Public relations is an industry that makes many people think of glossy magazines, busy publicists in sleek workwear carrying recorders with pencils behind their ears, and perhaps a schmoozy cocktail or two. One might find those stereotypes at random throughout any trendsetting industry. Public relations, at its heart, though, is always aimed at fostering better connections between entities and their target audience through communication.
Whether those entities are businesses, business owners, or public figures, their target audience (subconsciously or otherwise) is curious to learn more about them and craving to trust them. In other words, public relations is the business of controlling the narrative of these professionals and establishments to influence how the public perceives them.
The recent technological advancement of the metaverse is on the precipice of causing a significant shift in many industries, including public relations.
Defining the Metaverse
The metaverse, an entirely online, digital ecosystem burgeoned into popularity by platforms such as HyperVerse, Decentraland, and The Sandbox, is a virtual reality space with endless possibilities. Users can play games, socialize, and create avatars in all manner of realism or fantasy: All you need is a headset, and you’re instantly transported to another world.
So why does a futuristic gaming platform apply to public relations? Because it isn’t a gaming platform. It is a communications tool.
Where We Were and Where We’re Going
COVID-19 gave rise to the inherent-yet-separating quality of mobility in humans, allowing us to work from home and travel to anywhere in the world.
The metaverse brings various opportunities for connections previously inhibited by the current lack of in-person workspaces. Facebook recently created their own metaverse, Horizon Worlds, which employs over 10,000 European employees in its development and maintenance.
As such, the metaverse aims to bring all of us closer together again — from anywhere in the world.
The Future of PR is Digital
The future of public relations, as an industry, stands to gain from this new format of meeting, conversing, networking, and informing. The options available for virtual networking and speaking events, podcasts and interviews in front of 'live' audiences, and digital book and magazine signings and meet-and-greets seem endless — and are just the beginning.
Media: The New Print
The significance, accessibility, and normalcy of digital media, from online publications to podcasts to video news, is not going away. Printed media will always be the heart of the media as its foundation. Think of it: In the metaverse, users can literally walk up to a digital newsstand and purchase a physical, yet digital, magazine to ‘hold’ in their virtual reality. The concept is a marriage between traditional and new, trusted and innovative.
Live Audience Booster
The chance for podcast and live stream attendees to see and learn from their role models in real time is another huge benefit of the metaverse. Brands and entities can hold workshops, think spaces, podcast streams, Q & A sessions, and anything else they can think of on a regular basis that is worth considerably more than the current formats simply because of the personalized nature that virtual reality brings.
It will be marvelous to feel as if we are in the same space as our idols, with the added safety and cost reduction of being miles apart, comfortable in our own homes. However, I do not think this concept will make in-person events obsolete. There will, and should, always be a place for traditional face-to-face connection — especially in the public relations space.
Unlimited Potential: The Digital Network
Which brings us to our final point: Networking. The work-from-home movement has stifled it a bit. Instead of a constant calendar full of opportunity, we must choose between running down our email and social media lists or stepping out into the world in the hopes of finding our next gem, whether they be client or connection. Generally, either's ratio doesn't prove to be as fruitful if pursued at random.
Events, masterminds, and virtual events follow the template that podcasts and workshops will offer by providing value to audiences on a grand scale. The secret to mastermind events is that most of the magic happens interpersonally, within the audience. If one listens to a live stream along with thousands of others, the chances of genuinely connecting with those like-minded listeners is slim. Put them together in a virtual reality think tank and you’ve got a recipe for unlimited potential.
Businesses flourish in the digital realm. To be successful in business, one’s brand must be everywhere. Even, and perhaps most especially in the coming decade, in the metaverse.
How to Embrace the New Space
The beauty is that the metaverse can be considered a third asset rather than a total replacement. Perhaps a sector of your sales team will do most or all of their work in the metaverse. Maybe your entire company is remote, and you simply use the metaverse for monthly work mixers or team building events. Maybe you interview your clients in virtual reality.
The most crucial point when it comes to the metaverse is to treat it like every other new technology that gets people talking:
1. Society talks and debates its usefulness
2. They fall in love with it
3. Those who didn't see the benefits when everyone else did are left behind
The world even went through that cycle when color television was invented; look at where we are today.
The importance of networking, digital PR, and your business' unmistakable presence in the digital space will become paramount with each passing year. I am thrilled to be part of an era that allows me and my team to explore such wondrous feats in the tech space.
Where is everyone? Whether you agree or disagree with the positivity of this truth, everyone is on the internet. And soon, everyone will be in the metaverse.