An era comes to an end: the media revolution is slowing down. After constant upheavals, shifts between strong and weak business models, old and new media, the PR, advertising and media landscape is now stabilising. The dust has settled, but the rules of the game have changed. Welcome to the new PR world, where media agencies, PR agencies and media operators take on new roles to achieve successful advertising campaigns for their clients. Native Advertising is a new discipline and mostly the playing field of media agencies. But should it be? There is enormous potential in making Native Advertising a standard element in PR strategy.
A new media landscape
In the past 10 years, the media world has seen many changes. In the Netherlands, four free dailies were reduced to one single publication; linear TV became on-demand and a small number of blogs grew into a number of online-first publishers. Nowadays, vloggers have a larger reach than many TV programmes and the best option for businesses wishing to connect with Millennials are influencers profiling themselves on Instagram and YouTube. These shifts brought Native Advertising into existence and have had a strong impact on how brands plan their communication strategy. If you play your cards right in this new setting, you can win the game.
- One size does not fit all – The truism of the old PR world was ‘one size fits all’: one single press release, one single event, with everything revolving around that one story-telling opportunity. In contrast, vloggers communicate in real time with their followers and pick up news differently from journalists who are limited by editorial boundaries and newspaper tempo. The scattered and irregular information intake of consumers is hard to match with tailor-made messages, but businesses will have to adjust if they want to be successful in this new PR world. It will not be an easy transition, but it is a necessary one.
- Print-first content or mobile-first content? – The large and important consumer group of 20 to 40-year-olds no longer turns to magazines, newspapers and TV for their information intake. They prefer on-demand content, delivered through services such as Netflix, Ziggo Movies & Series or the public television NPO app. This group digests online content while using ad blockers, actively suppressing unwanted ads from their social ecosystem. The only content that reaches them is high-quality editorial content that is provided on large social media networks like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
These changes form obstacles when trying to reach target audiences with advertising material and they challenge PR professionals to translate commercial messages into stories worth telling–and reading.
- The last taboo has vanished: content is now for sale – The traditional newspaper business model is feeling the pressure of an ageing subscriber pool, the large amount of free news publications and services like Blendle. Magazines are losing subscriptions to the growing number of free online publications that are more adept at targeting and reaching their target audience. The newcomers are often young entrepreneurs operating on a niche market, making up in effective reach what they lack in journalistic experience. These self-made publishers have their own set of ethics and standards–and their own paid-content business model. Their modern practices have quickly made them important players on the media stage. The paid-for articles are written in the same tone of voice of the platform itself, increasing their impact to the level of the free publicity trump card of traditional PR.
Native Advertising is called exactly that because the paid content is tightly integrated into the editorial formula of the relevant media partner. Traditional media will have to kick their efforts into high gear if they want to keep up. Online media is increasing their market share while old media are losing print subscriptions, seeing advertising revenue dwindle and having to scramble for new sources of income. There used to be a strict divide between editorial departments and sales departments, but that chasm has all but disappeared. Old media are now also starting to create their own forms of Native Advertising–with both editorial approval and involvement.
Native Advertising is best left to PR professionals
As a result of the media cataclysm, content can now be bought from the majority of media titles–from traditional print media to fresh YouTubers. This brings up the question of who should create that content. The following three answers clarify why PR agencies are best suited to handle content creation:
- Editorial articles & Creativity. PR agencies weigh up the commercial value and editorial attention of stories every single day. This means they are continuously working on stories and adding creativity to make that content interesting enough for media to grant them editorial real estate. This attitude is embedded in every PR specialist’s genes. That is what makes Native Advertising different: it is not an advertorial, but an article which is geared toward a specific audience while containing an embedded brand message.
- Network & Matchmaking. Media agencies traditionally build up relationships with sales managers at publishers and content agencies. PR agencies, on the other hand, have strong personal ties with journalists, bloggers and influencers–the people that matter when it comes to Native Advertising. As Native Advertising revolves around the match between the brand and the content creator, a good relationship with this group is crucial for creating truly impactful content. Credibility is key and can make or break a brand.
- Central coordination. Many campaigns suffer from a clash between Native Advertising and free publicity, simply because media agencies and PR agencies often live in their individual, isolated towers. On several occasions, Glasnost pitched an item based on free editorials, only to lose out because a similar item had already been purchased at the same TV channel by a media agency. Hence, central coordination is required to create synergy instead of antergy. Synergy not only increases campaign reach, but also maximises the available budget.
But what about the other types of agencies? Media agencies such as OMD, content agencies like Wayne Parker Kent or publishers such as Vice all have a role to play as experts in different areas of Native Advertising. Media agencies are the lead budgeting, data insight and purchasing agents. Content agencies and publishers establish the execution, boundaries and framework for Native Advertising. The central coordination, however, should be in the hands of modern PR agencies, because they have the creative touch and the necessary network, but also the ability to properly balance free and paid publicity. The media revolution is not making life harder for PR agencies; it is opening up possibilities.
Viva la revolución!