Native advertising makes me laugh: If you want something to sound like it is new, give it a new name. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it: Native advertising is a form of online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it appears. For example, an article written by an advertiser to promote their product, but using the same form as an article written by the editorial staff.
For us in public relations, we’ve been doing that for 35 years. One of my first press releases as a writer for University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics was placed on the Quad-City Times’ front page (under a reporter’s byline, but it was my article, word for word).
Now some think that native advertising is the downfall of PR. I’d say, native advertising is what PR is all about. The problem is not that PR is changing, the problem is that the media is changing. We may not worry so much about securing media coverage through traditional media when we can use the cumulative media power of citizen journalists through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.
So PR may look different going forward, but the key attributes of a strong practitioner will be the same:
- Deep understanding of target audience
- Strong writing skills
- Ability to simplify complex communications problems
- Ability to see the forest and how each tree builds it
- Technology savvy
- Understanding of how design impacts brand and messaging
- Ability to turn data into a visual story
Call it what you like, native advertising or public relations, the new digital landscape is changing the roles, but not the underlying fundamentals of messaging and brand.