I’ve written before on why I enter the annual Gold Quill awards presented by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and other professional reward programmes. Every year, I am amazed at how much I learn from reviewing and writing up the case studies we submit. This year, I enjoyed it even more because I had my client, mentor and friend, Louise de Klerk, by my side. We spent 6 hours reviewing the decisions we had made over a three-year period. We saw the flaws in the project – not all the ideas had panned out as we thought they would. But we were equally astounded at how much we have achieved. Entering an award provides one with the valuable opportunity to review with purpose.

Beyond the elation of receiving the news that you are a winner, and beyond the opportunity to travel to New York and spend an evening of recognition with peers, fellows and icons you admire, beyond the horizon of the obvious, lies a true treasure trove of communication wisdom -if only you dare to look.

This year, I was in the fortunate position to view the Gold Quill box from a number of different angles.

  • I had a pre-view seat. The IABC launched a new Gold Quill process in 2013, and a lot of preparation went into the programme before it ran. I was part of the committee that discussed, evaluated and gave input into the changes that were implemented this year, including the electronic submission platform, the reviewed evaluation criteria, the formal training of evaluators and the expansion of Blue Ribbon panels to include regions outside the USA.
  • I was a participant. I experienced all the emotions – both positive and negative – my clients must experience when we do a communication audit. Looking at your work through a magnifying glass takes courage. This was a firm reminder to treat my clients with empathy during the research process. But it is always worth the effort because you learn so much about your work in hindsight. What stood out for me were the gut-feel decisions that  had yielded so many results.
  • I was an evaluator. The opportunity to host a Blue Ribbon panel in Africa was implemented by Dr Amanda-Hamilton Atwell during April. I relished the opportunity to be part of the action  and found the training to be invaluable. To review the entries is a learning opportunity that words can’t really describe. The innovation, quality, measurability, results and inspiration that came out of the process of evaluating entries for 2 days were truly priceless!
  • Being a winner. Nobody likes losing, but as we discovered in the evaluation training, this is not about winning or losing, as much as it is about learning from peers. I enjoyed the news that I had won, but really studied the feedback sheet and appreciate the evaluators’ feedback. Here’s my favourite quote from the judges: “This is a stunning example of how best-practice communication can be used for social and economic betterment in communities… this is one of the best projects I have had the pleasure to evaluate, ever.”
  • Being recognised as the best of the best. This year, our entry was judged one of the six best of the best entries. We also received the honour to be the best project from the African region. While in New York, I had a conversation with a fellow South Africanin a hotel check-in line. He was there to decide whether or not to enrol at the New York University for an engineering degree. I was happy to tell him he should really consider local universities, and enjoyed the surprise on both his and his father’s faces when I explained why I was in New York. South Africa is a beautiful country. It is my home and it is good. There are some faults, but talk to any New Yorker, and they’ll be quick to point out the negatives of their home town and country as well. South Africans, and especially South African communicators, don’t have to stand back for anyone in the world. We have what it takes to make it anywhere, and we don’t have to go anywhere to prove it.
  • A note to all the multi-nationals in South Africa that hire talent from the UK (such consultants sat next to me at dinner): we are the best of the best… maybe you should start looking on your own front stoep!

To read the full case study, click here. You can also read more about the Gold Quills on the IABC website www.iabc.com

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