Beauty, Fashion, Travel, Fitness, Wellness and Lifestyle Blog | Emtalks

Monday, 15 April 2019

Gifted Products and Press Samples With Bloggers and Influencers

leopard print midi dress

Ad Affiliate links used - Dress online here and here / photos by Marta Ferenc and edited using Barcelona from Ems Presets

‘Gifted’ is a word that is popping up everywhere on social media recently and the subject is something I feel is worthy of its own blog post firstly to allay any confusion and to explain what ‘gifted’ really means. I love listening to what people have to say on different subjects, one of the most amazing things about the whole social media world is that everyone gets an opportunity to share their views and those views are often so varied and different which absolutely fascinates me. The perception I get from listening to a wide community of followers on the subject of things being ‘gifted’ is that when the word gifted is used then bloggers must be receiving everything for free. I’ll be honest, it’s for this reason I don’t personally like the word ‘gifted’ and the reasons for that will hopefully become clear throughout this post but in a nutshell, unlike a present given by a friend or family members, media ‘gifts’ usually require some work before deciding whether or not to talk about them.
leopard print maxi dress
Dress online here and here / photos by Marta Ferenc and edited using Barcelona from Ems Presets

There's a real divide, with many of my followers asking me for 'blogger mailing unboxing' so they can see what's new in the beauty world (as a beauty lover, this excites me so much too) and some getting annoyed and assuming I get given everything for free and therefore I must be unauthentic by talking about 'gifted' items. I'm fortunate that the majority of my audience fall in to the first group rather than the latter. I can promise you all that I love the industry I have found myself working in and absolutely love the items I receive to talk to you about but I can also 100% promise that I will never say anything good about anything if I do not like it and I can guarantee you that forever. If you watched my answering your assumptionsvideo on my YouTube channel, I talked about this in an open and honest way but felt it needed a full blog post. So, get cosy and let's talk about 'gifted items' in the blogging and influencer world and what that actually means.

What is PR and Why? - First things first, someone who works in public relations (better known as PR) is in charge of 'deliberately managing the spread of information between an individual or organisation’, which means that basically, many brands will pay someone who works in PR to distribute news, or press samples so that their product is featured in top magazines, blogs, or gets into the hands of top social media influencers. I know people hate the word influencer but for the sake of this post, that's what I'm going to use. Any advert you see on TV or in a magazine falls in to this category and always has done. Often some brands have their own in-house PR team who work around the clock to do this. In a competitive world, they say a good PR is essential to enable press coverage, enable people to see your product and get it in the public domain so that people can choose to buy it if they wish. See it this way, if you can get a blogger with great authenticity to say how good your product is, that's great for the brand. Note: Nowadays the 'press' doesn't just mean traditional magazines and news outlets, but essentially anyone with a following could be deemed worthy of receiving 'press' samples as they have an audience, so this could be a celebrity footballer, or a blogger/Instagrammer.

What Does Gifted Mean? - Gifted/hosted/invited basically means something has been given for free or maybe discounted. It's basically a new term to describe traditional press samples. Let's go way back to the start... journalists and bloggers have always traditionally been given items that are say brand new, before they hit the shelves so they can get their reviews up quickly or test and trial new products. Starting out with my own blog, I had no idea this was a thing. I remember getting my first ever press sample through the post and my Grandma being like 'omg it's a freebie', I quickly realised that these are not freebies at all and actually, they're an integral part of my work as receiving them means I can stay on the ball with new releases and ensure the beauty section of my blog is up and running with the best launches. I get asked daily about what skincare, tans, haircare to use and I love having as much knowledge as possible so I guess brands send things so that influencers/journalists can trial their products and hopefully feature them. As social media evolved away from just blogs, you'll often see a lot of Instagrammers being 'gifted' items now too because they may feature the products on their YouTube or their Instagram rather than their blog if they don't have one.

Why Do Bloggers Get Things For Free? - I'd like to start by saying it isn't just influencers, but celebrities, journalists, TV presenters etc have been receiving things for free for years now, whether it's a hair cut, a teeth whitening treatment, a holiday or a lipstick... people just haven't really disclosed this much until recently. Some have, but many haven't. An influencer receiving a press parcel from a PR is the same as journalists being gifted items to their office to trial and review for say their beauty pages or a celebrity on the TV wearing a particular brand of clothing or carrying a branded handbag (you'll notice the Royal family are often seen carrying handbags which they have been gifted, people know they get everything for free so they don't write that this is gifted). When you see the 'best suncreams on the market' in the beauty pages for example, often the journalist hasn't gone out and bought these but has been sent them to trial and choose their favourites so they can educate the audience on which they prefer. Often I will flick through pages of magazines and I have been sent the same press items. 'PR samples', or 'press samples' are what I prefer to call them, as 'gifts' are something given by friends and family, with nothing else in mind other than the item being a present from one person to another. When someone gives a PR sample (as lovely as it is and it really helps me to do my job) generally it's because they want me to enjoy it and feature it and that's totally okay, that is one of the jobs of a PR, to get coverage for their new launches. However, whilst 'gifted' is an easily recognised term that says 'I was given this for free' which is why everyone is using it, the main reason I don't like the phrase is because there is generally work involved at the other side, should I choose to review it and therefore, this isn't a 'freebie', it's something I need to work for. One important thing to note, generally there is absolutely no obligation to post about something that lands on your doorstep, I only post about things I truly love and actually, the press samples really help me. For example, I have been able to always be one of the first on the internet to get my Charlotte Tilbury reviews live and because I've tried so much skincare, I feel I can really offer good advice on what to spend your money on and what not to. People often come to bloggers, just as they go to traditional magazines, for honest reviews and I trial things so I can give those honest reviews and advice.

So, in summary, just like journalists receive press samples, so do some bloggers/people on social media and this is something that has been happening for years. I guess the confusion comes around because people are now disclosing this as *gifted* which is fine, as it's definitely the easiest way to say it was given for free, but it then gives people the idea that everything is free, easy and fun.

Why Are People Disclosing Gifted Items/Press Samples? - People are disclosing them (rightly so) because it's better to be transparent with your audience. I feel in most cases, it's very obvious that it's been given to you without having to write '*gifted/press sample* etc, or it's very obvious that I am on a *hosted press trip* if I tag a brand and say they've brought me somewhere but it's better be absolutely clear with your audience rather than unwittingly give anyone the impression you are trying to mislead them when all you are actually doing is your best to get great content out to your audience about a product you rate or a trip you're on. Quite often, I will re-buy products I've been gifted and continue to use them. If I love a 'gifted' item, you'll know about it as I'll talk about it. Essentially anything I feature, I like and to be honest, the things I hate I just rarely talk about. There are still many people who don't disclose and some of this is genuinely down to a lack of education in this area or misinterpretation of the rules rather than a deliberate attempt to mislead (of course there will always be a handful of people who will always try and bend the rules deliberately but I like to think that this isn’t the majority in this case). Many bloggers/influencers do not have teams of people researching and interpreting standards and it can be a bit of a mine field. For a long time I didn't realise we had to (I also had no idea we had to write ad at the start of captions on paid posts until recently) and I'm sure eventually everyone in social media will too as the regulatory bodies get better at sharing the standards. This doesn't mean I'm a bad person, it just means every day I'm learning how best to disclose, as are so many others. I personally write *gifted as it's easier or *hosted if it's a complimentary meal or trip, but I've noticed some people writing 'gifted' with the inverted commas around and can only assume this is because they're on the same wave length as me and recognise that these aren't gifts, they're work but for the sake of being transparent we have to disclose them as such. I know many old school bloggers are disclosing 'gifted' items as 'press samples' instead to avoid to misconception that they are gifts. 

leopard print maxi dress instagrammer
Dress online here and here / photos by Marta Ferenc and edited using Barcelona from Ems Presets

Authenticity with gifted items? - There will always be this debate that if something was gifted or sponsored, it lacks authenticity (full blog post about sponsored ADS here). I understand, I guess you just have to be mindful of who you follow, get to know them and figure out if you trust them. I can hand on heart say I only ever work with brands I adore, I only ever feature cool products, products I've used or I'm going to use and would spend my own money on. I often involve my whole family in reviewing things for my followers and get their honest opinions too so believe me, nothing is ‘free’ in this industry - there is always big work going on behind the scenes to get my content out to you and often, my content is completely unpaid if it's just a review of a gifted product for example yet a lot of time and effort goes into that work. The PR agency have no control over what I say about a product that lands at my door gifted, me featuring it is purely my own choice. I have personally turned down life changing amounts of money because I didn't feel brands suited my audience or felt the products were damaging to my audience. I am and will always remain transparent as honesty is a value I have been brought up with and I will strive to always get it right for my audience (but please note, I am only human sometimes it's easy to forget to write that it was gifted haha) and if someone bought a product I'd recommended and disliked it for some reason I would be upset about that so it's better to be upfront and honest with how a product really is. If it's good, you'll know about it because I'll do my really annoying high pitched squeal on a vlog or I literally will not stop talking about it - if there is good and bad about it then I will tell you the pros and cons and leave you to decide whether it’s the product for you, after all, we have different skin types, hair types, body types etc. Take the Neutrogena Hydro-Boost serum for example, that was given to me as part of a paid campaign and I have been using it on and off for over a year now. I've mentioned it so many times organically because it really is that great. Same with Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream and Vichy Dermablend, two absolute hero products in my make up bag and have been for years, based on products I bought myself, was then gifted and use continually. It's a whole new blog post for me to talk about bloggers having authenticity whether a post is sponsored or not and maybe I'll write that someday too! I love it when. paid partnerships come around following on from me organically loving a product in the first place and often, they do! But todays post is about gifted items and press samples rather than paid partnerships. You can read my blog post here about bloggers and sponsored content

I hope the above has helped put some context on this tricky subject. It’s always best to just talk about these things and hopefully you will agree that it’s easy to find genuine and honest people in the industry from someone who is just flogging you some detox tea for the dollar or teeth whitener haha. 

Lots of love, Em x

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Is Social Media Dangerous? 
Blogging As A Full Time Job 

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