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This week’s IABC VIC education roundtable gave aspiring gold quill award and accreditation program entrants the opportunity to talk with members who had achieved accreditation status or won a Gold Quill award.

Amy Baird ABC of AIA and Kelly Vandrine of BUPA were candid and generous with their insights into the process helping navigate the pitfalls in preparing award submissions and the accreditation process. Participants were in for a treat with a special appearance by international chair Adrian Cropley ABC. Adrian provided  global perspective on both the 2012 gold quills and ABC accreditation.


Key takeouts from the discussion are below and also captured in the live twitter feed:  Check out the #IABCVIC tweet stream

Gold quills awards

Preparing the workplan – the critical component

  • Key is a concise, well-edited workplan that clearly conveys your message to the judges
  • Remember you are writing for a global audience. Terminology and acronyms may not translate across borders.
  • Review the categories and choose wisely. Tailor your entry to the category requirements
  • Judges are looking for threshold criteria in the workplan: research, specified objectives and measures that match those objectives
  • Review and critically assess your workplan against the judging criteria for your category.  Make sure you articulate the benefit to your business and set out clear objectives and measures.
  • Have your workplan reviewed either through the IABC gold quill mentoring program, a peer, or someone outside your industry
  • The submission can take up to two solid weeks to complete. Ideally spread this workload over a couple of months, to plan and complete: suggest write in November review in December and revisit in January
  • Collect your stats: quantitative, and qualitative. Be clear about what you measurement and make sure it demonstrates achievement of your objectives.

Work samples

  •  Less can be more with work samples. Choose work based on whether it can tell the story you are telling in your workplan
  • Select collateral that might be different, unusual and creative. Pick the best bits, those most relevant to the category in which you have entered
  • Judges do not look at the work samples when initially assessing the workplan so the workplan must be capable of “standing alone”.
  • Reminder: 2012 Gold Quill submissions deadline is 27 January 2012

The judging process

  • The judging process is rigourous and we are moving to a requirement that members of the judging panel need to be accredited for judging quills
  • Successful submissions progress through a number of rounds of judging
  • Judges forms are available online as are sample answers so the process is very transparent
  • The judging panel receives about 1000 entries each year, of which approximately 200 receive a gold quill award
  • The majority of quill submissions that do not succeed fail because the measures do not link to the objectives


  • The IABC competency model helps assess readiness for accreditation
  • Assessment consists of three parts: application,  a portfolio submission, and a written and oral exam
  • The portfolio component follows the structure/criteria of a gold quill submission
  • A successful gold quill submission can be used as one of the portfolio pieces
  • The exam is a four hour exam. You need to pass each of the sections to pass the exam. So…budget, document and stick to your time.
  • There is an ethics chapter for which you need to be familiar with the IABC code of ethics
  • Answers to this section are pretty black and white – there are no shades of grey. Cross cultural communications are not considered. Suggest participants study for this section.
  • IABC is in the process of extending accreditation to more junior professionals by adopting a dual accreditation stream. It is also working on making accreditation more market applicable
  • An accreditation study group is a good way to keep you honest and working to deadline

To support members entering the 2012 Gold Quill awards or pursuing accreditation we are establishing a study group.  If you are interested in joining or have any questions about the accreditation or gold quill submission  please contact Belinda Lawrie.

Thank you to Amy, Kelly and Adrian for generously sharing their experiences. Special thanks to Edelman for providing a great venue for the evening and our professional partner representatives Patricia Liere and Rebecca Ketteringham of Marketu for taking part in the roundtable.