Reality Check: Why VR Should Be Part of Your PR Portfolio

June 30, 2017

For agencies creating marketing activations to promote their clients, the medium of virtual reality is a key focus for 2017 and beyond. But companies are still defining standards and discovering the narrative potential of this nascent technology. 

Diffusion PR has been exploring how to use VR to creatively tell our clients’ stories. One example is our work with CyberLink, a multimedia software company that makes 360-degree video and VR editing programs. We’re not professional videographers, but by using readily available consumer technology we were able to create a media-quality VR experience of the New York City Marathon. 

Here is what we’ve learned from integrating VR into our portfolio:

VR content doesn’t require a headset

A common misconception is that you can only experience consumer VR content through a headset — which, if true, would be an obstacle to disseminating virtual reality content to mainstream audiences, since not everyone owns a headset. The good news, however, is that people can view VR content and 360 videos not only on headsets, but also via more traditional technology such as desktop computers, laptops or smartphones.

With Web platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, which have embraced 360 video and VR content (Facebook owns Oculus, a leading developer of VR technology), anyone can watch VR content. On a desktop or laptop, you can drag the camera’s view angle around with the click of a mouse. On a smartphone, you physically move the phone in the direction from which you want to view the virtual reality content, or you can use a cardboard headset to create a full VR experience on the cheap. 

Each method offers different levels of immersion. With this accessibility, branded and promoted VR content can reach an audience wide enough to justify the required resources.

The media is embracing VR

Increasingly, VR is becoming integrated into newsrooms across America, as established media build VR operations for both branded content and their own innovative approaches to storytelling.

With its “VR Stories” app, for example, USA Today is immersing readers in experiences they likely couldn’t access otherwise, including “Cuba 360” and “IndyCar 360.” On its “NYT VR” app, The New York Times is creating specialized 360-degree content that lets viewers “embed with Iraqi forces during a battle with ISIS,” or “take a meditation journey to the California coast.” On its “Life VR” app, Time magazine has its own virtual reality series that includes a climb to the summit of Mount Everest. The Associated Press has also been using the technology as a journalistic storytelling tool.

With mainstay media organizations embracing VR, there is clearly a hunger for this content — which creates opportunities for PR firms and their clients to break new ground themselves.

VR content is becoming a reality

Working with your clients to develop VR content that resonates with target audiences is not as difficult or daunting as it might sound.

With current, consumer-grade technology such as Samsung Gear 360, agencies can easily capture high-quality, 360-degree video and turn it into VR experiences for clients. If you can operate a smartphone, you can use any of the market-ready 360 cameras to create compelling VR stories. You can then bundle the content and send it to media outlets to post and run as their own material, bringing your clients to new audiences.

As VR grows more sophisticated, the technology needed to experience these stories is becoming simpler to use. Virtual reality is becoming more accessible and immersive, providing an ideal avenue to connect brands with audiences.

By using the same consumer-grade technology, PR firms don’t have to outsource this work to expensive video-production companies. The technology now exists to create VR content themselves. All they need is a little know-how.

Kate Ryan

Kate Ryan is the U.S. managing director of Diffusion PR. She oversees the firm’s U.S. operations and provides strategic counsel across the agency. She has managed and executed award-winning PR and social media campaigns for a variety of B2B and B2C brands, whether they’re the next big startup or a major listed brand.



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