When Do Blogger Product Requests Get Greedy?

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Who doesn't love free stuff? I do. My Mom certainly does. Every single one of my friends do. It's natural to get excited about receiving goodies, but there's also the balance between what is appropriate and what is considered to be fishing for free product, and just plain greedy.

While it's okay to reach out to publicists and brands for free product, it's good to be mindful of the approach and end result, since what one person does CAN effect the assumptions of who we are as a community.

As far as it's come, blogging is still proving it's value and worth, so in order to move forward establishing our reputation as crucial to the new information age we live in, we, as a blogging community need to work together to banish stereotypes that hold us back.

When you're starting out as a new blogger, it may be especially difficult to figure out what the standard protocol may be with requesting free product, unless someone actually advises you on how it's commonly done; Deanne Yee offered some great tips in her “A Brand Perspective on Blogger Outreach” post this summer, and I find helpful to be cognizant of how a request for free product may be perceived by the person receiving the email. I asked a few publicist friends to weigh in on the subject, based on their previous experiences as well as give some advice o the best approach to the category of free product.

Understand that the Exchange Should be Mutually Beneficial

“There's no such thing as a “free lunch”” — this adage was one of the first things I learned in business school, and there really are no exceptions to this- tangible or intangible, there is always something expected in return. The bottom line with every business is revenue at the end of the day, so in order to give out free product, ideally, there is a ROI (return on investment) expected in one form or another. If you request, or are given an item and don't post about the product, the assumption may be to share it on your social networks; in some way, the prospect of you somehow exhibiting the product is a conventional one.

Says Robin Kassner, Haute PR

” The best thing is to do your research before contacting PR Firms. Politeness and courtesy go a long way in this industry…PR firms give out products to secure media coverage and the bloggers should understand that and try to write about the products they are sampling, even if its a short write up or a shout out.  I know its impossible to write about all products when you are inundated with samples from various PR firms, but the bloggers I send the best samples to are the ones with track records of giving write ups to my clients. ”

Reinforce the Value of the Request

Why are you asking for this item? Did you ask for a lipstick and your blog normally covers makeup? That makes sense. Did you ask for a free cell phone and your site is a style blog? The correlation is a bit hazy. As the person you are requesting the item from may not read your blog every day, tell them a bit about yourself and what the site covers, pulling up a link or two from coverage of similar items or themes, and let them know how this product will be used in coverage.

Says Termeh Mazhari, Publicist

“If you're a smaller blog, and you want a company to send you products for free – with no guarantee of coverage – I recommend giving the company (or publicist) some traffic stats or social media follower counts or just let us know how/why your readers would be interested in learning about the company's offerings and perhaps how your previous reviews have lead to sales… Overall, my advice for new bloggers contacting companies or PRs for free stuff: be courteous, respectful, and humble.”

Pretend You're the Publicist

“Dear __ PR Firm, I'd love to review something from __ brand's website for my blog, perhaps this blue sweater in size small will be a perfect fit – can you send it to this address___? Smooches, hugs, xoxoxoxo ___blogger.”   Bloggers literally send emails like that, and if you were the recipient of said email, wouldn't you feel that this is a little too vague to justify sending product?

Says Crosby Noricks, publicist at PR Couture (and IFB Contributor)

“If you can prove that having/using/wearing the product will result in readers taking action – visiting the website – entering the contest – purchasing the item – then you are in a powerful position to request the item for your story. If not, think hard about what benefit you offer the brand by having them send you an item.”

Sidenote: see Crosby's previous articles on IFB for additional tips: “Introduce Yourself to a Fashion Publicist with this Handy Email Template,” and “3 Things to do Before Contacting a PR Agency to Send You Free Stuff.

Did you find this feature to be helpful? Any personal experiences you'd like to add?

[Image credit: Shutterstock.com]

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About The Author

Blogging at her site Fashion Pulse Daily since 2008 and working on fashion's editorial side since 2003 has lent Julia the acumen to think creatively and endure in the colliding worlds of blogging, fashion and beauty. New York City is her backdrop for inspiration (and many a outfit photo), where she is often found on her couch, feverishly typing away at her latest post, with her trusty feline at her side. Follow her on Instagram , Twitter, and Pinterest.

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18 Responses

  1. Heisenglossy

    I really think when pitching to brands there has never been a true outline of the right way to do it. Article after article is being published to slap bloggers on the hand about the way they handle things, but the truth of the matter is they have not been taught, and most are not professional bloggers. They are new and very green. Personally, I have not pitched in 2 years. I think the best approach is to let brands come to you.

  2. Miro - Dose Of Dash

    Lately I’ve been getting pitched a lot by PR firms that want a “free lunch,” as you call it.

    It’s one thing for me to find a product on my own and promote it genuinely but in some cases I wouldn’t want to just blindly promote something without prior experience with the brand or a chance to see a sample. Is there a polite way of asking a brand/agency to send product for review without sounding greedy?

    I think I have a good basic template for saying no to brands that don’t align with my aesthetic or subject matter, but what about things that could be great you just haven’t used/seen/experienced it yet? Is it greedy to be irritated when people are blindly asking me to write about them out of the blue and then not offering anything in return?

    • Stacey

      Like the article said, the relationship needs to be mutually beneficial. If a company is asking you to blindly support/write about their products without you getting anything in return, then whats in it for you? Obviously, we are masters of our content, so if we don’t feel good about a product, we shouldn’t talk about it. I’m new to blogging too, so I get very excited when I build a new relationship, but I’m also very aware that I don’t want to bombard my readers with product advertisements, and I don’t plan on promoting any products unless I absolutely love them.

      • Marche Robinson

        I was in a situation with a brand where they asked to collaborate and have me post a sponsored post. I informed the brand that based on my experience and knowing my readers and what they respond to the most, I would need to show a sample. I blog primarily about fashion. I informed the brand (an online boutique) that my readers respond most to outfit posts and pictures that I take of my life. With that said, a post of me making a collage or taking pictures from their website would not get as much of a response from my readers and would also not be beneficial to the brand because I would just be regurgitating what was already on their site. Instead, if they provide a piece of the clothing from their site and had me show how I would style it, I would get more traffic and also provide content that was not already readily available on their site. You should just let the brand know that you need to do what feels most organic because in the end that’s why your readers are there.

  3. Monika Faulkner

    I’m way too new/small to consider requesting free product from a company for reviewing yet; but I think I MIGHT consider this after I’m established enough to have businesses start approaching me. This way, I’ll know that my blog content has starting achieving some perceived value in that arena!!

  4. Zunera Serena

    I have not pitched to any brand and nor do I plan to at least for a while but I have already officially worked with Banana Republic and have been featured by Ann Taylor, GAP, Cynthia Rowley, Anthropologie, Aidan Mattox and Adrianna Papell.
    I am still very new to blogging world (Started May 2013) and what has helped me the most is my continuous focus on the content of the post, how it is presented and then making sure I am tagging all designers on Social Media.


    • Corinne

      Your blog pictures are stunning! I’m not sure what your stats are, but I am sure companies would love to work with you, you take very professional looking photos! Good luck.

  5. Joy Styles

    hi, can you help me with this @Julia Denardo, I’m a new blogger and so when I was contacted by a company for a collaboration/partnership I was a bit surprised. They asked me what my protocols and procedures were, and I haven’t a clue of what to say… can you write an article on this? or respond back here. thanks

    • Julia Dinardo

      Hi Joy! There’s a lot I could say, so in comment form , it may be best to briefly address some of it, but I will definitely consider a post! Protocols & procedures: I find it’s always easiest and straightforward to have them outlined on our site in the “about” or “Work us me” tab. As far as what they are…it is up to you, but you may just want to look at some blogs to garner the scope and terminology. It can relate to your policy of receiving items for review, disclosure, editorial calendar, etc. Here’s mine if you want to take a ook http://fashionpulsedaily.com/work-with-us/ If you can, always have someone else, look over your contracts. You can even ask family and friends who are lawyers to sometimes give it a look-over for anything that may warrant a red flag. Hope this helps!

      • Joy Styles

        thanks you a bunch for answering back! this helped a lot 🙂

  6. Jeanine Marie

    As a new blogger, I wouldn’t dream of approaching anyone at this point but I have been approached by companies wanting to send me items to review. So far when I have agreed to participate, send my mailing address, the item never comes and no replies to my emails.

    Is this common for brands to do this ????

    Jeanine Marie

    • Corinne

      This has only happened to me once – a company offered to send me free jewellery of my choice, once a month for a year. The first two got to me after a long (2-3) week wait, but the third month, it didn’t arrive! I’m not sure if it is a genuine mistake or not, as I had a lot going on in my personal life and didn’t e-mail to follow up.

      If I get approached by a company that I’ve never heard of before, or I’m unsure about, I usually search for blogs that have reviewed their products. My thoughts are if they have reviewed them – the company must be sending them!

  7. Corinne

    I’m not really sure what the etiquette is for this – for requesting items to review. I’ve not approached any companies yet, but I’m not sure if I need to because I often get e-mails asking me to join blogger programs or do reviews in exchange for items.

    It did take me 6 months to get my first sponsor though, it takes a lot of time and effort to develop your blog and get a following and the page views required. It’s not as easy as it looks.

    Most ‘fashion blogger programs’ that allow you to apply do ask that you have at least 1000 blog followers on GFC/bloglovin and even more on social networking sites to be considered. I don’t think I’ll bother until I hit this number, although I’m not sure how accurate that is for how many people actually read/comment on your content because there are tonnes of bloggers that are willing to ‘follow for follow’ and then will probably never visit again.

    #fashionbloggerproblems lol.

    Corinne x