Native advertising—sponsored or branded content that matches the look and feel of publisher websites—is growing in importance to the PR sector and could be the way to secure more budget from clients, according to new research that finds nine out of ten PR agencies in the UK (88 percent) saying that they see native as an opportunity for the sector and 75 percent saying they should be the best choice to create and distribute native advertising content for brands.

In fact, around nine out of ten (87 percent) also think PR people could be doing more to seize new content marketing budget (within which native advertising sits) from their clients, according to a survey 
commissioned by native advertising platform Adyoulike.

The survey also found that half of PR agencies (50 percent) currently offer native advertising solutions to their clients and 19 percent plan to do so in the future.

According to Francis Turner, UK managing director at Adyoulike, "The PR sector should be doing more with native advertising because it's all about content—and that's the industry's strongest suit…. Brands see the potential of native to get their message out there in an engaging and immersive way that sits in-feed with publishers' own content and doesn't disrupt the online experience. PR firms should be aiming for a larger slice of the content marketing pie and native is a great way for them to get it."

The study also analysed how PR agencies use native to increase the reach and share of the media coverage they get for clients. Currently, agencies tend to focus on social media platforms to accomplish this, with 94 percent and 88 percent using organic reach on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. The same number (63 percent) use paid campaigns on those two platforms to boost views of their media coverage, but less than half (44 percent) currently use paid native.

"Given that so many agencies already share coverage on social platforms and pay for the privilege, moving budget into native and delivering PR in a native content environment as well as a social one makes complete sense," Turner says.

Having said that, only 38 percent of senior PR people feel “very confident” that they can clearly explain native advertising to their clients, while two-thirds (67 percent) are concerned by the transparency of the paid element of native campaigns and 40 percent worry that using native devalues traditional media coverage.