IPR friends occasionally send me research conducted by their organizations with implications for public relations practice. I recently received an email from Richard Edelman with a report that shared insights into the role of sponsored content (created or curated by corporations) from a public relations perspective.
Research led by Steve Rubel, chief content strategist at Edelman, analyzed sponsored content and how its development affects practitioners. Edelman’s report is based on more than 30 interviews conducted with senior news media executives and ad-tech startups, including the AP, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, Meredith, NBC News, Reuters, Rodale, Slate, Time Inc. and The Washington Post.
With the revolution of the digital world, U.S. news media seem to be rapidly adapting to the model of sponsored content. There are some noteworthy opportunities for practitioners to embrace this relationship, but according to the Edelman report, there are also five key questions to keep in mind:
- Will the government get involved if the consumer feels they are being deceived? The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has already adopted a strict stance on warning marketers about similar formats on social networks.
- Will audiences reject sponsored content? The consensus from most news media is that if the content is good, then the audience will read it.
- Will Google spoil the party? Google told publishers they must institute a code of change that reduces the search engine optimization (SEO) of sponsored posts. If Google feels consumers are being deceived, it will act.
- Will it all be automated? Start-ups like Sharethrough, Nativo, Outbrain and OneSpot are looking to utilize sponsored content in a scalable way.
- Will the press take control? Some sponsored content programs will be successful, but others will have low quality. Many large publishers already have studios that work directly with sponsors to create content for them.
The full report can be found at: https://edelman.app.box.com/s/tr207o4yxgs0v8e71nxz
Frank Ovaitt is president and CEO of the Institute for Public Relations.