What the Philanthropy Industry Can Learn from Augmented Reality Experiences

Public relations and communications experts in the healthcare industry are constantly looking for ways to effectively connect with their customers and share their message. Many companies have created apps and interactive websites with features such as symptom checkers, health assessments, and other applications that allow a patient to better understand their condition and make informed choices. The rapid adoption of virtual reality and augmented reality games such as Pokemon GO open up doors to a wealth of opportunities for PR professionals to connect with their target audience in an innovative way. Today, companies are not only able to create unique experiences for their users but also leverage virtual reality and augmented reality technologies to better understand the patient from the health condition sufferer’s perspective.

Healthcare public relations and communications professionals can now integrate some of the latest technologies and virtual reality apps with their campaigns to provide a much more authentic and memorable experience for patients. We can leverage augmented reality gaming logic and apps to create unique user experiences, connect with customers in an authentic way, and do it all while supporting communications and marketing initiatives.

Here’s a closer look at what the public relations and communications industry can learn from augmented reality experiences.

Empowering Customers by Superimposing Reality

Augmented reality and virtual reality gaming have taken the world by storm in recent years. The huge success of Pokemon GO, where users are able to live in the real world and the virtual world simultaneously, has taken role-playing games to a whole new level. Players now have a chance to create their own realities and everyday experiences based on their decisions and actions through a game. This type of superimposition makes the experience that much more real — and memorable.

It’s this type of superimposition of reality that puts the player (user) back in the driver’s seat and gives them a sense of empowerment and control. Many public relations and marketing efforts are largely focused on educating and empowering the customer so that he or she can make a decision based on information that we have provided. Designing some type of app or experience that allows the customer to do just that could be the key to developing a relationship with the customer and achieving business goals.

Creating Virtual Experiences to Better Understand the Customer

While providing unique experiences to communicate a message or coordinate a branding initiative is one of the goals of public relations, it’s not possible to create an authentic or valuable experience without fully understanding the patient. In the healthcare industry, this means having a complete understanding of what a patient struggles with and being able to empathize with them at a deeper level. Without this type of knowledge, it is virtually impossible to truly connect with the patient and identify their needs.

When marketing to patients with a certain health condition, one of the key things marketers, communications professionals and salespeople need to identify is what is most important to that patient in any given time. What’s it like to live a day in their shoes? What do they feel, experience and even complain about while suffering with this condition? What do they struggle with throughout the day? Creating a digital character, or avatar (AVA) is one way to approach this — develop a patient profile or personality that engages with employees to discuss their challenges and experiences. This creates a ‘persona’ that marketers and public relations professionals can relate to as they develop valuable solutions and ideas.

The ultimate goal: Being able to see the world through the patient’s eyes

Takeda has taken the lead on developing healthcare apps in recent years and recently worked on an initiative to educate its employees about what it’s like to suffer from IBS. Employees were required to follow an app’s instructions which required going to the bathroom suddenly in the middle of the day or staying in the restroom for at least 10 minutes. These mini-experiences gave employees a better idea of what it’s like to live with IBS and manage symptoms. The initiative was aptly named, ‘In Their Shoes’, providing employees with real-life experience so they could develop solutions for the some of the challenges that they came across. These employees had the chance to simulate the experience of living with IBS by going through the motions of an IBS sufferer. From there, they could move forward with identifying answers and solutions that would be most relevant to this type of patient.

It’s time to turn our sales pitches into conversations and really connect with our target audiences. Instead of simply providing content and running outreach campaigns, there may be great value in designing and promoting apps that provide a more personalized experience — especially when the prospect is suffering from some type of health condition or is looking of ways to manage their medical needs. Healthcare public relations and communications professionals need to be open and receptive to adapting new technologies, even taking a holistic approach to tech instead of labeling it as a ‘sterile’ subject that is best left to the science and web world. In addition, companies can use apps and web tools to educate employees about  ‘a day in the life’ of a patient. Having employees actually walk through discomfort, stress, and other symptoms related to the patient’s condition can make it easier to identify challenges that then lead to opportunities.