By Ali Abel

The deadline for submitting your entry for the 2016 Gold Quill Awards is January 13, 2016. Find out more on iabc.com.

Every four years, athletes from around the globe flex their muscles to display great feats of strength, athleticism and grace while competing in the Olympic Games. While communicators worldwide may not pursue world-class goals of physical strength, the annual Gold Quill Awards allow us to flex our strategic communication muscles on the international stage.

Just like they Olympic Games, earning a top prize in the Gold Quill Awards is not easy. This is something Calgary communicator Glenna Cross, ABC, Master Communicator, and owner of Cross Wise Communications, knows well. She’s been creating, and evaluating, Gold Quill plans for many years. Her plans have even won the prestigious award.

“In a nutshell, winning strategic communication plans do three things,” says Glenna. “They set objectives which bring valuable, measurable benefits to the organization; they devise creative, effective communication programs to get there; and they measure the outcomes to prove that the goals have been fully achieved.”

In a seminar held at the University of Calgary, Glenna outlined the three types of communication plans we tend to write.

Bronze plans (typically one or two pages) are the “back of a napkin” plans. These plans are strategic, but:

  • there is little research and analysis behind the plan
  • it may only include one or two high-level objectives
  • there is very little research into the audiences (if any)
  • few tools or tactics, and little or no evaluation when the program is completed

Silver plans (usually about six to twelve pages) meet most of the criteria of a Gold Quill winner, and are more in-depth than a bronze plan, including such aspects as:

  • some research and analysis
  • objectives, measurements, and audience analysis
  • more tools or tactics than a bronze plan
  • more in-depth evaluation

Gold plans (up to 20 pages or more) are considered the “full meal deal” because they meet all of the criteria laid out in the evaluation methods for the Gold Quill competition, including:

  • comprehensive research and analysis
  • detailed objectives and measurements
  • thorough audience analysis
  • lots of tactics and tools
  • comprehensive evaluation strategy

Glenna pointed out to the group that all plan types will be used in our roles as communicators, and while we may work mostly in the realm of bronze and silver plans, there are many opportunities to create gold-level plans.

“No matter which level of plan you are writing, the principles of strategic thinking and planning should always be in place,” says Glenna. “The only things that may vary would be the robustness and comprehensiveness of your plan.”

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