You know when you’ve always believed something but you turn out to be wrong, and you feel like the world is a lie? Like the time I discovered there was a state called Wyoming in the US…it was an emotional day (seriously though, why is Wyoming never mentioned in anything, ever?). Something similar happened to me a while ago on the subject of selling blogger PR samples, i.e. the ‘freebies’ us online folk receive from brands, PR companies etc. I have never sold a sample I’ve received, or even entertained the notion, but apparently it’s a thing some people do. Today I wanted to explain why I don’t, and though I’m not judging those with a different approach to me, I’d like to take the opportunity to express why I personally don’t think it’s a good idea.
When I started my YouTube channel in 2008, and then my blog a couple of years later, the online world was a very different place. Never in a thousand years did I expect to be sent something for free, and I still remember the first sample a brand gave to me (a box full of false lashes, which I used in most of my early make up tutorial videos). I made videos because I loved it, and I still do – the commercial side of things didn’t even enter my mind until I was invited to become one of the first YouTube Partners. Even then (and until this day) I didn’t view the samples I received as anything other than something to review honestly and either keep afterwards or give to a friend.
The reason I don’t believe in selling blogger samples is this: I think, in the end, it’s damaging to the culture of the blogging industry. I know that sounds a bit dramatic (though not nearly as dramatic as my reaction to the Wyoming incident) but hear me out. Human beings are naturally inclined to keep going on a track they deem to be beneficial to them – if you sell one sample, and reap the financial ‘reward’ of doing it, it’s probably something you’ll keep on doing. On its own, it doesn’t sound too catastrophic. But imagine if everyone started doing it. In the words of the ever-eloquent Michael Scott, things would “spiral out of amok”.
Integrity is a massively important part of the blogging world. People spend their hard-earned cash on our recommendations from the reviews we post, and we all hope that our fellow bloggers are doing those reviews in a honest fashion. Raving about a product you love can win brownie points with a brand, which is awesome as long as you’re being truthful – they may send you more samples and want to work with you on projects…double awesome. What isn’t so great is forging these relationships dishonestly for the purpose of making £££ from selling those ill-obtained samples. I’d love to think this would never actually happen, but I’m not naive. There’s a level of trust between both bloggers and readers and bloggers and brands that must be maintained, or the whole thing goes to pot.
I personally don’t believe selling PR samples on is conducive to a culture of trust, or honest relationships. Often we’re sent samples without knowing exactly what we’ll be getting in the post, but we’re also frequently asked to choose a particular item from a collection (whether it be clothing, accessories, beauty) – imagine if the norm was that each blogger the brand approached would sell the item on afterwards. You could very well end up with people fighting for the highest value items, regardless of what their audience wanted to see featured or what it would bring to the blog. I am wearing my most cynical hat whilst typing this, but it’s the only way to illustrate the effect it could have on the culture of blogging.
I understand that we can’t keep all of our PR samples, and that there are only so many eyeshadows you can give to your flatmate before they politely tell you to stop offloading products onto them. But there are SO many other things you can do with samples that don’t involve compromising the relationships that make up the blogging world. Charity shops are always grateful for clothing, accessories, footwear, decorative items…the list goes on. There are plenty of ways to sanitise make up you’ve swatched, i.e. barely used – it’s just about thinking outside the box in terms of who could benefit from it. Have a family friend who dreams of becoming an MUA? Make them up a practise kit, and offer to be their model! Know an artist who likes to do things a little differently? Send some lipsticks their way and see how they can use them as materials! There are literally endless opportunities to make use of used samples.
I’m definitely not expecting everyone to agree with me here, but I wanted to share my opinion with you all today anyway. What do you think about bloggers selling the PR samples they receive?