New research has revealed that native advertising – sponsored or branded content that matches the look and feel of publisher websites – is shaping up to be a vital future development for the PR sector and could be the way it gets more budget from its clients.
Nine out of ten PR agencies in the UK (88 percent) admit that they see native as an opportunity for the sector and 75 percent believe they should be the best choice to create and distribute native advertising content for brands.
In fact, around nine out of ten (87 percent) also think PRs could be doing more to seize new content marketing budget (within which native advertising sits) from their clients.
The survey was commissioned by native advertising platform Adyoulike. It contacted senior directors and heads of digital at 75 of the UK’s leading PR agencies, ranging in size from small businesses with fewer than 10 employees to multinational networks with more than a hundred.
It also found that half of PR agencies (50 percent) currently offer native advertising solutions to their clients and 19 percent plan to do so in the future.
Francis Turner, UK managing director at Adyoulike, comments: “The PR sector should be doing more with native advertising because it’s all about content – and that’s the industry’s strongest suit. After all, those agencies create eye-catching content every day. Brands see the potential of native to get their message out there in an engaging and immersive way that sits in-feed with publishers’ own content and doesn’t disrupt the online experience. PR firms should be aiming for a larger slice of the content marketing pie and native is a great way for them to get it.”
The study also analysed how PR agencies use native to increase the reach and share of the media coverage they get for clients. Currently, agencies tend to focus on social media platforms to accomplish this, with 94 percent and 88 percent using organic reach on Twitter and Facebook, respectively.
The same number (63 percent) use paid campaigns on those two platforms to boost views of their media coverage, but less than half (44 percent) currently use paid native. Facebook currently receives the most budget as a paid-for method of sharing coverage, averaging 18 percent of agency media spend.
Francis Turner continues: “Native allows PRs to get the media coverage they’ve worked so hard to achieve in front of new and broader audiences. That helps their clients and also allows them to demonstrate even greater success. And given that so many agencies already share coverage on social platforms and pay for the privilege, moving budget into native and delivering PR in a native content environment as well as a social one makes complete sense.”
Of course, there are still challenges. The survey found that only 38 percent of senior PR people feel ‘very confident’ that they can clearly explain native advertising to their clients, while two-thirds (67 percent) are concerned by the transparency of the paid element of native campaigns and 40 percent worry that using native devalues traditional media coverage.
Francis Turner concludes: “With complete transparency and understanding, PR agencies can use native to strengthen their client relationships, make their hard-earned media coverage stretch even further and even gain access to previously-untapped content budgets. Those who are doing so already or plan to kick off native campaigns in the near future are undoubtedly getting a leg up on the competition.”