How is internal communication like gaming?

Last week I had the privilege of sitting next to Ross Tarbard at the Intranet Now conference.

He’s Senior Internal Communications Officer at the University of Leicester and has written for the All Things IC blog to share his thoughts on all things gaming and IC. You can find him on Twitter @rosstarbard.

Strap yourself in. I’m not going to even pretend to understand everything he’s written. But if you’re into this world, you’re in for a treat…

Negotiating the wasteland: why Internal Comms is just like Fallout

Like coming across a Deathclaw without Power Armour, being an internal communicator without the knowledge behind you means you will face an inevitable and gory death (in a strictly professional sense).

I started thinking about this analogy after using a Fallout Agility perk in a presentation at the Intranet Now conference, and conversations with the awesome Shimrit Janes, who has blogged extensively of the need for gamification in careers and the equally awesome Jenni Field, who helped me develop the analogy.

Now, I’m not saying that the world of Internal Comms is like a nuclear wasteland (thought at times it can seem like it!), but there are certainly similarities to the world of role-playing games like Fallout.

I’ve started two internal comms functions from next to nothing as an in-house practitioner and had to come into roles with little knowledge, but the tools to succeed.

In many ways it’s like heading out into the DC wasteland for the first time.

You know the game mechanics, you know the tips and tricks which will help you to succeed, but you lack knowledge of the story and particular quirks of this particular game, you are underpowered, your small world of clarity is still surrounded by the huge foggy cloud meaning ‘unexplored’.

Getting called up before the CEO in the first week of your job and being asked how you’re going to ‘fix it’ is a little like turning a corner at Level 2 and being faced by a Deathclaw (see below).

You simply don’t have the XP. Now, it’s less likely to lead to a gory dismemberment, but it has that similar feeling of “nonononononononononRUNAWAAAAAAAY”

But, as you start to progress through the game you build your horizons, more of the map is explored, you start to play through the main story quest.

You could see the story quest as the big initiatives that you know you need to complete the game, the focus groups, the staff survey, the estates development comms plans, you start to build up your XP, and level up, each time collecting a new perk – CEO speechwriter, PR guru, the mythical ‘seat at the top table’.

Being distracted
But you will find yourself distracted by side quests, the awareness day that needs you to organise it, the event that no-one told you about until the last-minute, the well-meaning request from someone in your marketing team.

These have the tendency to be frustrating, and a distraction from the main quest (the main reason that with two small children it takes me an eon to complete these types of games now), but they all serve to increase your XP, to allow you to build your skills in areas you’re not familiar with.

And they contribute to your ‘levelling up’ by developing yourself in those areas that best suit your style of work. Your perception, your stamina, your stealth.

The mechanics of play reflect some of the things you go through in internal comms too.

You learn to choose the right conversation options with key stakeholders (or non playable characters), and though at times you might feel like you’re surrounded by ghouls or fire ants, you now have the armour (data) and weaponry (good comms channels) to defend yourself adequately.

You might even be lucky enough to find a mentor, the equivalent of the Mysterious Stranger perk, a shadowy figure who turns up to blow away high-powered enemies when you’re in trouble.

And if you’re really lucky, you’ll learn to use the Power Armour, which renders you impervious to all but the worst assaults.

So the next time you find yourself faced by your Deathclaw CEO, your knowledge and the respect that your good use of data has built you can feel almost like your very own Comms VATS system.


You simply slow time right down using your knowledge of the organisation, pick your targets, and blow them away with your comms awesomeness.

Post author: Ross Tarbard.

First published on the All Things IC blog 10 October 2017.SaveSaveSaveSave



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