VR in PR?

By: Donald Smith

Wake up! There is a new technology on the market that might spark another revolution in the public relations industry. It is called virtual reality, or VR. Now, VR is not a new phenomenon. It has been talked about in movies, anime, television shows and other forms of pop culture, but as of late companies such as Sony and Samsung have been able to get the technology out to the mass public. Also, the public is adopting it.

Man wearing Sony VR headseat,” by Sony

Nielsen conducted a study to see if the general public was interested in VR. Nielsen brought in 150 people to try a VR headset. The study resulted in 68 percent of respondents showing interest in buying/using VR.

VR is special because it creates a much more personal experience than other forms of communication. It does this by transporting and immersing the user into a new world with their sight and hearing in a first-person perspective. With this experience we can create a personal relationship with our publics.

However, I am not the first to realize the revolutionary potential of VR in PR. The Public Relations Society of America has an article on 6 ways VR could revolutionize PR. (Alaimo, 2016)

  • Revolutionizing story telling: As PR professionals we are storytellers for our brands. It is our goal to create engagement and build relationships with our publics. And having the ability to bring them into the worlds of our brands would be the greatest way to achieve this.
  • Putting publics in others’ shoes: VR is not only for corporations, it also gives opportunities to nonprofits. Because nonprofits rely heavily on powerful, personal stories of those affected by their causes to have others feel empathy and cause them to take action.
  • Delivering captive publics: VR will be the only messages to experience no outside noise from other messages. This is because the publics’ sight and hearing are completely engaged with the single message in front of them.
  • Changing how we pitch to reporters: Instead of emails, media advisories, press releases, etc. we will begin sending VR footage to give pitches more impact.
  • Meeting spaces: Video calling and real-life meetings could become obsolete. VR would connect us to colleagues and clients in spaces with a physical presence so body language is not lost in translation.
  • Positioning of brands: VR has not seen much exposure in the PR realm, but it could help position brands as accessible to younger and more tech-savvy publics. Also, it could help brands be positioned as forward thinking.

Some examples are North Face with their VR campaign putting people on a climb in Yosemite National Park; Birchbox teleporting people to riding waves and helicopters over mountains; and Marriot Hotels taking people to the beaches of Hawaii and downtown London.

So, let us hop on the train before it leaves.


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