IABC’s Gold Quill Awards do more than recognize excellent work — when its principles and values are applied consistently, they can shape a whole career. For Ritzi Villarico-Ronquillo, APR, IABC Fellow and chair of the IABC 2021 Awards Committee, this is certainly true.
In this Q&A, learn how Villarico-Ronquillo learned about Gold Quill early on in her career, embraced it whole-heartedly and has advocated for the program for nearly 30 years, bringing students and professionals along with her for the journey.
When did you first get involved in the Gold Quill Awards and what was that experience like?
My journalist-mentors first introduced me (and later supported my being an IABC member) to IABC and to the Gold Quill Awards when I was a junior writer.
At that time, our corporate newspaper received regional recognition twice in the Gold Quill Awards. That got me thinking, what was it that an entry needed to have to win? I looked forward to the feedback and briefed the team about it to further improve.
By the time I was corporate editor and head of communications and publications, and then advertising and special events, I was constantly on the lookout for what we could enter.
In 2004, the company won its first Gold Quill Awards for issue management of a landmark case that could have put the company’s viability and reputation on the line. The teamwork of everyone in the organization, deep dedication of the task force assigned to the issue and full support from top management made the company resolve and rise above the near crisis.
I continued to keep tabs on the Gold Quill Awards and advocate for communication excellence by chairing our Philippine Quill Awards, coaching and mentoring, and personally handling the evaluation process. We later launched the Philippine Student Quill Awards, investing in the next generation of communication professionals.
You’ve since been involved with Gold Quill through various evaluator roles, and now as chair of the IABC 2021 Awards Committee. What have you learned from the awards?
Serving as vice chair, and now as chair, are most fulfilling as we aim to further create what I call an ecosystem of communication excellence internationally. These are just a few lessons I’ve learned in my time serving the Gold Quill awards:
Always remember where you started. This allows you to get into the minds of entrants, understand where they are coming from, help them by improving the process and key messages, and build rapport with them as kindred spirits.
Begin with the end in mind. If the purpose of why you are joining and what you want to achieve is clear, that gives one focus and impetus.
Be mentored and mentor. At any stage, whether a new or experienced entrant, there’s nothing like someone guiding and helping improve your entry. I believe it does not take away one’s dignity to have your work reviewed and improved. As a mentor, it is so fulfilling to see non-communication projects with a strong communication component enter.
As a communicator, how have the Gold Quill Awards impacted you professionally?
I have come to be an advocate of the Gold Quill Awards. Students and professionals request to speak with me about the awards, and companies have requested in-house talks on the topic. Some have even made it part of their corporate KPIs, since Gold Quill trophies are a mark of excellence.
It is fulfilling to mentor entrants and see them win, and it is heartening that non-winners have taken time to ask for feedback. From that point forward, I see them year after year at our awards night. To help make that happen for them truly warms the heart.
As a professional lecturer, I have asked my students to submit their campaign plan, especially their final paper, using the Gold Quill outline. I have also usedthe Gold Quill outline at work, for presenting and tracking project proposals and implementations.
What drew you to the role of chair for the IABC 2021 Awards Committee?
I have been shaped by the Gold Quill journey, and have enjoyed my years of involvement and experience in award programs, managing and implementing the Philippine Quill Awards. I wanted to serve and give back to IABC what it has developed in me since joining in 1991.
I also wanted to honor my mentors, one of whom is a founding member of IABC Philippines, by serving in the IABC Gold Quill Awards, which they introduced me to years ago.
What updates should IABC members look out for this year when it comes to the Gold Quill Awards?
It takes a global village to successfully carry out the IABC Gold Quill Awards, so we want to recognize that everyone is part of the solution and process.
When we began our work in this award cycle, we took stock of the trends and data from last cycle, the pandemic and its impact. We then conceived an eight-point strategy:
- Return to basics that are our strengths.
- Balance sensitivity to the times and viability of the awards.
- Focus on both existing and new work.
- Converge and synchronize efforts and stakeholders.
- Strengthen the internal backbone and involve internal stakeholders.
- Sharpen our messages.
- Track and document the process and its learning.
- Submit the playbook to further improvement to the process.
More specifically, it meant taking these actions:
- Go virtual for the whole process.
- Create a new category for COVID-19 programs.
- Reach out more and campaign for entries from academia, professionals, and IABC members and non-members, through the virtual roadshow and adopt personalization as an approach.
- Extend the early bird rate up to January 15, 2021, and have no increase in entry fees from last cycle.
- Review and update our online resources.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to call on fellow members to enter your outstanding work in the Gold Quill. This is an opportune time for communication to ready us for a new day. This is your story and it must be told. Experience excellence with purpose.
There is time to join. For any queries: email@example.com. We are open to chapter or regional sessions for check-ins or coaching. Thank you and join us now!
IABC Staff, featuring Ritzi Villarico-Ronquillo