How communicators can leverage gamification

February 1, 2012

Gamification helps organizations crowdsource ideas, drive and even train people for improved job performance.

Tech research giant Gartner suggests that these activities are less compelling in their normal settings but more appealing when gamified to engage people in completing a series of tasks.

Gamification, which integrates gaming elements like points, levels and leaderboards into campaigns to encourage engagement and guide specific outcomes, isn’t entirely new. Many of us participate in frequent flyer programs, advancing through gold and platinum mileage levels to earn rewards.

Many people credit McDonald’s as a pre-digital gamification pioneer with its Monopoly game, where customers collect game pieces for food prizes.

In the digital realm, geo-location apps like Foursquare let customers earn badges by visiting various store locations or patronizing a business multiple times.

Communication gamification

Communicators can leverage gamification to carry messages, create awareness and affect measureable actions.

Matt Simpson, marketing director for Bulbstorm’s social engagement platform, considers gamification a means to an end.

“Center your objectives around driving endorsements through social channels, building affinity through entertaining user experiences, creating loyalty through reward programs, or providing compelling online experiences for direct-response results,” he says. “Gamification supports all these.”

The Phoenix-based Bulbstorm developed a Facebook idea contest for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), where fans shared dream matchups of current vs. former stars. Other fans interacted with this user-generated content by commenting and voting the best of 6,800 matchups submitted to the top of social leaderboards.  The contest yielded 197,000 fan engagements and seven times the average WWE page views, communicating WWE’s legacy and supporting successful pay-per-view events.

Marshall Lager, managing principal of New York-based Third Idea Consulting, believes that the PR function is well-suited to gamification.

“Wherever you have quotas to reach and opportunities for role play, you have the foundation for adding a game-like layer to performance. Imagine an online pin map showing where press releases get read or rebroadcast — just watching it propagate is great motivation,” he says.

Lager suggests that adding a competitive component, where a PR team or individual achieving the broadest reach or landing the most coveted market receives recognition, makes top performance a compelling goal.

Lager adds that since media training is already a roleplaying exercise, why not make it a roleplaying game?

“Bringing challenge, positive feedback and recognition to tasks can increase their impact tenfold,” he says.

Ryan Zuk, APR

Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at

Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


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