Internal Communication Lessons from Pokémon GO

By now you’ve heard of and are probably tired of hearing about Pokémon GO, the viral mobile game that has brought together millions of people. I’ll admit, at first I made fun of people participating, but now I’m mad at myself for waiting so long. Out of curiosity I downloaded the game and was instantly sucked into the craze.

As I explored the streets of Richmond, Virginia, sweating in 95-degree weather, I made friends with other team Yellow members and found myself constantly stopping near places I didn’t know existed to swipe up. I even made “friends” with someone who wasn’t happy I stopped in a crosswalk to catch a Fearow.

The more I played Pokémon GO, the more I realized the game includes strategies that could help tackle some of the most common internal communication challenges. And while you may not understand the concept or language behind the game, there are several nuggets any internal communicator could take away. From team building to employee wellness, this game is a treasure trove full of ideas.

Here are four key lessons from Pokémon GO that can be applied in your workplace:

1) Impact Employee Wellness – While employee wellness and fitness often fall under HR, internal communicators can still help shape how employees get moving. In Pokémon GO, you need to get moving if you want to hatch an egg and catch ‘em all. You can’t play this game in your living room or at your desk. As an internal communicator, you can help get your workforce moving through challenges and contests. Hold a routine walking group, organize a weekly salad club or create a monthly wellness lunch and learn.

2) Help Employees Live the Brand – When you start to run low on Pokeballs, you have to visit Pokestops, which are often an assortment of landmarks and historical markers. From the hole in the wall taco shop around the corner to the 1800s historical monument, the game gets users out of the house to learn more about their community.

One of the biggest challenges for any communicator is getting employees to learn and live the company mission and core values. What if you could bring the mission and core values to life for employees? Challenge employees to find colleagues demonstrating a core value and submit a photo and caption. You can also start a selfie contest encouraging employees to snap a selfie showing how they are living the company mission. By bringing the core values and mission to life, you can make it real for employees and help them understand how to live it at work, home and in the community.

3) Build a Strong Community – Each company is like a small community; all working together toward a common goal. However, most companies face the same challenge of becoming less siloed and more collaborative. Introduce Pokémon GO, which has brought together millions of people from all walks of life, all working toward the same goal – catch ‘em all. As an internal communicator, how can you break down walls and get employees from IT and Legal talking more? Start an office Olympics competition or host a kids Halloween trick or treat event. Find opportunities (big and small) to bring employees together to build a strong, engaged company culture.

4) Use Today’s Technology After a successful card and Nintendo game, Pokémon has come back with a vengeance, using today’s most popular tool, the smartphone. Pokémon GO, now the biggest mobile game ever, has surpassed the dating app Tinder in downloads and is on track to have more daily users than Twitter.

As I’ve mentioned before, apps and particularly smartphones are the future for internal communicators. Employees don’t want to log in VPN for the latest company news or scan their inbox for a newsletter. Reach employees wherever they are and allow them to stay informed when they have time.

While the popularity surrounding Pokémon GO may fade over time, the challenges internal communicators face will remain. Use the above ideas to start a conversation with your company and impact employee engagement during the second half of the year.

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