To me, this is a no-brainer – samples happen and over time, you can build up a relationship with a PR and so you do get a lot of their latest launches and releases. I speak to a lot of PRs on a daily basis due to my running a magazine full time and no one I work with regularly expects anything, they don’t make demands to post samples ASAP or request for samples to be undisclosed – most of these brands are well-known brands for whom it’s a little added publicity since I have a good readership or small brands who appreciate any publicity they get, but understand that bloggers and press alike may not have space for their products or are charming enough to wait their turn. I never, ever work with pushy PRs – I hear there are a few and I have encountered one or two but I don’t need the hassle or stress in my day to day life. I don’t feel like I get a huge amount of samples (this could be because I’m a little bit forgetful when it comes to replying to emails and of course, I don’t go to events) but I would say there is sometimes the occasional * in a post which marks a freebie – some have a few and a lot have none at all, but my posts aren’t planned out by what I have and haven’t bought – they simply go in to the mixing pot that is my makeup stash.
I like to purchase most of what I feature myself – I like to choose the shades and prepare for upcoming features in due course (I tend to enjoy the products that I buy a lot more for some reason). Plus, I am obsessed with all things beauty – some people go on huge booze benders or spend all their money on that Shania Twain memorabilia collection but me? Oh I just like makeup.
Blogging is evolving at a rapid pace and I think a lot of people forget this. Where once blogging was just a hobby we did in our bedrooms, it is now a full-time job for some – because of this, bloggers can be self-employed, they can be directors of their own companies and so there are a lot of benefits with tax and even claiming expenses. Times are a-changing and incredibly quickly, too. I invest a lot of time and money back in to my business (the magazine mainly but also my blog) and I know many other bloggers are the same; keeping up with the latest launches and collections, spotting the latest must-have mascara etc. and this takes time and money. Similarly, when you are offered a few pieces from a brand, you want to be able to provide a service to your readers – one that is both honest and up to date. And readers want to know if said new collection is worth buying so it all goes hand in hand (that is, if everything is laid out on the table – and I know that I, as well as the blog/gers that I love, read and think of as friends, are all honest).
I don’t expect anyone who isn’t a blogger or whatever to have the amount of makeup I do, that would be truly ridiculous (though I do regularly switch it up and pass it on to friends – the girls never, ever leave without a huge bag of goodies) and I wouldn’t ever expect people to buy everything I feature, but I think blogs are the place people run to when they need a new item of makeup and so I want to be one of the people they come to – I provide a fair few different options in my posts for, say, a brightening moisturiser but you wouldn’t ever need them all, you can pick and choose depending on what suits you. As I also run a magazine, I buy a shit tonne of products so I can always have an opinion for upcoming features, there are times when I buy three different mascaras in one go because I need to get a feel for them, but I see this as my job – there’s no reason that anyone else would need to do this and I hope I make that clear.
My area of (semi) expertise is skincare and helping to clear up acne because that’s one of the reasons I started this blog, I couldn’t leave the house because of confidence issues with my skin and I wanted to document the products that were helping. That still applies. I often have people requesting I do reviews and sometimes it’s not possible without a little bit of help from PRs etc. and it’s also good to cover a wide variety of topics/products so you appeal to more people.
I don’t think there should be any grey areas about this, but I think a lot of people can jump to conclusions and think the worst of bloggers. I have spent three years working my way up to where I am (not that I’m a blogger ‘sleb or anything but I’m happy and grateful for what I do have), – that is, having a wealth of loyal readers who trust what I recommend – I wouldn’t throw it away to be paid for a review or to recommend something just so I could get in there with the PR. One of my favourite things is helping people (usually on Twitter) to decide between products I’ve tried and also when people say “I bought this because of you and I love it”, “I trust all your recommendations”, “your skincare posts have completely cleared up my skin” – this happens a lot and it makes everything worth it.
Without biggin’ myself up, I do know that I have quite an influence over my readers when it comes to my reviews and recommendations and I completely understand this – I would never want to lose my integrity by recommending something I thought was average or worse. Sometimes I think it’s a little disrespectful when people accuse me of giving something a good review because it was a sample – it’s like someone telling you you only go to work because you get a free lunch. A little offensive, in my opinion but trust is something that has to be built and all that.
I don’t tend to post anything negative as such on my blog, there are times where I’ve said “I can’t recommend this for this reason” but mostly I weigh up the reasons for my thoughts and let the readers decide – we all like different things and outcomes so one man’s junk could be another man’s treasure. The only time I’ve said not to buy something is if it is a fault with the design or I’ve heard a lot of people say the same thing etc. and I do try to say this constructively but I’m not scared to give a negative review – if something hasn’t worked for me I simply won’t feature it as this blog is more for my recommendations than badmouthing a product that could work for many other people. I think being fair is the way forward, take this review for example, I was honest, I said it didn’t work for me and why but if you look in the comments, you’ll see that a lot of people highly rate it!
My point here is that, yes, bloggers do get samples but there’s very rarely anything dodgy going on. PRs aren’t cracking a whip, making sure we feature something by the following week. So maybe there’s not a lot of products on here that I say I hate, but I work with only a select few brands and I only usually agree to samples if I’ve heard of the brand or at least know they’re sold by a reputable store (i.e FeelUnique or Boots etc. – more so people can get hold of it easily), is within a reasonable price range and if it fits my blog, is something I need and will work for me etc. – there’s many, many brands I turn down, which I’m sure applies for all bloggers. I’m also pretty quick to get rid of products when they don’t work for me, I can be quite fussy when it comes to beauty products but my friends? They love everything I send their way.
I notice that people are always quite quick to judge bloggers but at the end of the day, there are some amazing blogs out there – they’re free to read, they’re honest and may have even solved a skin concern or two and you don’t even need to have a subscription. I find blogs to be far, far more honest than the magazines you can buy in stores (I have one magazine subscription to Allure but the rest I don’t touch).
So while I can’t speak for all bloggers, that’s how it is for me and how I like to think it is for others too – the bloggers that I know and speak to are always honest and genuine. Of course, I also have a magazine which I get samples for, but I only add samples in to posts on my blog if I want to – I never have to (just like all samples) and it’s only if a product is really great and I can’t wait to share it with you.
You can guarantee that everything featured here is my genuine thoughts.
I really hope this clears up a few things in the blogosphere (first and last time I’ll ever use that term, promise) – I’m almost certain I speak for everyone when I say we’re not trying to trick you or hide anything. When a few posts come out on the same product or release at the same time, it’s because it’s new and we can’t wait to be the first to blog about it and not because it’s sponsored! I don’t ever really do sponsored posts, not because I think they’re bad but I just don’t really ever get asked to do them and unless I could pull it off in a unique way which was related to my blog, I would feel a bit odd. As long as they’re clearly labelled that they’re sponsored, it’s a-ok with me. A lot of the time when a new store opens or there’s a new release, there’s whisperings on social media of “is it sponsored?” – I have to say, to my knowledge, we usually just jump on a “new” bandwagon because everyone is excited and wants to blog first – like certain palettes and the & Other Stories launch – and also I often get/see tweets from readers saying “have you tried this? I want to know your thoughts” – you lot are just as bad ;). If it is sponsored, I would think it would be labelled but (usually) big launches don’t need to be sponsored because there will be a heap of hype anyway.
I would say to use your head and think clearly about these things but have faith in bloggers, we’re not bad people and we do, genuinely, just want to help. Don’t fall for every hype going and don’t succumb to blogger pressure – unfortunately if I buy from Miranda Kerr’s skincare range, I won’t wake up looking like Miranda Kerr (this should be on a tshirt, non?) so don’t be sucked in to buying the latest product unless you actually need it! (It sounds like I need to take my own advice here but I do take reviewing products seriously so I often buy products for review purposes, mainly for the magazine rather than on here).
Feel free to discuss! I feel incredibly nervous publishing this because it’s one of those topics. I hope I came across well! You can see my full disclaimer here.