Step right up, and play the PHO Game? - The Orca

Step right up, and play the PHO Game?

Jody w Glasses 1

Jody Vance: There’s no rule that says staying informed on public health orders can’t be fun. If there is, break it.

Based on his pandemic timeline, microbiology and immunology scientist Jason Tetro says we have arrived at “the halfway point” of COVID-19. That means around 260 more days of this.

In our lockdown 2.0, there are far fewer puzzles on the dining room table, and the bread machine is silent. Instead, we’re taking on far more time-consuming tasks like sorting eons of old storage.

Holding actual photographs and flipping through out-takes with strips of negatives falling from the envelopes. It threw me back to my late teens and 20s.

In one circa 1990-something garage box was a flashback to my former life as an Assistant Promotions Director in Vancouver radio. There were my original notes on the first major ratings promotion idea that came to me while soaking in a tub: “The Classic Rock Alarm Clock.”

The premise was based on my thinking that no one really believes they can win the grand prize – but they will listen and play every day for a piece of that big money. So, rather than giving away $100,000 after eight weeks, why not give away $1,000 each day?

It worked. Folks tuned in.

It got me thinking. I can only guess the amount of money thrown at PR strategies to engage the masses, but the numbers say it hasn’t worked. So, this week’s Middle suggests a shift away from billboards and TV ads, because the world is at home, watching streaming services or surfing the net.

So: I think COVID in BC needs an old-school promo, presented by the BC government.

Stay with me here.

Yes, I am suggesting the government bribe pandemic-fatigued adults and tuned-out young people with a game of sorts. The happy byproduct would be keeping pandemic-fatigued and tuned-out British Columbians informed on updates and health orders.

First, to create the contest, engage some out-of-work event marketers and PR people, pay them to generate organic reach. Their mission will be to deliver an inclusive, edgy, that is not educational/serious/bland – but a gaming-style promotion.

The skill-testing question portion is a time sensitive (so no Google) test of current latest Public Health Orders/directives.

There could be a game where hints are embedded in a daily podcast that is branded the COVID 19, and it’s only 19 seconds long. Or something.

TikTok should only be in play if it comes from the generation that claims that platform. No embarrassing “so woke, it’s lit” stuff.

Served up right, this could spread like ripe avocado on artisan 12-grain toast?.

Make the mission about fun, much-needed distraction and buzz by offering something winnable and meaningful. Put the cash up to make it worth your while to at least try.

A virtual scavenger hunt. An online equivalent of a car rally where the car is virtual and the points of interest can be found on a government website or the BC Centre for Disease Control. Make it simple, but juuuust tough enough to take over the Zoom call or SnapChat thread.

Plant icons or words on certain days and time, put them in the equivalent of a Minecraft chest, unlocked with Covid facts.

Get everyone chasing carrots, and reinforce that public health orders are the skill testing question — and stream the Q&A “finals” on YouTube.

The payoff needs to be big. What would it be worth having EVERYONE buy in.

The government need not spend a truckload of money on advertising; if the prize is good enough, kids will spread the word in ways us old folks don’t even know about.

If it can be made cool enough, money enticing enough, maybe, the importance of local and national news engagement will be a bit more obvious even in The After Times.

There’s no rule that says staying informed can’t be fun – and if there is, break it.  Meanwhile, I’m headed back to the garage for another box.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.