As the democratization of beauty industry continues, the power dynamic and relationship between brands and consumers continues to shif. No one would have guessed that an endorsement from an influencer could make or break a product launch. But has influencer PR gone too far? In today’s post we’ll be answering the question, ‘Is buying PR packages a scam?
What is a PR list?
A Public Relations (PR) List is a record of names bloggers, influencers, and celebrities who are good at generating buzz about new releases. Extensive research and targeting exercises are done 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 releases to anyone on their PR lists. Similarly, an influencer is not obligated to mention a product they received on their social channels, unless there are contracts in place that state otherwise.
For example, although Swedish YouTuber, Angelica Nyqvist, receives sporadic PR from ColourPop she is not required to talk about 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*). However, most brands do not use open PR searches to curate their PR lists.
How Can You Receive 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.
Second, try joining an influencer network. These networks act as middlemen, connecting creators to brands for long-term partnerships and one-off campaigns or product promotions.
Moreover, creators working with an influencer network are more likely to receive compensation for their promotional or sponsored posts. However, the creator needs to put in more effort to apply to campaigns or opportunities.
However, please note that a promotional or sponsored post differs from straight-up PR. In the case of sponsored posts, there is typically material goods (a.k.a. money) that is exchanged in exchange for the work.
Finally, the last way to receive PR is to pay for it. Yes – you read that correctly. Lately, the biggest trend in the beauty world is to buy PR packages.
PR Kits for Sale?
In 2018, some of the most popular mainstream brands started to release limited edition PR kits for sale to the public. However, these kits differ from traditional product bundles. First, PR kits include all of the products within a new collection AND decorative items, such as special packaging or knick-knacks. Second, PR packages are typically sold at a premium, while bundles are sold at a discount.
So, is Buying PR Packages a Scam?
Pros for Buying & Selling PR
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:
Consumers can treat themselves (or their loved one) with a unique gift
Smaller creators have access to purchasing kits typically reserved for larger creators. This can give the illusions that they are on PR lists.
Brands make additional money by selling PR kits to super-fans
Cons for Buying & Selling PR
Consumers pay more for add-on items and packaging that they don’t need and 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 compared to full-time influencers given that they are spending more to create the illusion of being more successful
Twitter Thoughts on Whether Buying PR Packages a Scam
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? 🤔
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?
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 🤷🏻♀️
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.
Some friends believed that there was nothing shady about this new retailing tactic given that there is clearly consumer demand for this new style of product bundles. Meanwhile, others felt that these kits promoted excessive consumerism.
One respondent even noted that selling PR packages is like a slap-in-the-face to up-and-coming creators who had to work hard to receive PR for free.
Final Thoughts on Whether Buying PR Packages a Scam
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. Sometimes, we want to treat ourselves to something special!
However, I have to admit that I typically feel regret when I’ve purchased PR bundles. First, I end up spending more than I naturally would have that particular new release. Second, I’ve purchased complete dud collections when I chose to purchase PR bundles rather than wait for reviews.
On a different note, it is important to address one final aspect of whether buying PR packages is a scam. It is 100% shady for anyone to try to fake clout by falsely claiming that they received an item in PR if they did not. Similarly, it is just as shady for an influencer to sell their PR kits, whether the kits are sold at a discount or at a premium. Moreover, this type of behavior is grounds for removal from PR lists.
If an influencer really does not intend to use a collection, why not give products to friends or family? Heck, they could put the product aside for a giveaway for their subscribers!