Virtual Reality – PR’s Next Big Thing

Valerie Motis, Vice President, PPR Worldwide

Communications professionals are realizing the extent to which virtual reality (VR) will provide increased opportunities to deliver value and creativity for our clients. Transcending space and time, VR provides a level of realness and excitement that results in a deeper emotional engagement with stakeholders that is certain to become a game-changer for the PR industry.

How VR Will Transform the PR Industry

In a recent article in PRSA’s Tactics, Kara Alaimo identifies six ways virtual reality promises to transform the PR industry:

  1. Revolutionizing the way we tell stories: PR professionals are storytellers for our brands. Imagine taking viewers on a VR tour of your factory, creating an experience of what it’s like to drive your sports car down the autobahn, or luring tourists with clips of walking the streets of Old Delhi. If the goal of public relations is to build relationships with our stakeholders, then bringing them into the worlds of our brands may be the ultimate way of achieving this.
  1. Putting audiences in other people’s shoes: VR can be used by nonprofit practitioners and for corporate social responsibility to tell powerful personal stories. Toyota has used VR to show teens what happens when they drive a vehicle while distracted by text messages and noisy passengers.
  1. Delivering captive audiences: VR holds the same possibility for PR practitioners: to deliver audiences who are so captivated that they don’t simultaneously text and tweet while consuming content, making messages more impactful.
  1. Changing how we pitch reporters: Predictions indicate that soon we will be offering VR footage in our pitches to reporters, substantially increasing a pitch’s ability to gain media attention.
  1. Upending physical meetings: Forget Skype — VR has the potential to connect us with clients and colleagues in other places and also convey the feeling that we are physically in the same location.
  1. Positioning brands as innovative and connecting with tech-savvy audiences: VR is a powerful tool for brands looking to spruce up their image or appeal to a younger, more tech-oriented audience. Recently, Wells Fargo created a VR game of a maze, helping to position the bank as more forward thinking.

The travel industry has been one of the first to engage their customers using VR, some best practice examples include:

  • Marriot Hotels capitalized on VR when it introduced “#Get Transported,” an immersive, 4-D journey that transported people from London to Maui in 90 seconds.
  • Passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas with interior staterooms can now take advantage of “virtual” balconies that offer real-time views of the ocean.
  • North Face has created a VR experience featuring a visually stunning climb in Yosemite National Park.

Dell Virtual Reality Engagements

Dell, a PPR client, has been extremely focused on VR in 2016, in both entertainment and the commercial market.

  • The brand (including Alienware) offers the most VR-ready systems and is the only OEM with machines that are both Oculus Ready and HTC Vive Optimized. Dell powers the full spectrum of the VR experience from “creation to consumption” with Alienware devices that drive the VR entertainment experience and Precision workstations that give creators what they need to architect immersive VR.
  • Fortune recently reported on how Dell and Alienware are powering a new traveling VR golf experience, dubbed “Lunar Golf: The Future of Golf Experience,” which is available at the PGA Tour world championship events this year.
  • Dell’s customer, 3D Live, created the golf experience, as well as Adrian Grenier’s “Cry Out: The Lonely Whale Experience.” Grenier, Dell’s Social Good Advocate, uses the VR technology to help promote his cause for cleaning up oceanic pollution – it was most recently on display at SXSW, as reported by the New York Times.

Additionally, Dell recently sat down with TIME to discuss the future of VR, including the industry-wide determination to move the needle. Efforts are paying off as Dell was recently named one of the most influential brands in VR.

Whether using VR to enhance storytelling, to involve larger audiences in events and product launches, or to build excitement in media pitches and new business presentations, the opportunities for the PR industry are virtually limitless. The time is now to look at how VR can support PR and marketing objectives.