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Going for Gold (Part 2 of 3)

In this second of a three-part interview series, we continue reflecting on our experience preparing our 2011 IABC Gold Quill Award submissions. Anila Ahmed (AA), Tal Henderson (TH), and Christina Bonner (CB) share their thoughts. Read part one here.

What we learned Part 2:

  • Don’t bury the lead – use the template to get to the point
  • Focus – regardless of the size of the project, concentrate on telling the story of the great communications; don’t get lost in the details
  • If you work in an environment with competing projects, dedicating Project Management resources to ensure completion and quality is helpful.

After discussing the ins-and-outs of revisions and rewrites of this process our discussion turned towards Anila and myself as new additions to this process.


AA: Yeah, and that was it for me I’ve never done this before. So it was a huge learning experience for me to get everything out there.

CB: Being new is almost a good thing because I know that when I came in you feel an extra sense of being prepared, knowing the award and the categories. Having someone fresh is good because you can get lost in the idea that you’ve already done this before.

AA: And that is just it, those individual meetings that we had for each project were interesting as you had some people there who had never done Gold Quill before. It is nice for them to sit down and hear this is what we do.

TH: It really helped. Way more so that last year, Anila had us starting well. With the right materials, being able to walk into a meeting, the full group of people to be able to sit down and look at it, talk about the project. If we had submitted before, to hear what worked and what didn’t. If we had the evaluations from last year, looking at those. And looking at the ones that won versus what we had drafted. That was something that you [CB] did that was really annoying (laughter)… but super valuable.
CB: I remember that, that was the second day that I was here.

TH: “Look at this, you haven’t written this up well, like this other guy,” “ugh-you’re right but…”

CB: This is the most challenging part, staying within the framework, and preventing the story from turning into something that it isn’t. I think that was what we struggled with it the most, in some senses. Looking at some edits, and some sections and wondering “what is the point of having this here? What is this doing here?” Although it is important to the story, is it really important to the award submission?

TH: Yes, understanding this piece as a media form in itself, just as much as a novel or a film. There are a set of things you are trying to accomplish. You are not trying to retell the whole story, only the award winning story.

AA: Yeah!

TH: “Breakfast day 2” is not interesting. So don’t include it. Don’t worry about the extra pieces of context. What part was award winning, deal with that.

CB: I think especially coming back to “what did Livewire do?”. It isn’t easy. I remember one submission’s goals and outcomes section, a lot of times we would mix that of the organization with the goals and outcomes of the project we are working on.

TH: Right.

CB: Which is what they [IABC] cares about the most.

TH: And that is what you are going to be evaluated on. And you’ve only got four pages, for god sakes.

AA: That’s right and for some its 3, or 2.

CB: I’ve never played with margins like that probably since my first degree (laughter).

TH: That is certainly something I would like to change for next year. I would like to tighten the margins, we are overwriting.

AA: Particularly a communications agency, we overwrite, we talk.

TH: “Get to the point.” Why does it take you to page 2 to say what you did? Of course, that is a standard journalism thing: Don’t bury the lead.

CB: I think it’s putting yourself in the adjudicator position. Thinking ‘what do they want to read?’ They want to read something that is short and concise, to-the-point submissions that are not full of fluff.

TH: Most of these were 3100 words. That’s a 15 page essay. They were big campaigns, sure, but that is too much. We submitted – four 15 page essays. That’s crazy.

CB: My thesis was 80 pages.

TH: So that was too much and we need to get that down. What became far more obvious for me this time around, and one of those things that I would like to push next time – I think we saw the value of think of the adjudicator as an audience. You are trying to tell them a story of interesting communications. When we took that perspective it brought a bunch of things to mind:

  1. How we wrote it, get to the point, only talk about those interesting points –show how you prove it, make it entertaining and get out.
  2. How that framed how we understood the work sample. To be able to sit down with that thing and lay it out and say” could someone follow this story just by flipping through the work sample?”

… stay tuned for the last segment.

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