As the democratization of beauty industry continues, the power dynamic and relationship between brands and consumers is shifting. No one 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 where consumers are buying PR packages.
What is a PR list?
A Public Relations (PR) List is a list compiled by brands that consist of bloggers, influencers, and celebrities who are good at generating buzz about new releases. Extensive research and targeting are done in order to assess whether an influencer is a good fit for a brand. Audience size (reach), engagement rate, audience demographics, influencer niche (ex. beauty, lifestyle, mommy blogger) are considered.
Brands are not required to send out all new release to anyone on their PR list. Similarly, an influencer is not obligated to mention a product they received on their social channels, unless there are contracts in place.
Swedish YouTuber, Angelica Nyqvist, receives sporadic PR from ColourPop but is never required to mention the products she receives. In contrast, networks such as Octily and Influenster require smaller creators to talk about the products they receive via PR.
Some brands will put out open casting calls to join their PR list (*cough, cough Anastasia Beverly Hills*). Many brands do not use PR Searches to curate their PR lists.
How to get PR?
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. The brand will reach out to the creator. However, some brands allow influencers to apply to PR lists 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.
Creators working with an influencer network are likely to be paid for their promotional or sponsored posts. However, the creator needs to put in more effort to apply to campaigns or opportunities.
Note: a promotional or sponsored post is different from PR. There is typically an exchange of money or material goods beyond just free product in exchange for a sponsored post.
The last way to receive PR is to pay for it. Yes – you read that correctly. The latest trend in the beauty world is buying PR packages.
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 contain all the items within a new collection. Also, decorative touches such as flowers, neon signs, and accessories are included.
Within the kits all of the items are beautifully placed in special, elaborate PR packaging. However, these PR packages are often sold at a higher price tag than traditional collection bundles.
Pros for Consumers Buying PR Packages?
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 Consumers Buying PR Packages?
- 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 or Consumers Buying PR
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. There is clear consumer demand for buying PR packages. Others felt like these kits encouraged excess consumerism.
It could be perceived that selling PR packages is 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
I’m still on the fence about selling and buying PR packages. 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, it is shady if anyone were to try fake clout by falsely claiming they received something as PR when they did not. Similarly, it is shady for influencers to sell the PR kits that they receive. Often times, this is forbidden in PR contracts. Why not just hold a giveaway for followers?
Side note: Anastasia Beverly Hills and ColourPop are two of my favorite brands and creators of my favorite shadow formulas.
Are you interested in talking more about the online beauty community? Read this post on the rise of celebrity cosmetic lines.
Where do you stand on this issue? Do you think it is shady for brands to sell PR kits or are you for it?