Today at lunch my colleagues were talking about whether Ashton Kutcher replacing Charlie Sheen is a good idea, what’s new with Pippa Middleton (her reputation, not her rear end) and what everyone plans to do to this weekend.
What was unusual is that we didn’t cover our favorite subject: food. We often spend the lunch break talking about what we’re eating, what we’re planning to make for dinner, and recipes we’ve tried lately that we recommend. (Another hot topic: When will Liz, our resident baker, make us those cream puffs we’ve been craving?)
Our team’s obsession with food is hardly novel, according to a recent CNN piece. “Between the Food Network and Cooking Channel, the ‘Top Chef’ franchise on Bravo, the Travel Channel's ‘No Reservations,’ ‘Man v. Food’ and ‘Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, plus ‘Hell's Kitchen,’ ‘MasterChef"’and ‘America's Next Great Restaurant’ on broadcast networks, we're tuning in for a lot of eating and cooking," writes CNN.
What’s behind all this chowing down? According to CNN, “Production values of these shows may vary, but if they're not entertaining us with standard reality-TV shenanigans, they're exploring a topic we can all dig into. Food TV has an obvious appeal for those who want to learn more about cooking and cuisine, but it's also an easy way to chill out even if you don't.”
And there’s more coming: ABC has announced it is replacing its cancelled soap operas with a new show, “The Chew,” and VH-1 is launching a reality program about celebrities in a restaurant called “Famous Food.”
Here comes your inevitable question: How is this relevant to communication? I’ll tell you. Food shows offer two compelling ingredients (pun intended) we should be adding to our communication recipe.
First, they emphasize “how to.” You may not have graduated from The Culinary Institute, but by watching cooking shows, you can learn how to whip up a soufflé as well as the finest chef.
How can we use “how to” in our own communication? By providing advice whenever appropriate, so employees learn how to do something better: make the most of their benefits, use technology more effectively or even become more successful in their jobs.
The second secret sauce in cooking shows is drama. Shows like ‘Top Chef’ use the same narrative techniques as Hollywood movies: aspiration, conflict, challenges, triumph, despair. Yes, they’re somewhat formulaic (and even silly), but you find yourself rooting for the underdog, and hoping your favorite cook will win the big prize.
And, even in corporate internal communication, it’s possible to incorporate drama. How did the quality team deal with the problems they needed to solve? What do we need to do to deliver better customer service? Will we succeed in entering a new market despite the obstacles?
True, what we communicate is not always as universally appealing as food. But we still can spice up our communication and make it more appetizing by borrowing key elements from popular cooking shows.