How to use the familiar to explain something new

If I was to say Family Fortunes, Blockbusters and Eggheads, would you automatically think of internal communication? Probably not.

However, these television shows are the formats communications professional Dawn Robinson, @Dawnieskitchen, (pictured) Marketing & PR Manager for housing association Guinness South, a division of The Guinness Partnership, has been using to “help raise awareness of internal communications practices and ways in which colleagues can engage with them, promote them and improve them.”

I’ll hand you over to Dawn so she can share her story…

Using the familiar to explain the new

DawnRobinsonNot so long ago I was asked to take part in, and make a presentation at, a regional away day on ways staff could improve communications across the business.

This request coincided with me picking up and starting to read Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck by Chip and Dan Heath.

I have to confess I haven’t yet finished; not because it’s not brilliant, just because I am terrible for having about 10 half-read books on the go at once.  Anyone else guilty of this, or is it just me? (Yes! – Rachel).

Anyway, I digress.  So, the Heaths’ explore the use of schemas, a word I had not come across before, in order to aid understanding.  If it’s new to anyone else as well, a schema is the practice of referring to something that is well understood by the audience in order to explain or demonstrate something else.

So for example, they talk about Pomelos.  You might not know what one of these was, but if I was to describe it as being like a grapefruit, you’d probably have a better understanding straight away.

Trying something new
That got me to thinking about how I could use popular TV programmes in order to create educational games around internal communications, without first having to explain a raft of rules and instructions.  Unarguably, far more exciting than a PowerPoint presentation.

Thus, a Guinness South version of Family Fortunes (or Family Feud for US readers) was born. With a delightful Sunday afternoon of sticking and pasting – there’s a Blue Peter presenter in all of us! – I created two large boards, with the answers to a couple of open questions, for which I’d used some artistic licence and made up the percentages against each answer:

  • We asked 100 people to name an element of the service that the Guinness South Communications team provides to you or on your behalf
  • We asked 100 people what you should do for the Guinness South Communications team

Splitting the audience into two teams and armed with a Family Fortunes buzzer retrieved from a colleague’s version of the board game, we played; having a constructive, lively and informative debate around the answers, particularly those that were hard to guess.

And of course there were a multiple of edible prizes for the team who got the most points. Alas, no skiing holidays or new cars though. This is the social housing sector, after all.

DawnTrying it out
Following the success of this, I was then asked to do the same or similar as a regular slot on the new staff induction day.  Out came a home-made Blockbusters board (I’m sure some people could spend more budget on producing their props, but we are very cost conscious in our industry…and plus, a bit of sticky-back plastic does not affect the integrity of the exercise).

(For non-UK readers, Blockbusters was an iconic gameshow that was famously hosted by TV host Bob Holness from 1983-1995. There are clips of it on YouTube – Rachel).

I devised questions to help new colleagues understand the channels we use, where they can find information and to emphasise the importance of them giving us feedback, which we will respond to and act upon. Splitting them into teams meant they could share their experience, collaborate on answers and it encouraged more energy and interaction throughout the game.

And I think everyone enjoyed the opportunity to ask me for a ‘P’ and call me ‘Bob’.

So, with a couple of attempts under my belt, here are my tips to recreating your own game show for internal communications.

  1. As with everything, start with what you want to achieve and work backwards.
  2. Choose well known TV games/quizzes, and ones that you are very familiar with.  Work through the concept to ensure you can replicate it in your own surroundings and on your budget without it being naff.
  3. Keep it as simple as you dare.
  4. Talk your idea through in principle with a few peers – if they get it straight away and think it will work, you’ll know you’re heading in the right direction.
  5. Both times I could have done with some background music, particularly with the Blockbusters game; if you can get the theme tune, perfect.
  6. Encourage discussion and further questions around the answers.  Remember that it’s a learning exercise.

Has anyone else tried anything similar?

Post author: Dawn Robinson.

Thank you for sharing your story Dawn, I love the game show idea and sounds like it went well.

Have you got any tips to add to her list? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC. Remember you can see articles from 80+ communicators via my guest article archive, including one Dawn wrote last year about the Digital by Default seminar she attended.


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Looking for a job in internal communication? See my jobs page.

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