Lovely Followers

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Jonathan Ward Verte Collection

Last week I popped in to Wholefoods in Kensington to buy my favourite candle, I truly was on a mission! I have tried several of Jonathan Ward's candles and so far my favourite is The Velvet Moss Rose. The main aromatic ingredients in this hand poured soy wax candle are Lavender, Vetiver, Patchouli and of course Rose. Jonathan may not thank me for this comparison but as soon as I smelled it, it reminded me of Coco by Chanel. Sorry Jonathan but it does and I love it for it.

As I mentioned this is a soy wax candle and so burns more softly and with little or no soot (so if you burn candles a lot then you won't get a sooty residue and it's better for your health). The burn time of the medium size (185g/ £20.50) is about 30 hours. I find it best to burn it for about an hour at a time so the top layer of wax is melted, this preserves the wick and by the time you get to the end all of the wax will have burned away - giving total value for money! The other reason I love it is that you don't even have to burn it for it to make a room smell wonderful. The intensity of the perfume is detectable even when the candle is boxed!

I have had many of Jonathan's extraordinary candles, and I don't see myself buying any others any time soon. I am equally excited to hear that Jonathan is expanding his wonderful artisan expertise in to other areas of fragrance such as diffusers.

I want to give special thanks and mention to three lovely ladies GetLippie, BritishBeautyBlogger and BeautyMouth for introducing me to both Jonathan and his artisan candles.

Monday, 13 June 2011

A refusal often offends - contacting brands, some pointers.

I've only ever contacted a handful of companies about my blog and YouTube. The first was e.l.f Cosmetics UK as I had watched a video about them but thought they were just in the US. A bit of investigation and I found a UK website had recently been launched.

In the early days I found it highly embarrassing to self promote and still do, so I don't contact brands anymore. Most of the time I evaluate whether I would purchase a brand first. If it is a brand I haven't heard of, is expensive or is only available via the Internet or Mail Order, I might contact them for a sample which is fairly normal for a customer to do. A lot of the time for very new or small companies, that is the first interaction with a blogger. So I feel I am carrying the mantle for the rest of us and want to make it a pleasant and meaningful experience for all.

Now I am the person who reads those emails from other bloggers, and I have to say that they are letting me down! Every day I receive emails from girls who are practically demanding products in return for reviews on their blogs. This is so embarrassing for me as a blogger, I just despair when I read some of the hastily scratched out demands for products with little insight in to what it is they are offering. To be successful in working with brands you have to have a professional attitude. The way I see it is that you only get one chance with a brand to make the right impression and to be taken seriously, just like a job interview.

So I've compiled a list of pointers based on my experience of contacting brands and being contacted by bloggers. If you are thinking of approaching a brand for review samples or information and you want to be taken seriously, consider these obvious but often missed points:

1. It's important to research the brand you are contacting. What are their latest products/shades and why do you want to try them, but are not prepared to buy them? Do not say that you "don't have any money" or "on a spending ban". If you are a prolific reviewer then it is acceptable that you simply don't have enough time/space to buy everything that interests you in your budget but there's no need to say it!

2. Do not write a blanket email (unless it's really good), put some effort in to your approach and cover email (just like you would for a job that you really wanted to get). To a brand, this is a business proposal for PR, so use language that is suitable. If you don't know what this language is, don't hit send, take some more time to think about what you are offering. A really good thing to do is think about what unique thing you are offering to a brand and proposing that before asking for products in return.

3. A refusal often offends but manners cost nothing. So don't be upset if you don't get an offer of products, it's a brave thing to approach a brand and start a dialogue. That's just what it is, the start, you never know what can happen in the future. A refusal now is not a closed door for your blog. It's not good manners to fire an email back to me asking for further reasons why I can't send you something! I will have looked at your blog and decided whether it is something we can take forward or not.

4. If you receive a lot of refusals or no replies, try to think what a brand wants to hear when being approached? Be proactive, business like and not too casual. Saying "contact me if you want to" at the end of your email says you're not too bothered, so why should I be? Equally crass is "please reply to my email as soon as possible", it makes the writer sound a bit desperate and actually won't speed me up at all.

5. Ask yourself honestly why you want these products. I can always tell when someone is simply sending me an email that they have sent to countless other brands. Phrases such as "I am a big fan of your products", "I have heard great things about your brand" are all too familiar. If you haven't heard of us, then don't worry, say so. By all means have a shopping list of items you'd like to review but don't include it in your email until the subject is broached by the brand.

6. Don't promise great reviews in return for products. Some brands may want this but I don't want exposure from a blogger who promises great reviews. We want honest and in depth reviews, not fluff pieces. Your readers will appreciate honest reviews, more so from a product which has been sent to you for review.

7. Be honest about your blog, in terms of viewership, followers and quality of your reviews. I read a lot of blogs and websites, I can spot a good writer, clear photographs, honesty, passion and commitment to blogging a mile away. Also understand the marketplace for blogs, there are many blogs out there reviewing products. What makes yours different? Do you have a unique view point or angle?

8. Obvious, but include a link to your posts about the brand (if you have any) or just your website. If you don't include it, I can't find it!

9. Know the demographic and geography of the brand you are targeting. If your blog is based in a country that the company doesn't cover (yet) then your email shows that you haven't done your research.

10. Be realistic please. The funniest email I ever received was from a person who hadn't even started their blog/YouTube channel because they didn't have any make up as their parents didn't let them buy it. Would I send them some to start their channel? Three emails later and she still didn't understand why I couldn't send her some make up.

My final piece of advice is this; if your blog is what a brand is looking for, they will find you eventually. If you are interested in a brand, then buy an item and review it before approaching. Don't look around and see what other bloggers have and think it's easy, it really isn't they have to work hard to build and maintain relationships and to be taken as seriously as journalists and celebrities.

I love hearing from new bloggers, so don't be put off writing to me about your blog, just be realistic about your chances of success. I also have a note about age, I personally don't work with bloggers under the age of 18. It's a moral grey area for me, I realise that teenagers have many valid opinions and are customers but I don't want the brand to be accused of taking advantage of young people to promote products.

Good luck with your blog! Be smart and safe when contacting companies, don't forget that we do talk to each other about you so try to take every experience as positive and build upon it for your next encounter!

Friday, 10 June 2011

2012 Eye Liner Trends

From a recent fact finding trip, I met with several make up development companies who were keen to show me their 2012 colours and textures.

Baroque - these colours are sumptuous and bold - conveying elegance and drama. Colours such as scarlet, old gold and purple.

Nostalgia - Soft and fresh colours such as peach, light teal and smoky brown.

Plastix - Vibrant and jungle inspired colours - I think a perfect interpretation for the Summer 2012 London Olympics.

I'm very excited about these two-tone pencils, I love iridescent jewel tone pencils and I have been looking for some more for a long time. I have the Bourjois duo chrome pencils which are adorable but these look even more exciting.

I am not sure I can wait until 2012! I only wonder now which make up company will be branding and selling these next year!?

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Chatty Chick.

I work for e.l.f cosmetics UK, part of my role is to be responsible for our social media. It's been very successful for the company in building a customer base, which for an online only brand can be hard work. I have been a blogger and YouTuber for over three years. The landscape, technology and number of people involved has increased dramatically in that time. It is barely recognisable from where I started three years ago.

I like to think of myself as an all rounder in the world of social media, I've learned that the only way that works is to immerse yourself in it, learn from others and try new things. The great thing about social media is that you don't have to spend a lot to find out what works.

I manage a few facebook pages, the elfcosmeticsUK facebook page alone has nearly 200,000 fans, as well as the twitter and YouTube channels that are growing steadily. elfcosmeticsUK was voted #33 in the top 100 social brands in the UK earlier this year. We also scooped a fair amount of awards in the Latest in Beauty New Year's honours list, including Brand of the Year, thanks to our social media fans' votes. They are a force to be reckoned with and you can't buy that kind of loyalty and following, it has to be earned. I'm very proud of these achievements as it is mainly down to me and the interactions I have with fans on a daily basis.

Just like marketing, everyone thinks they can do it and with the right experience and mind set, they can! I found that it takes a while to get in to the flow of a community and its mood. It's not that hard really, if you're naturally chatty and have a lot of knowledge about the product range.

I will freely admit that a lot of money is wasted (by others I might add) on social media campaigns which fail to meet the mark in terms of awareness, conversion to sales and interacting on a human level with customers. I won't name names, I take no schadenfreude from these all too public gaffs, I just hope they have learned from their experiences. It's not something you undertake because everyone else is doing it and it seems to work for them.

I've had a lot of interaction with PR agencies, young companies and social media agencies on how best to grow their following. I tell them all the same thing, people won't join a page for a one sided conversation, that's just not social [media].

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Skincare Staples.

In times of skin woe I turn to two products which help to rebalance and heal my skin back to a happier state; Alva Cleansing Milk and Alva Lifting Cream. I often have bouts of Rosacea acne, painful red welts on my cheeks which lasts about 2 weeks if I do not treat it with the right products. Sometimes it is brought about by hormones, stress or food (such as red wine and refined sugars in my case).

I've been using these products nearly a year in every season with no ill effects. I like them because no matter how sore, upset or out of sorts my skin is feeling these do not aggravate but gently bring my skin back from the brink. If they don't help then I know it's time to see a Doctor for medical intervention! 90% of the time, these products resolve a flare up for me.

Both products are from the Sanddorn range of Anti-ageing products containing Sea Buckthorn extract. The Sea Buckthorn gives the range a distinctive natural scent and peach colour.

The Cleansing milk is very effective at removing dirt, oil and make up (even waterproof) but remains gentle and non-drying. I take a small amount and work it over the face and neck, then remove with a damp muslin cloth. You can find out more about this product (ingredients, reviews and prices) here. I will say that a 150ml tube has lasted me nearly a year and I intend to repurchase it as the thought of not having it should my skin flare up is not worth contemplating.

Alva Lifting Cream is my next beauty staple, a light but rich cream which is an excellent day moisturiser. It leaves my skin feeling plump and smooth without loading my skin with oil. I do notice the slight tightening effect around the eyes and nose (which is great if my eyes are a bit puffy). It is on the expensive side of reasonable but for such an excellent, no hassle product I am willing to pay it again rather than take my chances with another product.

Do you have products that you turn to in times of need as tried and tested favourites?
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