Imagine your client is in the news. They’re opening a new hotel that has every stakeholder excited. But this time customers don’t find out about the hotel by reading an article or watching a broadcast. Instead they step into a multi-dimensional world that feels as if they’re walking into the luxurious hotel lobby itself and ordering a drink at the bar. They can explore the stylish guest suites and even slide into the hotel pool.
The PR of the future? Not at all. Virtual reality is happening now and innovative digital marketing and PR agencies are capitalizing on its storytelling and media relations opportunities.
VR isn’t just for science fiction shows anymore. Thanks to Google, Facebook and Samsung, headsets are already in consumer hands, which led the BBC to say VR was “likely to be the top technology trend of 2016.” In fact, the industry has been forecasted by Digi-Capital to surpass $30 billion in revenue by 2020.
If you haven’t made your inaugural VR journey yet, it works by putting on a special headset that transports you to another world, thanks to a screen that takes over your field of vision. Suddenly you’re in Macchu Pichu or on the moon or underwater exploring the Great Reef. And it’s evolving fast, with rapid improvements coming in recognition and motion sensor technologies.
So it’s not surprising that VR companies and brands are forming marketing partnerships. While virtual was first explored in the gaming and entertainment fields, it’s now becoming the hot new medium for brand storytelling across every industry. Not only does VR help companies connect with consumers that tend to be younger, affluent or tech-savvy, it helps them stand out in a digital landscape glutted with content.
And it’s clearly a natural boon for PR teams looking for fresh ways to tell client and brand stories or pitch reporters. Immersive and multisensory, VR gives PR teams more options for messaging and media relations management while appealing to more consumers.
Don’t think you can rely on the novelty of virtual reality. Your team still needs to deliver creative PR content that’s valuable to the audience. Consider the following ways public relations can find a home in the new virtual landscape.
Education gets more meaningful - and fun. At the Detroit Auto Show, Toyota offered a virtual reality experience that let visitors experience the reality of driving a car while deluged with distractions and text messages. 80 percent agreed it encouraged them to drive more mindfully. That’s way more impactful than a simple “drive safely” ad.
Brands become humanized. Imagine taking customers through a tour of your facility or into a fireside chat with the CEO instead of the usual video clip. Both experiences will feel more immediate and personal, with leads and customers feeling as if they’re right there in the company.
Product demos feel more immediate. Even the most sophisticated ad won’t be as compelling as a virtual environment that lets potential buyers experience the benefits of new products themselves, as opposed to just hearing about them. From looking through a fall fashion lineup to a new laptop demo, consumers will get a more memorable product impression through VR.
The brand promise comes to life. The North Face, a brand known for its activewear and sports gear, created a VR experience for store shoppers featuring a visually stunning climb in Yosemite National Park. Designed to inspire customers to explore outdoor activities, the experience was later turned into an app that’s been downloaded thousands of times.
While companies initially explored VR through gamification, agencies are beginning to use the technology for case studies, product announcements, CSR initiatives and more. These PR pros know that as the technology becomes more common in households, both B2C and B2B buyers will naturally look for companies that offer interesting virtual experiences. PR teams that develop ground-floor expertise now will become the most skilled at telling stories through this new medium. So yes, the future is here – and VR has the potential to make public relations more vivid and exciting than ever.
And if you’re feeling a little intimidated by all this newfangled technology? Maybe you can try dipping your toes in the virtual pond with Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl. Because if puppies don't motivate you, I don't know what will.