The Future of PR in a Digital World
I always thought that the future would be filled with flying cars and aliens, not an alternate reality. The metaverse is a digital reality where avatars of people (yes, avatars) will be able to work, interact, and play, just as they do in the physical world. While this sounds like the plot of a sci-fi film, it is not too far off from the world we live in today.
Modern-day technology and social media have changed the way we live, especially during COVID, when virtual spaces became critical for people to work and learn from home. PR professionals must stay current with the times and adapt to new technologies. In the near future, we will see more brands and companies using the metaverse; global brands like Nike, Disney, and Coca-Cola have already integrated their products into this digital world.
There are several ways that PR practitioners can take advantage of this digital reality for their clients, as well as many implications for the industry that will come as a result of the metaverse. PR professionals should be prepared to adapt to the metaverse and find strategic and creative ways to implement campaigns in a digital realm. As of right now, it is difficult to tell exactly how PR professionals will communicate in the metaverse, but that is for them to determine.
As stated by Joshua Smith, a public relations professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, “Finding, building and implementing communication opportunities in the metaverse will require creativity, adaptability, and foresight. At this early stage of development, forward-thinking communicators are not looking for ways to break into the metaverse — they’re inventing them.”
As always, PR practitioners will be concerned with the upkeep of brand reputation and engaging with the public, and this will remain true in the metaverse. It is a public relations professional's job to keep their clients' image favorable in people’s eyes, or should I say, in avatar’s eyes. The new digital world will bring many opportunities for each industry, and as for public relations, the goal is to find the most efficient way to communicate with the public and manage clients’ reputations within the metaverse.
In the current day, we consider traditional media outlets to be newspapers, TV, and radio. PR practitioners have fully adopted social media as one of the most efficient ways to implement campaigns. However, future PR professionals will consider anything outside of the metaverse to be a ‘legacy’ media outlet.
The metaverse will require PR professionals to utilize their same skill set, but for digital campaigns and projects. The new generation of PR professionals will become accustomed to virtual product placement within the metaverse, virtual brand collaborations, and virtual press promotion. Practitioners should encourage their clients to dive into the metaverse and help them create digital experiences for their consumers, as this is how brands will stay on top in the future. Essentially every element of PR will be taken to a digital scale, including virtual employee relations and virtual campaign implementation.
One of the first brands to experiment with metaverse promotion is Balenciaga. During Paris Fashion Week in Fall 2020, Balenciaga released its new collection in the form of a video game, which enabled consumers to virtually try on items in an augmented reality. Balenciaga is one of the first brands to experiment with this new era of product promotion, but certainly not the last. Various other brands such as Microsoft, Louis Vuitton, and Hyundai have already started operations in the metaverse.
In years to come, PR professionals will have a lot of creative freedom to design campaigns that are ‘out of this world’. PR professionals should be prepared to use their diverse skill sets not only in this world, but the digital one too.
By Ashley Frenchman
Ashley is a junior public relations student at San Diego State University with a passion for current events reporting.