4 Nov 2012

Beauty blogger tips part 5: How do you get PR companies and brands to send you samples for your beauty blog?

Disclaimer: I don't for one second think I'm an expert, nor do I rate myself as a top beauty blogger / guru.  I just see a lot of new / potential beauty bloggers asking a lot of the same questions and generally worrying about making mistakes / breaking the secret (non-existent!) codes of beauty blogging, so I thought I'd share what I've learned in my three years of blogging. I hope this helps some people who are new to blogging or thinking about starting out.  These are in no way 'the rules'!  I'm just passing on my opinions, opinions I've heard from others, and information I've learned along the way. I'm happy to be corrected on anything anyone thinks I've got wrong (in a polite and positive way please!) and also to be enlightened with any relevant information which I could add to this post - just leave me a comment :) 

This is part five, the final post in my series of beauty blogging tips for new bloggers / people thinking about starting up.  Catch up with the earlier posts here - part 1part 2part 3 and part 4

How do you get PR companies and brands to send you samples for your beauty blog?

Now this is always a popular question on any bloggers chat I've ever seen.  No matter what your motive for starting up a blog, you can't help being distracted by what amazing goodies other beauty bloggers are being sent to review, and you want a piece of the action.  I've seen really well known and uber successful bloggers say that they get a bit jel when they see something amazing that was sent to someone else and not to them.  We can't help it, it's human nature - we want what someone else has got. 

Sometimes it seems like people get berated for asking about samples, and there can be a bit of fuss about 'blagger bloggers' which is a shame for the new bloggers who aren't blaggers but just curious.  I think that yes, there are people out there who start a blog purely with the intention of getting 'free stuff', but I doubt those people get very far or last very long - as anyone who's ever run a blog will tell you, it's bloody hard work!  If you've started a blog to 'get free stuff' I'll warn you now that if you're not willing to put the effort in and grow your blog using your own money / products you already have etc, you may as well quit while you're ahead.  Starting up 'billie-bob's beauty blog' does not automatically entitle you to freebies nor will you instantly be contacted by hundreds of PRs offering you your pick of the shelves at Boots. 

So now the 'blogger blaggers' have stopped reading, we can continue :)  There are some key things you need to know about the way blogger samples work

PRs have a limited number of samples of each product (if any!) and there are hundreds of beauty blogs

PRs need to justify who they're sending a product to and why

PRs send a blogger a sample to get exposure for that product and to generate a buzz and hopefully sales

PRs don't have to be 'fair' when it comes to which blogger is sent a sample.  They have targets to meet in terms of brand exposure, so if they choose a blogger with a wider audience over a new blogger with a few readers, you have to understand they're only doing their job. 

So to answer the question - how do you get PRs to send you samples?

Be visible 
Make sure that you blog is found on google under relevant search terms.  When you post about a product or brand, use keywords in your post title and when naming images.  PRs sometimes find blogs by googling for bloggers already writing about the brand they're working on, or sometimes they'll look for people blogging about the brand's direct competition.  Some PRs also use things like Bloglovin', Hello Cotton and Ebuzzing's top beauty blog ranking list - so having a presence on those may help you too.

Be contactable
It sounds obvious, but make sure your contact information is nice and prominent on your blog.  If a PR has to spend too long trying to work out how to contact you they might just give up.  I like to think I first coined the term 'PR friendly' back on one of the very first #bblogger chats, but I could be wrong (mini claim to fame attempt).  Make it clear how to contact you and whether you're happy to work with PRs, receive samples, accept sponsored posts etc. 

Join a free blogging network 
Blogger networks are popping up lately which as they grow, look to be a go between for bloggers and PRs to help them work together.  Best British Bloggers and Bloggabase are two you might want to check out.

Keep up to date with what's new
Ask to be added to mailing lists for press releases / respond to a press releases that are offering a sample by explaining how you would blog about the product - hi-light what you have to offer and why the PR should choose to work with you.

Blog about brands you like and use
If you want to start working with a brand you like, blog about them.  Include the brand / PR company's twitter when tweeting the link to your post.  They might see it, like what you did, and get in touch about working with you.

Contact PRs
Not everyone in the community agrees with doing this, but it's up to you - there's no right or wrong.  If you're going to contact a PR or brand, put the effort in to get noticed.  Make yourself stand out - include your stats (monthly page views and unique visitors are what they're interested in) and your USP (unique selling point) or niche, give them some product feedback, or tell them why you like their brand

Appeal to what PRs are looking for
Make your blog and your posts look appealing to PRs by using good clear photos, including detailed product descriptions, links for where to buy etc.  If a PR is considering working with you they'll usually look at some of your recent posts as an example of your blogging style and what they can expect from you if they ask you to review their product.  There's more about this later on in this post.

Be professional
If you want to work with PRs and be sent products to review, you need to think of your blog a little bit like a business and a brand.  If you have a twitter account liked to your blog, PRs might look at your feed to get a feel for what you're like to work with.  If they see lots of tweets with swearing or rowing publicly with another brand or PR, they're likely to be put off!  I'm not saying you can't tweet what you like, but it's something to consider if you want to be considered as a professional blogger.  

Slating products and brands in your posts is another way to potentially alienate a PR from wanting to work with you.  I'm not saying you should never write a negative review or pretend to like a product you hate, but there are different ways of conveying an opinion.  Instead of saying (and I'm sure you never would!) "I hate this shampoo, it's awful and I wouldn't even recommend it to my worst enemy" be specific about why it didn't work for you and why - "I didn't get on well with this shampoo - it made my hair really greasy so I wouldn't buy it again, but it might be good for people with really dry hair".  You get the idea - you can write an honest review without trashing a brand and putting PRs off from wanting to work with you.  

I know I'm really bad at this because I'm quite shy and rather forgetful, which can be a bad combination!  Networking takes all sorts of forms when it comes to blogging, it can involve talking to brands, PRs and other bloggers on Twitter, commenting on other blogs, interacting with brand through their facebook pages and also chatting to people at events (more on that later in the series).  Having said that though, tweeting a brand "@brand Hi I like you products, can you send me some free stuff to review?" won't make you all that popular with anyone.  

Earn the PR's trust 
I've noticed that sometimes PRs seem to be testing bloggers out.  They might send a press release without the offer of a sample to see what you'll do.  Or, they might get you to review one of their cheapest products if it's your first time working with them.  Personally I don't really blog about press releases - I prefer to talk about things I've tried for myself and that takes up 6 - 7 posts per week as it is, so I can't really fit in any more.  

Another good way to earn a PRs trust or respect or even just to grab their attention is through Twitter - you might retweet a few things for them, get involved in discussions about the brand with other tweeters etc.  Keeping in touch is also important in my opinion - I always try to let a PR know when I've received something they've sent me, I give an indication of when I'll post about it, and when the post is live I'll send them the link.

Probably the most important thing in my opinion is that if you ask for a sample or accept a sample that's offered, bleeding well blog about it!  I'm going to try not to rant here, but I feel the need to mention a conversation I saw on twitter once.  One blogger was mentioning how she had lots of samples backed up and lots of posts to write.  In response another blog said something like "don't worry, samples are sent for consideration, don't feel like you have to blog about them".  Initially I thought this was one of the cheekiest comments I'd ever read.  I think you have to have some manners when it comes to these things - if someone offers me a product and I accept it, what I'm really doing is agreeing to write a blog post in return for the free product.  However, I believe there are two exceptions to this -

You didn't like the product - it didn't agree with your skin type etc.  We're not going to love every product we try ever, that's inevitable.  If you don't like putting negative reviews up on your blog, then in this scenario I think that's a fair reason not to write a post, but you should let the PR know.  Plus, most PRs will tell you that they would prefer you to contact them about any problems with the product rather than going straight ahead and writing a negative review.  Also if you contact the PR you might find that actually there's an application tip that will fix the problem you had with the product, or that they accidentally sent you the version for dry skin etc.

If you didn't have the option to say 'no thank you'.  Occasionally, some PRs will send products to bloggers without contacting them first - it's a risk, because they might be sending you something you really won't like and would never blog about.  It's this scenario that I believe the term 'for consideration' applies.  If I didn't accept / ask for / agree to something being sent to me, then it really is just for consideration and I feel it's up to me to choose whether or not to blog about it. 

So back to the point - if you've asked for or been offered a sample and have accepted, I believe you should blog about that product within a reasonable timescale, or if not, you should contact the PR to let them know the reason why.  If I was a PR sending out samples to someone and not hearing back or seeing any posts, I'd take them off my list, as simple as that.

Attend events
Easier said than done of course, and we'll cover events in another post, but generally when attending a product launch event, you might get to take a sample of the product home with you.

Phone the PR company
Now this is not something I've tried, so I can't really say how it might go, but you could try calling the PR company to introduce yourself and have a chat.  I heard this tip from a PR of a well known agency at an event.  She said she prefers the personal touch and is much more likely to respond well to a chat on the phone than 100 of the same old emails asking for samples.  
What might PRs look for when choosing who to work with?

Your 'reach' - PRs are interested in how many people will see a post you write about their product and whether those people are within their target market.  Your numbers in terms of monthly page views and unique users are one of the things PRs need to know to work this out.  Don't be offended if a PR asks for your stats - offering these up to a PR you're talking to may help you out.  Displaying follower counters on your blog can help as some PRs will look at those to get an idea for your readership, although there can be a lot of confusion around this and bloggers on Wordpress who don't have the GFC widget can be disadvantaged.  If you are on Wordpress, telling a PR your stats is probably more crucial.  

How often you blog - if a PR can see you leave huge gaps between posts and don't seem to post with any great regularity, this may give them the impression that you'll take a very long time to post about a sample.

What you blog about - PRs need to consider your audience and whether your post will reach the right type of consumer.  If you usually blog about fishing, they probably won't see the relevance in sending you a mascara to review.

The effort you put in - as I mentioned earlier, your previous posts are like your references when it comes to working with a PR.  They'll be looking to see how well you reviewed a previous product - were there clear images, a detailed and accurate description, and links to where the product can be bought?   

Writing style - are your posts written in a way that's clear and easy to understand?

Engagement with readers - do you get comments on your posts, do you reply to them?  If a reader asks a question, do you answer them?

Age of your blog - PRs have to be aware of 'fly by night blogs' which might have been set up just to get freebies and then disappear - it's happened.  If you've been blogging only a very short amount of time, this could count against you.  It could be 6 months to a year of blogging before you're offered a sample.  If you're offered something earlier than that, consider yourself lucky and pat yourself on the back!  

I can't say every PR will check all of these things all of the time - most of them probably don't have the time to do all of this - but I think these are good things to consider all the same.  

It's not all about samples

If we all blogged about the same products every day, blogs would be very boring to read.  Don't feel that you have to have all of the new products to have a successful blog.  I find my readers can be just as interested in posts about your favourite beauty products, what's in your makeup bag, your blush collection, a nail art post etc etc. 

That's all for my series of Beauty Blogger Tips - if you have any comments about anything I've said in these posts I'd love to hear them - also happy for you to point out if I have missed something out or got something wrong.  Here's a list of the previous posts in the series.

Keep up to date with all things flutter and sparkle in any of the following ways - 


  1. Wow! This post is spot on, from working at a PR company that interacts with a LOT of bloggers

    a) keep an eye on Twitter, we offered out products there and looked out for cool new blogs - build a relationship with us

    b) don't ask for samples and then disappear off the face of the earth, its rude. if you have a valid reason why, like your moving house or you have too much uni work, just drop us a email - we don't bite

    c) we have to report back to the client who is providing the samples, we normally ask for your reach so we get a feel or your readership and we have something to report back to the client

    And as a blogger personally, there is NOTHING more tacky than a blogger moaning/bitching about an event or sample they didn't sent. I get emailed the chance of reviewing quite a few samples and events, but most of them are quite naff (something i would never buy in to myself) so i never go/accept! quality is key! xxxx

    sorry for hi-jacking Gem, but your post really really is spot on! xxxxxx

    1. No, not all all! Thank you! Your input is fab Sarah xx

    2. Thank u for posting, found thus very helpful.


  2. Thanks for this Gem! I am hopefully after a year of hardwork going to my first Blogger event with Benefit!! xx

  3. I love this series, so helpful, thank you:)


  4. Great post! Honest & very informative. These posts really help newer bloggers & help them understand what to expect from blogging. I am enjoying reading them

  5. Wow very informative post, even for me and I have been blogging for almost 4 years now. Agree with a lot of the things you have said here. I enjoy building relationships with brands and I tend to only accept a product if I know I am likely to blog about it because I feel that's only fair. Sometimes life gets in the way of that though, and as someone with a full time job it isn't always possible to blog about every single product sent to me. x

    1. Thanks Lydia. I totally agree with you, and I accept fewer samples that I used to because that annoying thing called work just takes up too many hours of my day :)

  6. this series you are doing is fantastic! i agree with what you say in the beginning about getting into beauty blogging for free stuff. I had someone contact me once and said "how did you get that free stuff and i didnt?" i didnt think i answered because if you are not in it for the passion of makeup, then just quit while you're ahead.

    this is some great information! thanks!

  7. It's true...Since 2007 I've not worked or had samples with any of the "blogger" brands such as Benefit, MAC, Nars until just very recently when I asked Benefit very nicely as it was for a specific photoshoot and they very kindly obliged. I've never been to any of their events, nor have I ever been on the Cosmo blog awards or the "big high street brands" mailing lists (Revlon etc)

    There are a couple of other PR companies that have heavily supported me sine 2007 and it's them I'm very grateful to for sticking by me so long and for their generosity in samples.

    I think because I was never part of the "popularity contest" that is GFC and only just discovered Bloglovin' and Hellocotton a few months ago. I've worked to build the content outwith these means which is probably why I've been largely ignored by certain brands.

    So don't assume anything...like she says, work hard and build good content...the relationships will come.


    1. Thank you for your comment. I understand what you’re saying, the only thing I’d add is that the high end brands you’ve mentioned are probably ones that have the least reliance on bloggers because they already have huge popularity and market share and can afford to take out ads in all the glossies etc. They probably need to do very little work with bloggers at all as we’re all blogging about them anyway, so when they do reach out to bloggers it’s to a smaller and very selective few – like I said, it’s business, so they don’t have to be ‘fair’ and widen the net to other bloggers. I’m not disagreeing with you, just saying that I can understand why this happens :)

  8. Really great helpful advice. Thank you so much for writing this.


  9. A really great and thorough post! I have to agree with pretty much everything you said and stress the importance of treating your blog somewhat as a business if you want to work with brands. When I'm looking for blogs the most important things are quality, content, social networking, engagement and lastly reach - stats aren't the end of the world, but they are important. What I perceive to be most important though is fit with my brand - you may not have the biggest blog, but if you're a great fit and put heart and soul into your site then I'll work with you.

    The only thing I really disagree on is the comments around blogging every product you recieve. I think it's slightly different if you're just starting out and want to build relationships, but as you get bigger it's impossible to blog every single sample you're sent. You should be selective and only cover things you really like, not feel obliged because someone gave you a free lipgloss. It's your space and you should use it only how you see fit, not feel pressured into writing about something you don't really want to. Yes, as a brand it can be frustrating, but we don't expect every single person to cover it.

    The most important things are to be visible, network and don't be a douche. Douches aren't tolerated by anyone!

    1. Thank you Hayley!

      It’s interesting what you say about samples – I appreciate that more influential bloggers will be sent more things than they’d ever have the time to blog about. Personally, I try to make sure I don’t accept something unless I have the intention to blog about it, but I appreciate that some brands send things out without checking first.

      And ‘don’t be a douche’ – that’s a good point. Note to self :)

  10. WOW . . this is such a brilliant blog post. So many things I have learnt from this, so thank you :)

  11. Thanks for doing this post as a new blogger myself I have been curious about this but afraid to ask anyone as I didn't want to be seen to be just in this for the freebies. I really enjoy my blog and have put a lot of time and effort into it so would hate anyone to think that of me. Don't get me wrong I hope In the future my blog will be successful enough to review some samples but for now I'm happy just having a new hobby and meeting lots of lovely people x

    1. I know what you mean. I remember when I didn't understand how it all worked and literally being so surprised when I found out that sponsored posts existed! It was ages before I got my head around most of this stuff, so I'm glad sharing it has been useful :)

  12. I am always amazed when I am approached by a PR to review a product, it doesn't happen a lot but when it does I have to admit it is nice! That doesn't mean I except everything I'm offered though, it has to appeal to me enough to want to spend my time testing it and then writing up a post. I've never contacted a PR for samples, I know some bloggers do, but I personally wouldn't feel comfortable doing so. x

  13. Wow.. thank you so much for the info.. It's very detail and complete.. I'm still new in beauty blogging..
    Thanks for the tips ^^

  14. This was such an interesting read! Food for thought :-) as a newbie this information has really helped with my confidence and knowing how to hold my own. Professionalism sounds like the key.. Thank you again for such a fab series. I have really enjoyed reading it up to this point, Nicole xx Beauty and the Girl Blog

  15. Enjoyed reading this post. It was very informative! The information was very helpful for me as I've only been blogging for about a year now :) definitely going to keep all of this in mind. Great job! And thank you for doing this post!


  16. The is a really well written and thought out post with lots of great tips. I'm going to have a read of the other posts in this series. Thank you so much for sharing xx

  17. I just want to say thank you for this post. I really like it. This will help me a lot how to use the cosmetics. Oro Gold

  18. I am very new to blogging and this is so helpful! Thankyou!


  19. nice blog!!

    Welcome, dear Eve in the Journal of the beauty ...

  20. This is a great post! Very informative and detailed, thank you!



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  22. Thanks so much for this post, I have signed up to the blogger communities you listed. Please take the time to check out my new beauty blog.

  23. Well written and very inspiring. I'm a new blogger and thanks for writing this post it was a great help for me.


  24. Being a new blogger, this post really helped me :) Thank you so much :D

    Do follow back, if possible :)

    ***Read My Recent Post: Lakme Kajal Review

  25. Thanks for the wonderfully informative series... it will really help newbies in blogging like me.
    My blog- http://momthediva.blogspot.sg

  26. This is such an informative, helpful post.

  27. For a relatively newbie to the blogging world, this was really useful! Thanks!

  28. This post is fab!
    I have just started up my blog


    I wouldn't have thought about submitting my URL
    And I've never even heard of meta tags before

    Don't think I'm quite ready to be asking for PR yet,
    You're right, blogging is hard work,
    I spent hours last night trying to make a custom background and then it didn't work :(

    Thanks for the tips!

  29. This was just great! Thanks for posting ^_^. I really love the colors of your blog and you have the cutest social media buttons on this planet!!

  30. I have been blogging for 6 months or so and I don't know whether I am doing anything right! I would really like some more guidance! I have found all your posts really helpful and constructive but I would love certain things in more depth (just for more personal help).

    How to find PR companies to contact- I don't want to end up being scammed or tricked by different websites.

    Whether to share my email- I am a teen so I am debating this.

    Twitter?- I am currently not allowed on Twitter... So how do I expand my blogs publicity?

    Thanks Gemma,
    BGG xoxox

    1. Hi hun - drop me an email to fluttersparkle@gmail.com so that I can reply to you directly on this xx

  31. How do you find out about product launches, I don't know where to find out about them. I have been blogging for about a month but really enjoy it and would love to do reviews xx

    1. I I loved these 5 beauty blog tips and really helped a beginner like me out. I found some great wee tips that I will definitely take on board. Also I would really appreciate if you could take a wee look at my blog and see what you think http://totebagoflife.blogspot.com

  32. Thank you very much. Wishing you all the best with your blog.

  33. What an amazing post. I just found your Blog I think it is amazing xox


  34. Really great tip to get high PR companies for blogging definitely I’m going to follow.

  35. This is the first time i am on your blog and i am absolutelty in love. Such a detailed post which is definitely so helpful to many of the newbie bloggers like me! I must say thankyou :)
    You have got yourself a new reader. xx

  36. hey hun, I'm so glad i came across your blog this post has been so helpful to me as i am new to blogging and will deffo be trying out all the suggestions you have given keep up the amazing work thank you xoxo

  37. love your blog so so much!! it inspires me to do mine tooo! http://annabnanayoutube.blogspot.com.es/ x

  38. Wow. Its such an informative and helpful post for new bloggers like me. Thank you so much.

  39. Thanks for sharing these useful information! Hope that you will continue doing nice article like this. I will be one of your loyal readers if you maintain this kind of post! This is one of the best posts I found so far. The contents are very good and very informative. I subscribed to your RSS feed by the way! Thanks, this is really cool!

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  40. Fabulous post and so realistic, which is really important in this world. I've been writing my blog for two years this month, and have *just* started to get contacted the odd time about products. While I still don't have anywhere near the readership I would probably need to contact PR agencies myself, I do find the more constant my content is, the more likely they are to respond to my requests.

  41. Amazing advice, I think it's awesome that companies are willing to give samples, but as someone who has been blogging for 2 years and has never worked with a brand, I find blogging enjoyable nonetheless. I really like all the tips you've given :) Great post!

    Neelam // neelamjayna.blogspot.co.uk

  42. Thank you for sharing this. Great post

  43. Thank you for sharing this. Great post

  44. Thanks for the info.

  45. Ive finally set up my blog after years of not knowing where to start and these posts have been so helpful! thank you for taking the time to write them :) If you get the chance then check it out and let me know what you think - http://livelaughloveyourtwenties.blogspot.co.uk/
    Thanks again! xx

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  47. Your posts have been so helpful! I've been blogging for 2 months so it's great to find new ways to improve.



  48. Really great post, Thank you for sharing this knowledge. Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up!..

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  49. Nice appreciative post , thanks for such a knowledgeable information.

  50. Thank you so much,God bless your heart,xoxo Bing.

  51. wonderful article - thank you for taking the time to write it all out! I started a beauty blog back around summer time, mainly because beauty is something i love, i'm a licensed cosmetologist, and a stay at home mom who's conversations consist of "no don't do that!" and "do you want a banana with your dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets?" LOL I have a rather large collection of my own so I've been running through that reviewing some of my faves, not-so-faves, incorporating skin care and tutorials as well, and ALWAYS linking products for easier purchase for my readers!
    all that being said, this was a wonderful article, keep up the good work! if you get a minute, i'd love some feedback on my blog - affordablegorgeous.wordpress.com - thank you!!


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