Understand Their Point Of View
The point of PR is to generate maximum awareness of a product, campaign or launch. Brands want to naturally work with bloggers that have a large audience, but also an audience that is relevant and has a likelihood to purchase. With budgets continually reducing, there's not an infinite amount of product sitting and waiting to be grabbed like a child raiding a candy store - every one needs to be accounted for and justified. In order for a brand to send you something for review, they must be able to see the right fit with your audience and a large amount of potential exposure. If your blog only has twenty readers, then a PR simply won't be able to justify sending you something for nothing... Try to see it from their point of view and don't expect parcels of goodies to turn up just because your mum and three mates are reading your site.
Do It Without Them
It's absolutely possible to run a blog without press samples. In fact, that's what we all did for months (if not years,) before blogs became the 'thing to watch.' When I first started LBQ I used to write about what I was using that week, top tips for looking great, how to wear the latest trends and what was about to hit the shelves. I also used to spend every Saturday afternoon wandering around Boots, Superdrug and the beauty halls of department stores writing notes and taking inspiration for future features. It's actually a lot more exciting when you try to push the boundaries or be creative with your content; you don't even need a single freebie.
Why You? Why Your Blog?
If you do want to work with PRs and brands, then it's essential to give them a reason to talk to you. Focus on growing your audience, becoming an authority and a trusted information source for readers. If you can illustrate that your readers are highly engaged (i.e. leave a lot of comments,) or you have a strong social presence, this will help to get the brands on board. Furthermore, if you've achieved anything exceptional, been nominated for or won awards, this is also worth mentioning to brands as it illustrates your credentials. Essentially you need to give more than 'I have 100 hits a day' as a reason to work with you: there are a million and one others offering exactly the same thing, so you need to stand out from the crowd.
Do Your Research
If you do want to make a connection with a brand, then ensure you do your research. Find out about their latest launches, go into store, talk to their beauty assistants and take the time to try the products on counter. Blindly attempting to get information and freebies out of any brand that will listen won't get you very far. Get to grips with the brand DNA and make sure it fits well with your interests and those of your readers; only then is it time to get in contact with a brand.
Like any relationship, you have to build up from an awkward 'hello' before you get to the hot and heavy stuff. With the prevalence of social media it's even easier to get in touch with a brand you love; why not drop them a tweet with a blog post you've already written so they know you have a genuine interest, or leave a note on their Facebook page? If you do manage to get in contact with a brand and have an email address, drop them a note to say hello and introduce yourself, expressing your interest in finding out more about the brand and new launches. It costs nothing to send a press release, so ask to be added to their database and notified of news - not only will this provide you with potential stories and content, but it gives you a way of illustrating your genuine interest in a brand. As you continue to build a relationship over a period of time, you're more likely to be invited to launch events and sent new product to test. (But don't expect it.)
Don't Send A Shopping List
There is nothing worse than sending a shopping list of products you want to try to a PR. Nothing. Not only will you get instantly blacklisted from that brand, but as PRs frequently move around and talk as much as bloggers, you're likely to get a reputation as a 'blogger blagger' with others. You don't NEED samples to write a blog, so asking for any amount of product and expecting it to land on your lap is simply rude. I'm still astounded at how often this happens, so just don't do it.
I know for a fact that a little note of thanks from a blogger can make a PR's day. This is something I'm extremely guilty of not doing, but dropping an email to say thank you for information or a gift can really put a smile on their face - as well as helping them to remember you in future.
Although there's no magic formula, right or wrong answer, I hope some of my tips help you on your way. Do you have any top tips on working with brands and PRs?
Next in the series: How To Write An Awesome Blog Post.
(Missed the other posts in the series? Check out 'How To Start A Beauty Blog,' 'How To Grow Your Audience' and 'How To Manage Your Social Media'.)