VR in PR: The Newest Trend

By Katie Bisbee

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Virtual reality is becoming more and more popular and it is apparent why. Virtual reality or VR has the ability to create fully immersive experiences. What is VR? According to Marxent labs, VR is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment, placing the viewer inside an experience. This new technology allows users to understand the world around them and is currently being used by a multitude of brands. Despite the hype, VR is new and communication professionals are still learning how to adapt to this technology. In time, I believe virtual reality to bring the world of brands to target audiences in a way that social media cannot do. Here are a few ways in which VR is changing the PR world.

Transforming the way we tell stories

Communications professionals are quickly realizing the effect that VR will offer to clients and businesses. PR professionals are storytellers for our brands and for our clients. Bringing audiences into a virtual world to demonstrate an aspect of a brand can increase the trust and loyalty between a business and its audiences. We can see this clearly in the VR experience made by The North Face. The North Face targeted their adventure-seeking audience and took users to Yosemite National Park and Moab for a virtual climb. While not directly promoting their clothes, this experience allowed users to experience exploration, which is what this brand is all about.

Increasing empathy

Our understanding of media is influenced by stereotypes even when we are not conscious of it. When meeting a person of a certain group, our schemas decide what traits we should expect to find. VR has been shown to help change the way our brains categorize people. A VR experience can change the way that we act towards other groups through stepping into a world as a different race or gender. By taking on the perspective of another person that we are judging, we give them the benefit of the doubt, which in return can be used to fight prejudice. Thus, users can understand the perspective of others, can be coached to recognize and possibly unlearn their biases, and better deal with similar situations in the real world.

I have seen this most recently with the brand, Toms. Toms placed users in a remote village in Peru where they could experience a giving trip. Experiencing the grateful kids after the arrival of the volunteers not only giving them shoes, but also playing with them, allowed the user to understand more fully what the Toms mission is all about. This immersive experience allowed for emotional storytelling, one of the most powerful ways in which brands can connect with their audiences.

The brand comes to life

My favorite part of VR is the way in which it encapsulates audiences. Oreo’s VR campaign reminded users what we already know and love about their cookies. Oreo created a film taking the viewers on a tour of its “Wonder Vault,” a secret location where the Oreo cookie making takes place. Oreo made this film to promote their latest flavor, Filled Cupcake Flavored Oreos. However, this film went viral and showed audiences that Oreos are the fun-filled cookie that everyone loves.

According to Facebook, 68 percent of people see VR becoming part of everyday life and 51 percent are excited about VR as part of their shopping experience. As this new technology becomes more accessible to the public, PR professionals need to be ready to adapt and add VR to their social media strategies.