News and Insights

What is the metaverse and why should PRs care?

May 16, 2022

Is the metaverse just a new digital trend, or is it going to shape the future of PR and communications? Here’s everything you (PRs) need to know.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is nothing new, but the speed with which it recently made headlines is impressive. For many, the term has become associated with Mark Zuckerberg and the recent rebrand of Facebook to Meta but with more established brands incorporating it into long-term growth strategies, it should be no surprise that the meaning evolves daily.

According to Facebook, the metaverse is, “a set of virtual spaces where you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.” So, the metaverse is a virtual world in which users, brands, and digital platforms can exist and interact. It includes everything from virtual social and gaming platforms to NFTs, a.k.a. non-fungible tokens which are a claim of ownership for a unique, non-interchangeable digital asset that is stored on a blockchain.

It might seem like a new concept, but the idea of a multi-platform digital world has existed for years, from video games to social media and VR. The metaverse as we know it today simply builds on these ideas and is taking them to the next level.

Why should PRs care?

Aside from the fact that it could be the next internet, while the metaverse continues to influence actions and transactions in its multi-platform approach, smart PR professionals should leverage the opportunity to target an untapped virtual audience using new immersive tools.

Across all sectors, PRs should view the metaverse as another networking space. Social media has long served as a way for professionals to meet peers and clients alike. The metaverse is a natural extension of that, and it facilitates original and exciting ways to do it. Beyond this, PRs should also engage with consumers in the metaverse to understand trends and desires. After all, understanding the psychographics and demographics of a client’s target audience is the core foundation of public relations.

There are a number of ways PRs can boost engagement on behalf of their clients and reach new virtual audiences, while appealing to existing, loyal customers. With every physical product, brands should consider curating a digital version and partner up with aligned brands to create an inclusive digital native experience.

Fashion brand Balenciaga pioneered this approach in 2020 by launching a fall fashion collection in the form of a video game. Tapping into the interactivity of the metaverse, the game, Afterworld, allowed users to try on the collection virtually while existing in an immersive reality.

Similarly, last year Gucci unveiled an interactive exhibition titled ‘Gucci Garden’ in partnership with Roblox, taking users on a virtual tour through seven rooms themed around Gucci’s past fashion collections.

It won’t be long before travel brands, and more specifically luxury travel brands, jump on the trend and use the metaverse to complement real-world trips too. Horizon Yachts is already embracing this digital twin technology by providing travellers with a virtual viewing to showcase what their travel experience will look like. There may come a time when it is standard for holidaymakers to explore a destination or hotel first through an immersive, virtual experience to decide where to holiday next.

Product placement and gifting is another avenue worth exploring through the metaverse. As brands create digital versions of their products and services, PRs can gift these to media, influencers, and VIPs, or use the content to expand the reach of any digital campaign.

PRs are expert storytellers, often using press releases and pitches to help articulate a vision around a brand’s products or services. In the virtual world, this will be a crucial skill as effective product descriptions could become the difference between a consumer making a purchase or not.

As more brands and internet users start to enter the virtual world, there is no time like the present to explain how important virtual experiences are to clients. In a physical world of infinite desires and finite resources, intangible items are exactly what consumers will buy in our increasingly digital world.