Lovely Followers

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!


31 comments:

  1. Really good advice.
    The pointers you give are fab, and I think the longer you blog the more you grow in confidence to realise and understand the way a brand works.

    xx

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  2. I personally wouldn't contact a company for samples and a lot f the time I find the shameless promotion of blogs distasteful. I was really interested to read this post. Thank you for posting it. :D

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  3. Here's a phrase that I've used at the end of various job-searching emails, which sounds enthusiastic without being overenthusiastic:

    "I look forward to hearing from you about X!"

    Nothing about how soon you want to hear from them, no pressure tactics, just hopeful expectation of continued interaction. (As the reader of these emails from bloggers, would something like that put you off, sound good, or just stick out like a sore thumb?)

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  4. Hi Aphrosie, I think that's admirable, keeping your blog to your purchases and thoughts. Don't forget that some beauty bloggers have aspirations and day jobs in beauty PR/journalism so these links are crucial.

    Hi LiAnn, I think it shows enthusiasm. I would perhaps limit it to, "I look forward to hearing from you" it's what I normally write in business emails.

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  5. Great pointers, thank you. It's tiring to see a few bloggers complain about not getting samples :(

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  6. This is really good advice and very interesting to hear it from a blogger and brand perspective.

    The only thing I would say is that, yes a refusal might offend but if it's worded politely and professionally I would rather have a refusal than a flat no reply. I don't approach companies for 'freebies' but have emailed a few brands and beauty professionals in relation to various projects or with queries and I actually find it quite rude that they never reply. Even a quick: 'Thanks for your interest. Sorry for the delay in replying/we're very busy at the moment/this isn't something we're interested in at the present time. Thanks for your time' Would be enough!

    Of course I realise they're busy - who isn't? But I took the time to check out their brand and write to them, plus surely it's good business/professional sense to give a good impression by replying? xx

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  7. Hi betwixt beauty, A good point and well made. I always reply as I agree with you that it takes guts to write to a brand and it deserves a reply. Today's new talent is tomorrow's big deal, it's simply not smart to be rude or ignore people in business. Only a dunce would think they are "only bloggers" as like me, I have an influential day job and network. I also have a long memory for rudeness! :)

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  8. wow...nice pointers...personally I really don't think there is anything wrong in contacting companies. It is good to expand and take a professional view for your blog if you can devote time and you want to earn money out of it but it becomes a problem when you are desperately after them. I keep my mails to a single line if I don't know about the company but interested in it but otherwise I make it a point to mention my experience with their products. And, I prefer to end my mails with 'Looking forward to working with you'. I hope that sounds professional and not over-enthusiastic.
    Once I had contacted the brand and they promised to send the samples but I didn't receive any products from them. Then, I made it sure to reply to the PR people that I couldn't do reviews for them as I did not receive the products. I think it is better to keep your side clear otherwise PR people might think that one has asked for free products and kept them. Also, I make sure that I contact the PR people about the delivery of their products and give a time frame in which they can expect reviews from my side. I also mail them back the link to their product reviews. I think it is all important to keep a healthy relationship with the brand and to continue collaboration in the future. But, apart from my successes, I would also add that I did sometimes not receive any reply. But, your pointers were fabulous. I shall keep them in mind in my future dealings.
    Another good article on this topic was written a few weeks back:
    http://www.thebestbeautyblog.com/bbloggersoz-summary-how-should-pr-agencies-work-with-beauty-bloggers
    Sorry for putting this link but I thought it is relevant to the topic being discussed out here. And, that's not my blog or self-promotion!!!

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  9. Great advise Thank you! :)
    ~Ashley~

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  10. Great post and so well written. It has never crossed my mind to email anyone asking for anything, I always assumed that once you gain a following, brands would then notice you. I have written to a company before though asking about where I could purchase a product and never got a reply! Surprising seen as I was willing to part with my money for them!

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  11. What great pointers, i never even knew about this sample thing, your points could be applied to most blog :) thanks for sharing. ps can i get some samples lol!

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  12. An excellent post that I shall be forwarding! LLGxx

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  13. That's such a great post Jasmine and I think it's very valuable for bloggers to think about it from the point of view of the person/brand reading the emails. I've never made contact with brands specifically to get samples. Mostly I make contact first if it's a brand that I really like and I'm hoping that I can be added to their database for future news.

    I'm always polite and write in a professional manner, just like I would be in a work situation. Personally, I would feel very embarrassed doing otherwise. If you want to be taken seriously it's important to make the right impression. I think your tips are excellent for making sure you get it right.

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  14. This is a great post, it's so hard to find pointers about this sort of subject...
    Personally I still feel uncomfortable contacting companies about samples or products because I only have five or so followers... :'( But I shall persevere!

    Thanks for the post! :)

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  15. I found this post and blog through a tweet by @britbeautyblog, and I am very glad that I clicked on the link! Great article, very honest and a lot of good points.

    I have received a few products from companies, some asking for a review, others just sending me samples. The companies contacted me, so if it was a product that I was interested in, or that was relevant to my blog I would accept. I was extremely flattered. I would be mortified to email asking companies for products, and I can't believe that people do it to the extent you described here!

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  16. This is fab advice! I'm always worried to put to much info in an email to companies. I never want to sound like I'm begging because that's not good. Your reputation takes ages to build and seconds to be destroyed.

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  17. This is really good advice!I always feel a bit uncomfortable contacting brands even if it's just simple questions and I don't ask for freebis. Sometimes I may ask if it would work on my skin and if samples are available but not often.

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  18. To be honest, I never thought about contacting brands at all. I don't think I'll ever be brave enough! When I started my blog, I thought, I'd only write about products that I would personally use on myself and on my kit. I'm just new to beauty blogging and your advice is incredibly helpful. So, thanks for taking your time to post this. :D

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  19. Thank you- great post, great reminder to hear from a cosmetics company point of view. Manners and professionalism should never be overlooked and you should never be casual with someone before you have ever met them/forged a relationship online or otherwise. I have only approached a brand once and that was because they were offering something innovative & eco-friendly that I had never seen before and I wanted to share their story.

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  20. Argh you must spend so much of your time shaking your head in despair at these greedy emails! I never understand why people feel they have a right to demand PR samples. If they can't afford certain products, why not just write about products that are in their budget and critique products based on their value for money... it makes much better reading.

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  21. Excellent post. As a blogger myself, I find that a lot of my fellow bloggers have unrealistic expectations and expect to just "get something for nothing". I find that the best way is just to work on your blog - in my experience, the better your blog gets, the less you have to beg for products and the more likely it is that PR people will write to you, not the other way around. So while I'm not drawing a correlation between samples and blog quality, some bloggers need to take a good, hard look at their writing/photo quality and ask themselves what they can do to get up to standard, instead about whining about how unfair it is that they are not being given samples.

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  22. awesome and informative post! thanks so much :)

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  23. Thank you so much for writing this post! I want every blogger/YouTube guru to read this.

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  24. Thanks for this post, asking for things to review is tricky isn't it? I don't do product reviews, however I do review restaurants, bars and experiences; even then (paying my way) I am nervous about 'exposing' my identity as a blogger- for example, when trying to get onto a guest list or secure a booking. Will it change the experience? Will they think I expect special treatment?

    I know some reviewers who request free drinks etc' (usually writing for local press) but as I blog as an individual, I find it challenging to do so myself. These tips will be most useful applied to situations when I have to explain who I am or request a place on a guest list; although a different product, the courtesy points and so forth are the same.

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  25. Thank you for all your comments and points of view. Remember that you don't have to contact companies for samples, it's not something that has to be done in order to be a good blogger. Keep to your original brief and do what makes you happy and keeps it interesting.

    I'll be covering what to do if you are approached by a brand/PR agency in a later post.

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  26. FAB post! I'm a blogging newbie and this was so informative. I am a total beauty addict and buy shocking amounts of make up and products, so have plenty to blog about already! I think it is great that bloggers and brands/PR companies can work so well together, but it isn't essential to have PR samples to be able to write a good blog post. The most honest reviews are surely going to be for products that a blogger has spent their hard earned cash on?

    On the other hand, as a blog reader myself - there is something about blogs that are sent samples that almost 'approves' them as giving good and informative reviews? 'If the cosmetics brands think they are good...then they are good!' kinda thing!

    Thanks for the post anyway! Edie xx

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  27. Thanks for such an informative post. It makes me cringe to think that the attitudes of some bloggers are paving a difficult path for others.

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  28. This is a great post for a new blogger like me! Thank you and I will make sure that I don't make these same mistakes!

    artofbeingcool.blogspot.com

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  29. This is a great post, your tips are really clear and reasonable. The whole approaching companies situation makes me a little uncomfortable purely for the reasons you state about other bloggers being forceful, I feel it definitely makes it harder for the more genuine ones! I have never contacted any companies regarding products or samples but would definitely feel more comfortable to do so following your advice. Thank you for sharing your insider knowledge.

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  30. Very informative post! I mirror what other's have said here. I think you should treat your blog as you would any work endeavour and remain as professional as possible because it is your reputation at stake in the long run if you want to be taken seriously by followers and companies alike.

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