SXSW Recap: Why Virtual Reality Matters in Public Relations

SXSW 2016

Pierponter Kristen James recently attended a SXSW 2016 panel hosted by our partner agency MSLGroup and PRWeek. Let’s Break Tradition: Virtual Reality in Public Relations explored how virtual reality has moved beyond what we’ve seen in SciFi movies and video games to become a practical communications tool for the public relations industry.

With panelists from organizations on the leading edge of virtual reality in communications, we saw firsthand how virtual reality is shifting organizations’ connection with their audiences.  

A few key takeaways:

  • Virtual reality provides a great opportunity for storytelling and offers a more unique way to get your value proposition across, according to Tara Kriese, Senior Director, Marketing of Samsung Electronics America. She explained that we’re shifting from the mindset of “seeing is believing” to “experiencing is believing.”
  • Jim Marggraff, Founder and CEO of Eyefluence, shared that experiences in virtual reality produce memories as real-life moments, giving brands the opportunity to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
  • A new stage is coming and marketers will have to create new experiences for journalists and the public, according to Rackspace futurist Robert Scoble.
  • John Hacket, Director of Emerging Technology with Nurun, shared that we no longer have to work with a linear story line. We can create experiences with a complexity that lends to more participatory storytelling.

Panelists also offered a caution: As with any marketing effort, trust with consumers must be established, but consumer trust at this level is beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. Now more than ever, consumers are responding with their emotions, which is why marketers cannot afford to violate that trust.

The panelists predicted we’ll start seeing more widespread adoption of virtual reality within a few years. In fact, the National MS Society recently released a series of videos that show how virtual reality can help people with MS experience their passions. One of our favorites shows a dancer experiencing her art as if she’s back on stage: #WeAreStrongerThanMS: Dancing.