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.
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]