New York — Some alert B2B publishers have created policies covering sponsored-content procedures – a smart move, considering the ethical confusion that surrounds native advertising programs. And surprising as it may seem, good ideas for designing the policies can be found in the public relations world.

For instance, consider the new “Disclosure and Transparency in Native Advertising and Sponsored Content” advisory, authored by the Public Relations Society of America.

The four-page document includes sections on Federal Trade Commission concerns, relevant ethics-related sections of the PRSA code, examples of improper practices, recommended best practices, and a reference section that includes recent native ad reports prepared by PR giant Daniel J. Edelman Holdings Inc. and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

PRSA’s advisory also suggests an approach that B2B publishers and editors could use in offering native-ad guidance to advertisers. Most notable is a “Recommended Best Practices” section created by PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards in the absence of new Federal Trade Commission regulations. The section contains these elements:

  1. “Full disclosure. Public relations professionals must work to ensure that the sponsorship of news (traditional and online), blog posts, and other social media platforms for advertising is fully disclosed within the text of the content and made consistently clear to readers/viewers/users.”
  2. “Disclosure strategy. Such disclosures should be clear and appropriate to the medium. Sponsored content and native advertising should be clearly discernible from editorial content and must not attempt to deceive the reader into believing that the content comes from an independent point of view.”
  3. Differentiating sponsored information “may be accomplished by using contrasting fonts, bars, rules, and other graphic arts techniques, as well as traditional disclaimers.”
  4. “In social media, sponsored content should be transparent within the requirements of the platform. For example, on Twitter, if a media outlet is promoting a series sponsored by a brand, the tweet should disclose the sponsorship (e.g., ‘Top Ten Summer Travel Tips’ – sponsored by @ACUtravel.)”
  5. “Public relations professionals can take advantage of the opportunity to promote their client and support media partners through sponsored content advertising while preserving, protecting and enhancing the media partners’ objectivity and credibility. By clearly and readily disclosing sponsorship to the audience/consumer, public relations professionals provide a beneficial service for both their clients and the sources being used.”

(Editor’s note: For additional reference material addressing native advertising ethical matters, see the special focus articles appearing in ENU’s February issue.)