PR’s new virtual reality

About the author

Chris is a lecturer, media trainer, crisis communication consultant and coach. Her in-house roles have included the global position of Director of PR for Barclays. Chris leads the CIPR PR Diploma and Crisis Comms Diplomas. BA Hons, CAM, MCIPR

How can PR make the most of virtual reality? Having devoured report after report I found inspiration at a Christmas Day lunch…..

The host of my Christmas lunch, a good friend of mine and a real tech fiend, had treated himself to a Samsung Gear VR headset. Basically, it is a headset you insert your Samsung phone into, select from some content and off you go into a real sensory overdose better known as Virtual Reality. For me that meant swimming with dolphins, painting with Van Gogh and being attacked by a diplodocus – at least I think that’s what it was. This inexpensive piece of kit is one of a number bringing virtual reality to the masses – but what has it got to do with PR?

For ages pundits have been saying video is the future. We have all seen the power of the viral video from skateboarding dogs to the fantastic attempt by Sport England to get women to exercise, This Girl Can. But just think how much more powerful video could be at communicating a message if your audience could actually be immersed in them, participate in them and have a total sensory experience? If you are in the travel business take your prospective customers on a virtual tour of one of your holidays, if you are in the arts a virtual tour of your museum should be a must.

In 2016 we are going to see a convergence of technology and platform which will begin to make virtual reality a content choice for PRs. We already have 360 video and they are getting easier to make – take a look at Jump. Platforms are already gearing up to distribute 360 videos – both Facebook and YouTube are already doing it. And now we have the emergence of relatively cheap wearable technology to enjoy a virtual reality experience – the Gear VR is just one of those already on the market. But if you don’t fancy splashing out a few hundred quid then there is always Google Cardboard – a virtual reality headset made out of cardboard that you assemble yourself. And no this is not an early April Fool’s joke. You can buy one here on Amazon for £9.99.

Good PR has always been about good content tailored to our audiences. We may now have moved from the press release, through viral video and onto Virtual Reality. Exciting opportunities.