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Local Gold Quill Winners Earn Tears and Cheers for their Efforts


Geoff Geddes | May 08, 2015

”If we make people cry, we’ve done our job.”

It might sound like a tagline for Revenue Canada, but it’s really the raison d'être for the award-winning communication team at the Alberta Cancer Foundation (ACF).

All told, they won an incredible five Gold Quill awards this year. Presented by IABC, the Gold Quill is one of the world’s most prestigious awards programs for communicators, recognizing outstanding communication initiatives worldwide that have delivered concrete results.

Doing it for Doug

While she’s thrilled by the total, Carmelle Boston, VP of Communications & Marketing, said there’s one that resonates above the rest.

“We were most gratified by the award for “Doug’s Story”, a video depicting one man’s battle with brain cancer,” said Boston.

The video profiles Doug Hassel, who Boston and her team met two years ago. It tells his story through the eyes of his family, his doctor and Doug himself. Together with colleagues Christa-Lee Sowerby and Phoebe Dey, Boston faced a delicate challenge with this project.

“We had to re-examine how we’re telling our story and try to convey that what we do affects patients today, and this video is a perfect example. It was critical to balance effective story-telling with consideration for the family and what they’re going through.”

Reaching Out and Tearing Up

In part, the video was prompted by a 2012 survey showing less than one per cent unaided awareness of the ACF province-wide.

Aside from the prestigious award, Boston gauged their success on the reaction of their target audiences.

“It was posted online and used at a donor appreciation event. It’s been very well received and is helping to drive donations as people connect to the story and link the story to us. That said, we had to be mindful of how we used it, respecting that Doug was terminally ill and honoring where his family was on their journey.”

Gold Mettle

Speaking of honors, Boston was humbled by this award and the other four.

“For me, the Gold Quill demonstrates that there is incredible talent world-wide, and to be judged against that talent pool is extraordinary. It just underlines how amazing this team is.”

Certainly Boston and her cohorts received their just desserts for a job well done. But the taste was decidedly bittersweet. While research funded by the ACF extended Doug’s life 14 months longer than expected, he passed away two weeks before the award was announced. No doubt a part of his legacy will be the funds he helped raise to support further research, with every dollar benefiting cancer patients.

For their part, the six-person communication team at ACF will maintain their award-winning efforts.

“We continue refining our messaging and extending our reach, concentrating this year on integrated campaigns that incorporate social media, traditional media and direct mail.”

In case they ever lose sight of their reason for being, the words of Doug’s wife in the video should help them re-focus: “Without the support of the Tom Baker team and the Alberta Cancer Foundation, we wouldn’t be here today.”

If their goals were to make people cry and raise awareness, this project let the ACF team have their cake and eat it too. And thanks to the Gold Quill, they even got the icing. 

Check out the ACF's touching video below:

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