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Native Advertising Could Massively Impact PR
By: Mike Bush
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In many, many sales pitches (especially with start ups), I’ve had the experience of discussing the value of earned media, as opposed to pay-for-play opportunities (be it in the form of advertorial or speaking opportunities).
But last night, a piece on GigaOm started with the simple question: Should the New York Times consider Native Advertising?
***For those unfamiliar with Native Advertising, think of it as Advertorial to the extreme. The link to the piece that sparked this post has some great examples, and there are many more to be found. Here’s a Forbes page where all of the content is provided by an advertiser and paid for. Yes, Forbes…a publication that clients have historically been willing to give up (or at least consider giving up) their firstborn to be featured in, now has pay-for-play opportunities. And if regular people miss the small “what’s this?” link, there’s a good chance they don’t realize they’re being advertised to (as flacks, we should know better, but let’s be honest; thankfully we don’t live in a world of flacks. Civilians, they might not see the difference).
What does this mean for PR folks? Quite a lot. really (and that’s ignoring the ethical discussion of disclosure and what it means to be a contributor to a publication)
First and foremost, we need to identify if publications are using Native Advertising to supplement the amount of content on their site, or to replace content on their site. If it’s the former, then we need to keep fighting for earned-media as always. But if it’s the latter, we need to understand the changing dynamics between PR pros and Reporters/Editors. In short, there could be less room for reporting, meaning every inch is more important, and more sought after by PR professionals. This means it’s time for stronger, more targeted pitches. Time to up your game.
(And it may also be time to hug a reporter, because their jobs could be on the line at the expense of marketing materials. Of course…more reporters being available on the market could mean more competition for PR jobs too).
Secondly, it means there’s a pretty good chance clients will start to ask about Native Advertising. This is a major blend of marketing and PR initiatives, and while PR pros should have all written plenty of contributed materials for our clients, this will blend PR and SEO skills (as we run into Marketing departments, there’s going to be more tracking of click throughs, page rank, sharing, etc). If you’re not able to effectively discuss web marketing, it’s time to become able to do so.
Finally, as PR professionals, it’s time to make sure our writing skills are sharper than ever. Please understand, there are now opportunities for the materials we write to be published in Forbes. We need to be able to hold our own, editorially speaking, with the same reporters we pitch.
The skill set needed to be an effective PR professional is changing daily, and Native Advertising has the potential to be a major driver on fundamental change to our profession.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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