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!