it is very unlikely to be successful. Great communication plans include an analysis of audience preferences, attitudes, demographics, psychographics or other characteristics. This all helps to shape objectives, key messages, the tactical approach and ultimately evaluation. Evaluators will be looking for evidence that you have considered the stakeholders that will make the communication activity successful and influence the tactical choices you will describe in the later sections of your entry.


23 October – Ritzi Villarico-Ronquillo, APR


Hello everyone! Today, it’s time to tackle stating the Goals and Objectives. This is a critical part of our entry so the entrant can prove how effective and successful the program was: from a baseline that defined the status before the program was done, to the results because the program was done as an intervention to bring the situation from its current state to its desired state. It will be difficult to state one’s results (and to be scored accordingly) if the objectives were not measurable and not directly related to the business need.

Goals are what the entrant wants to achieve in terms of communication in a broad sense and do not have to be measurable. Objectives are “measurable pre-set targets for success” that have to be SMART in defining the desired effect of the program: Measurable, Realistic, Achievable, Relevant (to the organization or business), and Time-framed.

Outcome-based objectives always score best. These are objectives that measure communication impact on the audience in terms of improved awareness, knowledge, attitude change, and habits or practices.

For Divisions 1,2,3, output-based objectives rate highly. For Division 4, output-based objectives that measure volume like number of visits to websites, may be stated IF the entry is part of a bigger campaign with macro outcome-based objectives. Just make sure though that the entry’s relevance to the organization and its goals are clearly explained.


31 October – Maureen Healey, ABC, Awards Committee Member

The Solution Overview – Don’t Forget Key Messages

You’re into the meat of your awards submission in Section 4: The Solution Overview. Basically, here you want to share insights into how you approached the project, pulling in the communication environment, the business and audience needs and relevant research. This is the ‘why’ of your approach – not the tactics but the strategic thinking. So, think about all the issues you wrestled with, data you reviewed and points of view you considered before deciding to go the route you did. Here’s where you explain the choices you weighed and why you made the decisions you did.

In this section you’re asked to include your key messages for the project. It’s an easy point to miss and you’ll be marked down if you forget it.

BTW: insights into each section and what evaluators are looking for aren’t a secret. You can find them all in the How to Guide for IABC Awards document in the Resources for Entrants section of the website.


5 November – Neil Griffiths, ABC, Chart.PR, IABC Fellow, Awards Committee Member

This week we are looking at the Implementation and Challenges section of the entry. Until this part of your submission, you’ve outlined everything that went into creating the piece of work; now we’re into the description of how you went about execution and the extent to which everything went according to plan. That’s not to say the plan has to work exactly how you intended, but evaluators will want to learn more about how everything was implemented and what you did to maneuver around challenges you encountered. What’s really important about this section of the entry is how you use all of the insight you included in the previous sections and clearly show how it influenced the tactical implementation.

It’s no good having a clear business need, strong audience analysis, robust objectives and tactical outlines, and then make no connection to any of that in your description of the execution phase. Show the evaluators clearly that everything you did in the planning phase influenced the choices you made in implementation.

A big part of this section also looks at how you managed resources (time, money, people, etc.). This section of the evaluation looks at how effectively you utilized the resources at your disposal. Part of how we look at excellence is not just in how well you planned and structured your communications, but also how well you managed them. This must include some reference to the budget – evaluators will be obliged to limit the marks available for this section if you do not include this information. We appreciate that this is sometimes confidential, but you can give a range/ballpark figure and illustrate the rough outline of how resources were allocated. Once again, this is not to unpick who has what kind of budget, but simply to give us an understanding of how well you managed the resources you had available. On a similar note, it is acceptable to have very limited resources and some of the most creative, but challenging projects have been those with very little budget or team behind them. Just help us understand what you had available and explain how you managed. Finally, give us a sense of how you dealt with any challenges you encountered – we don’t expect you to have overcome huge roadblocks, but we do want to see how you worked with any bumps in the road.


14 November – Neil Griffiths, ABC, Chart.PR, IABC Fellow, Awards Committee Member

And here we have it: the measurement and evaluation section of the entry! This is where the magic really happens and you get to show us the impact of your work on the organizations you serve. What evaluators need to see in this section is that measurement of the objectives you set actually occurred and the extent to which you met (or exceeded) those objectives. Without deliberate and appropriate measurement, it is impossible for you, as a communication professional, to demonstrate whether the work you conducted addressed the business need and communication opportunity you identified earlier in your entry.

In many ways this is one of the most critical sections of the entry – without robust and solid measurement, it is impossible to know whether you made the communication count and whether the project truly had the desired impact. Evaluators are looking for a demonstration that you hit the desired outputs, but more crucially the intended outcomes. It goes without saying that if you have weak objectives to start with then measurement will be impacted by that, so a potential approach is to develop this section in tandem with your goals/objectives section. Successful entries sometimes list the objectives with the evaluation/measurement in the form of a table. You also need to back up the claims you make regarding your measurement with evidence (this is often included in the work sample). It also helps evaluators if you can explain how your measures relate to the objectives you set – it might not be immediately obvious, so some context can be quite helpful.


5 December – Maureen Healey, ABC, Awards Committee Member

You’ve completed half of your entry – the hard part – so congrats! Now you need to pull together the work sample.
An insight: evaluators don’t look at the sample until they’ve read the work plan. So, in simplest terms, the material in the sample should match material you’ve described in the plan. For example, if you reference research you did to create the business case for your project, include the research (or a summary) in the sample. If your main target audience was your employees, you should include samples of your campaign targeting that audience specifically in your work sample. If you don’t reference it in the work plan, don’t include it here. Don’t make this a dumping ground for any and all samples.
If you find yourself including samples not referenced directly in the plan, it’s a great chance to go back to the plan and see if a re-write is required. Another tip: You want to make it simple for evaluators to review both parts of your entry. Put references such as “(See Appendix A)” right in the work plan and label the samples accordingly in the same order. There should be a direct line between the plan and sample. The samples should illustrate your story.
Practical stuff: you can include up to 5 of your best samples in each submission. If you really need more, combine some files, although less is more. Just watch the file size.


13 December – Gabrielle Loring, Past Chair IABC Awards Committee

You are in the home stretch! There are only two more items to address: Team Member contact information and the “humble brag/pitch video”!

Item 1: Gather all of the information you need for your team members. This includes a headshot/photo, brief bio, name, email, and basic contact information. You can enter a maximum of seven team members’ information in the entry form. If you have more than seven team members, you’ll need to narrow it down to the seven key team members. If the entrant is a team member, you’ll need to include the entrant information under “Team Member One”. Now is also a good time to reconfirm the Award information you’d like to have printed on the award trophy should you be an award winner.

Item 2: The Video
The video promo is new for the 2020 Gold Quill Awards! Here at IABC we are continuing to try to find new ways to highlight Gold Quill Awards entrants, their teams, and their outstanding work – and this video is your chance to “humble-brag” about your campaign! Make it fun – tell us about your team, your campaign, or your results… any component of your entry that you’d like people to know about! We might use these videos on the Gold Quill Website, or as a part of the Excellence Gala Awards presentation! Show us what you’ve got! If you would rather not submit a video, that’s ok too! The video is an optional component of the entry.


3 January – Ed Kamrin, SCMP, Chair, IABC Awards Committee

And now it’s showtime! The regular entry deadline is 9 January and the late deadline is 23 January.

As we wrap this series of posts, big thank-you to Neil Griffiths, Maureen Healey, Gabi Loring and Ritzi Ronquillo, fellow members of the IABC Awards Committee who contributed posts to this series, and to Michele Liston, IABC’s Awards Manager. We recommend referring back to this thread as you finalize your entries. And don’t forget the webinar at

You’ll find a wealth of resources at

If these resources don’t answer your question, send us an email at

Above all, the best of luck! Entering Gold Quill is a rite of passage for every communication professional, and re-entering it shows your continued commitment to doing world-class work. I can’t wait to see your entries and hope to meet many of you this June in Chicago.