The Role of Virtual Reality in Public Relations


As public relations (PR) professionals, our goal is to connect brands with their audiences in a favorable way – in short, we’re storytellers. Virtual reality (VR) can help PR professionals tell a brand’s story by bringing the audience into the brand’s world. VR is already being used across industries to train employees, demonstrate the benefits of products and services and engage customers in new ways. It’s changing people’s lives every day in some way. The public relations industry is slowly starting to use virtual reality as well.

Why VR for PR?
VR puts the audience in a situation allowing them to get a better sense of the brand. Compare this experience to watching a video or reading a news article–VR is much more engaging. VR forces your audience to be fully engaged. If you’ve ever experienced VR, you’ll know that it’s impossible to multitask. This level of engagement helps organizations get their messages across in a more impactful way.

Who’s Doing It?
Here are some of my favorite examples of how virtual reality is currently being used today to tell a brand’s story:

  • AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign uses virtual reality goggles to let individuals safely experience the dangers of texting and driving. How many times have you been told to not text and drive? Probably a lot. But has your behavior changed? By placing your audience in the situation, they get a better idea of why it’s dangerous and are more willing to change behavior. The results show it’s working. The “It Can Wait” campaign just received 20 million pledges to end distracted driving!
  • Domaine Serene’s 3D tour of its winery allows viewers to explore the estate themselves by using a mobile device to look around each room from the floor to ceiling. The tour is completely self-guided by the individual and does not have any limitations to where the person can go throughout the building.
  • Tom’s Virtual Giving Trip allows viewers to experience a giving trip in Peru. Viewers get to hear and see children receive shoes, say thank you and show their gratitude. This is an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand.

         

    • Lowe’s Holoroom allows consumers to visualize what their new lighting, wall color, tiling and more will look like and how it would fit into the actual room’s dimensions. It helps customers understand what the final product is going to look like ahead of time and if they don’t like it then they can make changes.

How Can PR Pros Use VR in Day-to-Day Work?
Here are a few tips for how PR pros can use VR in day-to-day work:

  • Media Pitching: VR can also enhance the world of media relations – imagine pitching a story through VR goggles. I bet your story idea would get a look and likely covered. For our client AT&T, the virtual reality goggles have played a huge part in gaining media coverage around the “It Can Wait” campaign. Rather than sending a written pitch to the reporter (a format they get hundreds of times a day in their inboxes), the reporter can personally experience the story through the virtual reality goggles. This is a powerful tool that can enhance a story by engaging audiences that may not have been interested in the past.
  • Public Speaking: Public Speaking for Cardboard is a virtual reality tool used to help people overcome their fear for public speaking. PR professionals can use this tool to help prepare a company’s spokesperson before a large press conference or an event where that person needs to deliver a speech.
  • Analytics: Many companies are now using VR tours for their facilities and even for products like cars. Virtual reality can track where a user is spending the most time whether that’s in a specific room or looking at one feature in a car. These enhanced analytics will help PR professionals craft messaging that better suits the audience and gains more interest.

What’s Next?
Now is the time for us as PR practitioners to embrace the opportunities and possibilities that come with virtual reality. VR will help public relations teams enhance storytelling by letting the audience experience the brand’s story rather than just tell the audience the brand’s story.

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