Friday, April 8, 2011

Reality Check – On Receiving Samples From Companies and PR

I don't like to end weeks on a negative note. I hope this doesn't come across as one. It's meant to be hopeful, not negative. Today I'm addressing samples. Though I could easily also address nastiness toward companies (particularly picking on the little guy). Maybe that will be another post.


In the last couple of months I have seen more comments flying around about who receives which samples, who gets the most coveted samples, who gets priority on PR lists, etc. These comments run the entire range of casual remarks to out right hostility toward individuals. The number of blog rants I've seen has increased.  I've checked my twitter timeline only to step into a bunch of feuds. Us beauty and polish bloggers - we are a passionate bunch! That's what makes us awesome. But I think we may need to step back and take a collective breather.

If you get angry about the distribution of samples, take a deep breath and remember the following:
  • None of us are entitled to samples - We are PRIVILEGED to get any samples we get. And yes, this includes the big blogs. None of us should ever take it for granted. 
  • Your stats may matter, even though they don't always reflect the work you do - Before you start spouting off about injustices, think about what your blog is really pulling in and remember that PR companies probably want whoever is going to get them the most views. Period. They will give those people priority first and the rest of us later. Sometimes... us little blogs can get lucky when someone's being generous, but don't expect it all the time.
  • Companies care about visibility - How the product is showcased (for example, painting on the nail vs. another format) may not matter as much to the company providing you with samples as the number of visitors who will see the product. That doesn't mean we get to slack off, it just means don't get quite so angry if someone swatches on a wheel or on one finger only and they get everything before you. There may be another reason for preferential treatment.
  • Bashing a company or the blogger won't win you friends - Often preferential treatment can come with blog reputation. And if you complain, that can only serve to hurt your blog's reputation. It might come back to haunt you if you approach the company again. Plus, you might need the blogger you just bashed as a friend some day.
  • We all get frustrated - Even the Top Dogs don't always get samples. Take a deep breath and step away for a bit.
  • It's almost never about you - We can be a self-centered bunch. Remember there's a whole world out there.
  • There are always bigger fish - No matter your stats, there is someone out there who probably does what you do better than you do. Respect that. We are in a HUGE pond. 
Keeping those things in mind, I’d like to propose some rules for etiquette. And yes, I'm writing these to remind myself as well.

Styrch’s Rules Regarding Sample Etiquette
  • Always be respectful – To companies, brands, other bloggers. Especially remember this in public forum (on your blog, on twitter). This is hard because everyone’s level of showing respect is different. There's a fine line between respecting and butt kissing. And many of us cross it unintentionally.
  • Take rejection gracefully - No matter what you think may be going on behind the scenes as to why you were rejected, be nice. In most cases (not all) it was probably not personal. You can always give it time and ask again. Thank the company or PR representative and move on.
  • Pay it forward and support your fellow bloggers – If you really aren’t interested in the product don’t go after it. If you receive a product that you don't want to review, maybe think about giving one of your other blogger friends a chance.  If you know another blogger who would be perfect, pass on the name to the company. I’ve done this before and it makes me feel all warm and happy to do it.
  • Remember why you started blogging - For most of us, it wasn't about the samples. Ok, it wasn't just about the samples (we all hope we get noticed when we begin). You started blogging because you have a passion for what you're blogging about. Think about that when you feel you aren't measuring up to your peers.
  • Try not to get angry where everyone can see – I'm going to pick on Twitter here because it's where I spend most of my time, but the same could be said for Facebook. Twitter is awesome for getting people on your side and making you feel better when you’re angry and frustrated. But if it gets personal, get out! The comments could come back to haunt you. At least take it to DMs. This is hard to remember when you’ve had "one too many",  believe me. Just check yourself and walk away from your computer or phone. If you come back and still feel the need to vent be cautious. Sometimes you'll slip, but try not to make it a habit.
  • If you’re observing a twitter rant or dueling blog posts, try not to comment – This is hard because sometimes it’s actually fun to watch the words fly. But perpetuating the rant may be the worst thing you can do for your fellow blogger. You run the risk of damaging both their reputation and your own. If you're trying to support a buddy, check in with them and try to take it to email or a phone call.
  • Someone got what you wanted - now you feel slighted – Look at the blogger who got what you wanted. Good for them! They didn't mean to hurt your feelings so don't get hurt! If anything, find out what makes them special and puts them ahead of you. Make it a learning experience. Maybe even take one of them on as your Obi-Wan (I have an Obi-Wan... several actually... and  I ADORE them all).
  • Remember that text is one of the hardest mediums in which to convey emotion and meaning.  - You will ALWAYS run the risk of being misunderstood. In fact, before getting angry it's probably best to assume you have been misunderstood.
I'm sure there are a bunch of rules I forgot... But you get my meaning. 
    To The Companies…
    I know your busy, but watching all the tweets and posts go by, I can't help but jot down a few things I think collectively we'd like to see happen:
    • Responses to inquiries - We very much value the companies who do respond, even if they are rejections. A response counts for a lot.
    • Let us know if we fall off your list - There's nothing worse than no word at all. Especially when we don't feel we are worthy enough to ask. Us little fish can be shy.
    • Maybe, if you can, let us know ahead of time if we'll be receiving something - It makes it easier to plan. We won't harbor any resentment if we don't get something first (or hopefully at least less resentment). Plus, we can let you know if there's someone else who might do a better job for you.
    • Let us know if you're doing a tiered approach to samples, and maybe what determines the tiers - In some ways, you make us better bloggers. Help us out by telling us what works, why we are where we are, and what we can do to improve on your lists.
    • Help us foster a relationship of mutual respect - and please let us know what we can do from your end. We don't know what it's like to be on your side of the screen.
    Final Words
    I’m naïve and I know it.  I want everyone to succeed. And we all aren’t going to get what we want all the time when we want it. I get frustrated when I see self-sabotaging behavior from my blogger friends. If you need to talk to someone, send me an email and get it out. I find sometimes just writing it down somewhere is enough, sharing is enough, and you might not even need (or want) a response.

    We are lucky that so many nail polish companies are blogger friendly. Let's try to make sure they remain friendly, ok?

    I have also opened up a Facebook Discussion if you want to talk more than just in comments here.

    Thank you for reading, if you go this far. I am very afraid of the comments to come – I know this is a bit high horse sounding, but I really am trying to help. If people flame me too much I will shut the posting down early.

    Note: The aim of this post is to HELP US BLOGGERS. Please keep that in mind as you read this. This is NOT directed at any one person. I am simply making observations and trying to work through my own feelings and thoughts.