What VR means for PR

Dan Brown  – Junior Account Executive at Spreckley

Virtual reality has come a long way since the days of the 1939 View-Master. With continued investment from the gaming industry meaning this new technology is no longer a fringe fad, what can it do for PR?

As it turns out, quite a lot. When it comes to creating impactful personal experiences that connect with audiences there has never been a tool quite like this before.

To clarify, the type of Virtual Reality I’m talking about is a 3D computer-created world that you can explore as if you are really there, through the use of a VR headset. Want to know what its like to walk around Times Square without leaving your desk? Now you can.

While most of the campaigns incorporating VR have erred on the side of novelty, instances like Amnesty International using VR headsets to highlight the impact of barrel bombing in Syria resulted in a noticeable increase in online conversions. Their method of taking their headsets to the streets also overcame one of the most noticeable barriers VR technology is facing, limited adoption.

A big factor in this is the cost of the headsets themselves. The Occulus Rift’s £400+ price tag is likely to put off anyone who is just casually interested, but that person might be tempted by the much cheaper Samsung Gear VR’s £90 price tag. Better still is the Google Cardboard VR kit, costing a whopping £9.99 and acting as a perfect ‘gateway drug’ to the wonders of VR.

Big companies are gearing up for VR to hit the mainstream, with Google already offering a Cardboard Design Lab for those interested in developing apps for its Cardboard device, and it’s 360° video channel is practically designed to be viewed through a VR headset.

While we may still be in the novelty stage of this new technology, it’s worth recognising that while it’s successful showings are being experienced by only a few, they are being talked about by many. See for example last year’s Star Wars promotion – Jakku Spy.

2016 may not be the year of mass VR adoption, but VR is going to be big, and soon. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how much more effective a message could be if your audience could actually be immersed in it in a total sensory experience. Now is the time for PR professionals to learn how Virtual Reality can be a tool for unlocking next level engagement.