As the democratization of beauty industry continues, the power dynamic and relationship between brands and consumers is shifting. No one, not even cosmetic and skincare executives, would have guessed that an endorsement from a reviewer on YouTube influencer could make or break a product launch, but has influencer PR gone too far?
In today’s Beau-Tea Talk, we’ll be discussing the emerging trend for big-name beauty brands to sell PR packages to the public.
What is a PR list?
Simply put, a Public Relations (PR) List is a list compiled by brands (or agencies that work on behalf of brands) that consists of bloggers, influencers, and celebrities who are good at generating buzz about new releases. Often times, extensive research and targeting are done in order to assess whether an influencer could be a good fit for a brand. Metrics such as audience size (reach), engagement rate, audience demographic, influencer niche (ex. beauty, lifestyle, mommy blogger) are taken into effect.
Brands are not required to send out every new release to an influencer on their PR list, nor is an influencer obligated to mention a product they received on their social channels unless there are specifically agreed upon terms. For example, Swedish YouTuber, Angelica Nyqvist, receives sporadic PR from ColourPop but is never required to mention the products she receives on her channel. In contrast, networks such as Octily and Influenster require smaller creators to talk about the products they receive via PR.
Although some brands will put out open casting calls to join their PR list (*cough, cough Anastasia Beverly Hills*), many brands do not use such tactics when curating their PR lists.
How to get PR?
As previously mentioned, the most obvious way to receive PR is to be placed on a PR list by a brand. This often requires little effort on the creator side, as the brand will reach out to you. However, some brands do allow influencers to apply to be on their PR list or to join their ambassador networks.
The second way to receive PR is to join an influencer network. These networks act as middlemen, connecting creators to brands for long-term partnerships and one-off campaigns or product promotions. Unlike individuals who receive PR directly from a brand, creators working with an influencer network are likely to be paid for their promotional or sponsored posts, but they need to put in more effort to apply to various campaigns or opportunities. (Please note, a promotional or sponsored post is different from PR, as there is typically an exchange of money or material goods beyond just free product.)
The last way to receive PR is to pay for it. Yes – you read that correctly.
PR Kits for Sale?
In 2018, many mainstream brands (ex. ColourPop and Anastasia Beverly Hills) began to release limited edition PR kits for sale on their websites. These limited edition kits contained all the items within a given collection and additional decorative touches such as flowers, neon signs, and accessories, all of which were beautifully placed in special, elaborate PR packaging. However, these PR kits were often sold at a higher price tag than the normal collection bundles.
Pros for Brands to Sell PR Kits
Before immediately trashing the idea of brands selling PR Kits, here are some of the main reasons why consumers may enjoying buying a PR Kit:
- Regular consumers can treat themselves (or their loved one) with a unique gift
- Smaller creators have access to purchasing kits typically reserved for larger creators (and can then give the illusion they are on a PR list)
- Brands are able to make additional money by selling PR kits to superfans
Cons for Brands to Sell PR Kits
- Consumers are paying more for add-on items and packaging that they don’t need or that is potentially wasteful
- Consumers may feel added pressure to spend more when ordering new releases from their favorite brands
- Smaller creators are still at a disadvantage as they have to spend more to create the illusion that they are receiving a particular set as PR
Twitter Thoughts on Brands Selling PR Kits
I asked my Twitter family what they thought about brands selling PR kits to consumers and this is what they had to say:
To my beauty-loving friends: what are your thoughts on brands selling PR packages to “the average” consumer? 🤔
— thenewburygirl (@thenewburygirl) April 15, 2019
As you can see by my poll results, there wasn’t a clear consensus on how my Twitter friends felt about brands selling PR kits.
PR packages are given away for free by the brand to influencers who will then promote the products. When a brand then turns around to sell the PR packages to the average consumer, it’s shady. The average consumer has a level of influence too so why can’t they have it for free?
— Karalee Shotola (@KaraleeCupcake) April 16, 2019
The average consumer has very little influence compared to the influencers who get it for free. Also, PR packages wouldn’t be sold if there was no one to buy them. I find the practice shady, but it’s not illegal. And if people are willing to shell out for it 🤷🏻♀️
— Kate (@catisbored) April 16, 2019
I feel like PR should be for advertising purposes, to show off a collection and what average consumer would need (for example) 50 shades of foundation or 25 lipsticks? like if they were selling PR packages to make up artists, that would make more sense than the average consumer.
— Terry (@fantasialillies) April 17, 2019
Some friends believed that there was nothing shady about this tactic because there is a clear consumer demand for these types of bundles. Meanwhile, others felt like these kits encouraged excess consumerism and could be perceived as a slap-in-the-face to small/mid-size influencers who’ve had to work hard to be added to brand PR lists.
Final Thoughts on Brands Selling PR
Personally, I’m still on the fence about this issue. While I do think that it promotes excessive spending and waste, I’d be lying if I said that certain PR kits weren’t tempting to me. Sometimes, we want to treat ourselves to something special!
However, I do think it is shady if anyone were to try fake clout by falsely claiming they received something as PR when they did not.
Side note: Anastasia Beverly Hills and ColourPop are two of my favorite brands and creators of my favorite shadow formulas.
Where do you stand on this issue? Do you think it is shady for brands to sell PR kits or are you for it?