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What is native advertising and why should PR care?

By Lisa Goldsberry

38752667_sLearn about the effects of this tool on PR professionals

Have you ever clicked on a link to read an article, only to realize that you actually started to read an advertisement? If you’re not careful, you may find that the link you click after a search is really just an advertisement for a company trying to use your interest to sell a product or service.

These tactics are called native advertising, and it’s just another tool advertising departments use to capture consumers in different parts of the sales cycle. It’s also having an effect on PR professionals. Before you decide to condemn or commend this technique, it’s important to understand more about it and how it relates to a comprehensive content strategy.

Types of native advertising

In addition to native advertising that appears to fit within the content or above search results, there are several other types you may recognize. They can look like videos, articles, reports, or pictures.

Regardless of their form, they are all paid placements designed to look like they belong there. Different types include:

Recommendation link – typically uses phrases such as “in case you missed it” or “recommendations from around the web”

Interactive Advertising Bureau standard – contains content that is related to the information on the page

Promoted content – often links to an e-commerce site but looks exactly like the rest of the information on the page

What this means for PR professionals

Some feel that native advertising is a threat to the traditional roles of PR pros. For instance, if companies can now pay to have longer pieces of content on key websites, they might not see the value in hiring PR professionals to garner official placements and build brand awareness.

Journalists are also beginning to embrace native advertising as a wave of the future. Many are positive about the practice and recognize its potential for revenue generation.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau predicts that native advertising will be responsible for more than $20 billion in advertising spending over the next few years. When compared with other types of advertising, native advertising generated more than 300 percent more unique visitors who also spent more time with these ads. This means that native advertising is getting read and shared – sometimes more than editorial content.

Although native advertising still costs money for the placement, your appearance on the page is guaranteed, which is a benefit PR can’t offer. As a result, a company can get its information into practically any publication and many might see native advertising as being just as good as a traditional news article placement.

What can PR do about it?

One way to combat this trend is to do a better job of explaining the distinctions between native advertising and solid, long-lasting PR efforts. This includes the work you do to build relationships with media, which can come in especially handy during a crisis. Also, audiences view a real news article written by a journalist as a third-party endorsement of your company, as opposed to disingenuous advertising.

That being said, native advertising doesn’t have to be a threat to PR. PR professionals are best suited to writing content for these kinds of ads since we are the ones who understand how to create a news story while relating to target audiences and staying true to the brand. In addition, it is important to create content that is native to the platform because every platform's tone, audience, and messaging are different. 

Measurement is also vital, and the right PR firm can help. At Axia Public Relations, we use our unique PR PRoof system: a seven-step planning, measurement, and reporting approach that will allow you to see which efforts are working and make the best choices for your company. Contact us today to learn more about how we can maximize your PR investment.


Lisa Goldsberry is a writer for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business, higher education, and technology PR. Connect with Axia Public Relations on Twitter @axiapr.

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Topics: public relations

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