The “church and state” separation between earned and paid media programs at PR and communications agencies has ended. Paid media is no longer an afterthought. Leveraging paid placements that align with earned and owned media efforts is a chance to maximize the reach of message-rich content to targeted audiences of prospects, investors, and potential employees.
This integrated approach to communications—programs that span earned, paid, and owned media—is crucial for brand consistency across all channels. The earned media landscape is noisy, and by extending storytelling on earned and owned channels to paid—through native advertising, for example—brands have the opportunity to truly stand out. Native advertising marries the best of both worlds: complete control over storytelling, targeted directly to audiences that matter most.
What Do We Mean by Native Advertising?
Native advertising is a form of sponsored content. It refers to a type of online advertising in which the ad content matches the platform it’s on. When a user is scrolling through a news site online, they’re presented with an article—designated as “sponsored content” by a brand—that aligns with their interests and the publisher’s aesthetics. When the user clicks on the article, they’ll either be taken to another site—typically the brand’s site, or a piece of earned coverage on another publisher’s site—or they’ll stay on the same publisher to read the article.
It’s intended to be an engaging and less disruptive user experience than traditional ads. When done well, native ads don’t feel like advertisements at all but rather like informative or entertaining content. Consider it a bridge between traditional PR and modern digital marketing. Read on for the main benefits for pursuing native advertising as a complement to an earned and owned media program:
Achieve Top-Tier Placements
Communications professionals know all too well that it’s not always possible to deliver media coverage in clients’ dream publications (without many different assets—from provocative points-of-view to corporate news, to product innovation, and more). With native advertising, brands can achieve article placements on the publisher sites read by their target audiences.
Take Control of Your Brand’s Narrative
No matter how positive the earned media coverage, only a brand and their communications team can write an article exactly how they’d want it to be written. While earned media is a critical piece of a communications program—the third-party credibility is key—pairing it with paid media via native ads allows brands and their agencies to fully own the narrative.
Native articles—a form of native advertising—enable brands to tell the exact right story across premium publishers, bypassing editorial negotiations and the risk of off-brand messaging. These articles can be edited in real-time, too, to stay relevant to the changing market.
Fully Maximize Owned Content and Earned Coverage
Communications professionals know the logistical and emotional journey all too well: you pitch the story, the reporter is interested in covering it (WOO!), you set up briefings, you fact check and share imagery, and FINALLY—the article is live. It’s a thrilling joyride but fleeting. For a brief moment, the article is at the top of the publisher’s feed, before quickly being buried by the more recent news.
Native advertising is a chance to extend the life of an earned piece of coverage, and the value of the time invested in getting that hit and maximizes the article’s reach and influence.
The same can be said for owned content—it can take weeks for a long-form piece of content or even a blog to be developed. Amplifying this content on social media is a given. But native advertising placements also gives this owned content another boost directly to audiences that care about the given topic.
Measure and Improve ROI
While we have various ways of measuring the value and ROI of earned media placements, quantifying the reach and investment in native advertising is clear. Native advertising offers data like impressions, click-through rates, call-to-action rates, time on content, and more—and that insight informs PR teams on how they can fine tune the messaging in real-time to boost reader attention and deliver against client goals.
For example, one of V2’s clients, a global IT company, ran 13 native advertisements over the course of three months, targeting business and technology publications. This campaign resulted in nearly five million impressions and a .45% CTR, surpassing industry benchmarks.
An integrated earned, owned, and paid media strategy is the critical next step in the evolution of a brands’ communications, adding measurement, control, and longevity to messaging.