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cosmetics pr samples

This struck me the other day after reading a great blogging post by Wonderful You. She noted that she’s more likely to trust reviews from newer blogs where the products aren’t PR samples over more established blogs that inevitably review more samples sent to them.

This really got me thinking about how I blog and how other readers and bloggers perceive reviews where there’s a sample sent by a brand or PR company involved.

I’m lucky enough to deal with a lot of PR companies and brands in Ireland and the UK and they’re a huge ongoing help when it comes to me reviewing a diverse range of products. To be perfectly honest, I simply couldn’t afford to review all the products I do if I was only relying on what’s in my purse. So I feel truly lucky to be able to avail of samples that I find exciting and that I think readers will enjoy seeing a post about. I still buy a huge amount of beauty products and mix in opinion pieces like this, so on a balance I’m very happy with the range of reviews I write.

But here’s the thing. I don’t review everything I’m sent. If I request a product based on a press release sent to me, it’s because I’m genuinely interested in the product and would love to review it. But if I’m sent products without asking for them, I’ll only feature them if I think they’re interesting. If you tend to see more positive reviews of samples it’s because I don’t review the products I find a bit meh. If they’re woeful though, or I think people would be really interested in a review, that’s a different story. When I first began blogging, I feel like looking back now, I was probably more blinded by samples. I’m being really honest here, in the first few months if I was sent products I was so bowled over to be sent beautiful things I would now say that they had to have an impact on my review as I was so excited. But while the argument on Wonderful You’s blog seemed to be that more established blogs are sample driven, which I would often agree with, I actually think I’m a much more discerning blogger now than I was when my blog was new.

Now, reasonably established after nearly 2 years, I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I still cringe a little when I know a PR company or brand will read a bad review on a product they’ve sent me, but I’m no longer in the slightest bit afraid to do so. I’ve become more confident in my own voice so honestly after all this time, I think I’m a more transparent and honest blogger than I ever was before.

I understand that seeing the same product featured on a wide variety of blogs in the same week can be a little repetitive but I don’t think you can blame a blogger for wanting to feature a new product when it’s exciting and new. I do think though the quality of the review is what counts, and I actually enjoy reading a cross section of reviews on the same product as opinions invariably differ.

So for me personally, samples are a huge perk and help me blog about a wide range of products that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to feature, but it’s not the be all and end all. I love buying interesting products for the blog and do so on a weekly basis, I love writing opinion pieces like this and I love that it can help me put a more personal stamp on my blog. For me, I think it’s all about balance and honesty and if a blogger is honest, frankly it shouldn’t matter if a product is a sample or not.

So I’d really love some opinions from you all, whether you’re bloggers or readers. How do you feel about reviewing or reading reviews based on samples and do you think blogs can be biased? Or do you feel a certain pressure if you’re reviewing a sample?

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  • Esme Peirce

    If I trust the blogger then it doesn’t matter if it sent to them or they bought it with their won money, in my opinion anyway :) xx

    • Strawbry_Blonde

      <<< this!

      • Makeup Monster

        Well said and I totally agree girls!

  • Claire Kane

    I think you can tell when someone is writing a positive review as a pleasantry to a PR company rather than to genuinely convey how much they loved the product. When someone is really excited about a product you can tell whether it is sampled or not. I do like writing reviews of products I’ve bought though because I can rip them apart if necessary. Samples are a perk but I’m not going to hinder the honesty of my blog in the hope of being kept on the good list.

  • Ashleigh Fell

    It doesn’t bother me if it’s a PR sample or not as long as it’s their honest opinion, I think you can easily tell when it isn’t. I have had samples from a couple of PR’s and I’m always honest with what I write, if I don’t like it I let the PR know first of all so they know what to expect from the review.

    • Makeup Monster

      That’s a good way to do it!

  • Kiss & Make-up

    I can only speak for myself, but I am always honest and genuine when I review a product, whether it’s a self-bought product or a PR sample. The thing is that not everyone is like that, I guess, so it depends on the blogger…

    • Makeup Monster

      I agree it depends on the blogger and I’ve definitely seen reviews where the product is ‘featured’ more than reviewed!

  • Charlotte MacDonald-Gaunt

    To me it’s all about being authentic in your review – if you believe in a product and enjoy it you shouldn’t be afraid to say so even if it is a PR sample, and the other way around – if it’s not your cup of tea, then explain why and that’s that. Xx

    • Makeup Monster

      Totally agree Charlotte!

  • Strawbry_Blonde

    I feel exactly as you have described actually… I think I’m more discerning now and also less easily impressed, so when I am – I reallllly am! I also tend to focus on the products I love as I honestly can’t be bothered with stuff that doesn’t do it for me and just don’t have the time or inclination!

    I think it’s also important for bloggers to realise how close the PR industry can be and how much PRs move between agencies and brands, so even if they’re not fussed on a sample, it’s good to be constructive and professional about how you handle the situation – either directly with a PR or in a post.

    Nic x

    • Makeup Monster

      Totally agree Nic, I don’t believe in brand bashing but if a product isn’t good I’ll speak up about it and as long as you have a good professional relationship with PR people I don’t think there should be a problem!

  • Coco

    I think the reasoning behind it is that people think you’re more likely to be more critical of a product you paid with your own money, which makes sense. When you get an average product and it’s a sample it’s like “meh” no big loss, but when you paid for it (specially if it’s expensive) then it’s a real let down. I don’t mind PR samples AT ALL. If the blogger is honest, it shouldn’t matter either way. What I do care about are proper disclosures. xx

    • Makeup Monster

      I agree Coco, if I spent €50 on a product and it’s crap I’ll be far more angry than if I review a product that was sent to me for the same price that’s crap but I try and think about the people who will consider buying it and then reflect on it that way!

  • Nida Moughal

    To be honest I don’t feature a product on my blog if I don’t like it and if its a PR sample. on the other hand if I paid handsome amount for a product and and it disappointed me then I do write about it but I don’t go all negative I always make sure to highlight a few good points. But yes you are right PR samples have some effects.

    • Makeup Monster

      I think balanced reviews are best, there’s the odd time a product will have no redeeming features but more often than not it will have some good and bad points so it’s only fair to show that in the review!

  • Karen (lovelygirliebits)

    Now I can comment ;) This is a brilliant post Y and I nodded the whole way through it. I’ve seen some snippy comments about bloggers and their reviews of samples and you know what? Most of the comments I’ve read have come from other bloggers which is a shame.

    Like you, I get sent a lot of products and trying to find the time to write reviews of the things I love is hard enough without finding time to write about the meh products. They’re so boring to write and when I’ve no opinion on something, I get blogger’s block! For things that I don’t like, I group them together in a video or post and tell people about them that way.

    Despite being fortunate enough to be sent lots of things to try, I still buy so many products as you will see when I do my collection video and that’s the makeup junkie in me! And my reviews of samples and purchases are treated the same as far as I’m concerned. I make my photos as pretty as possible, I try to make the post as engaging, funny and honest as possible because I want to be proud of every single post I put out there for everyone to read.

    I could go on and on but I’ll stop there for now! Again, great post Y :_

    • Makeup Monster

      Totally agree with you Karen and thanks for enjoying the post! Meh products really can be completely boring to write about so grouping them together is a good idea! I’m exactly like you, I buy stuff all the time regardless of how much I’m sent, I can’t help it but I think it makes for a balanced blog so it’s a good way to be and the quality of the post and pictures is what makes a post winning!

  • Beauty Bird

    I agree, it shouldn’t matter if it’s a sample or not, as long as the blogger is honest equally for all reviews. I think companies know that they are going to receive negative reviews at some point – everyone is so different that it’s inevitable. xx

    • Makeup Monster

      Yep it’s only natural for products to get mixed reviews, I tend to mostly go against the trend with foundations as even when other people love them I find them very hard in general with my dry skin!

  • Ah Sure Tis Lovely

    I’m getting sent a few bits and pieces now and again and its exciting but I don’t let that get in the way of my opinion. I do tend to be a bit of an optimistic person so its not often that I hate something. If I really don’t like something I wont write about it, I started blogging to write about things I like, to share my love of fashion and beauty with like minded people. I’m not going to waste my time or my readers time moaning about meh products.

    • Makeup Monster

      Yep I much prefer about writing about interesting products and negative posts only really appeal to me when I think it’s a product that other people will be very interested to hear about!

  • Makeup Monster

    Thanks Leanne and agree tagging brands on twitter is a great way to get your reviews out there and also let the brands know your thoughts!

  • Makeup Monster

    Completely, I think if you’re surprised by a product in a good or bad way, no doubt so will the reader or listener so it’s worth a review!

  • Makeup Monster

    Totally agree and I can see why bloggers can get seduced into only writing good reviews but it completely ruins the whole point of being a blogger!

  • MakeupOverMind

    Great post, I totally agree with everything you’ve said. I think it depends on the blogger, and I think you can tell the people who are honest and those that have become swayed somewhat….For me I think, as you say, it’s nice to get a few bits now and then to broaden your knowledge base and review more things, but for the most part I just spend a LOT of my own money on makeup! I think if you combine being informative, balanced, and write like you’re talking to a friend – that’s all you can do! And FYI – you do a great job! ;)

    • Makeup Monster

      Ah thanks and you too!!

  • Belle Morte Beauty

    Excellent, thought provoking post as always. I definitely think that samples can help to colour a bloggers review – especially int he beginning, when it’s all so exciting – you’re getting something for free, haven’t spend your hard earned cash on it, so of course that can put a rose tinted view on the whole product and process.

    On the whole, I think that the majority of bloggers are very trustworthy and eager to give their tuppence. I would imagine that a lot of the time we don’t get to see the “terrible” or “meh” reviews as the blogger chooses not to publish them – which is fair enough – I’m personally not a fan of brand bashing either. You can always get some duds from what are otherwise brilliant brands, so it wouldn’t be fair to tarnish a company based just upon one product and one review by one person.

    Everyone has different skin types, so what works for one may not work for another. I’ve bought some products which were unbelievably hyped and raved about only to feel underwhelmed when I tried them out – yes, Clarins Flash Balm, i’m looking at you.

    Lots of great responses here – makes food for thought. :)

    Belle Morte Beauty

    • Makeup Monster

      Thanks for the great reply, Clarins primer would be one for me, just didn’t work for my skin!

      • Belle Morte Beauty

        Oh that reminds me – I got an awful reaction once to the Clarins Hydraquench moisturiser – it burnt the face of me! This was pre-blogging though. Was very surprised at that.

  • Siri Lovise Eliassen

    That’s why I always look for several reviews of stuff. I also have a couple of fave bloggers who always seem to agree with my opinion of a product so I look to them first, hoping that they’ve managed to remain objective.

    • Makeup Monster

      I do too, it’s good to get an opinion of a few people!

  • Nurse Fancy Pants

    Great post, as always. I agree completely with you, samples are a fantastic perk but people know from your writing if you’re being honest or not- I think it always shines through. I definitely have felt more of a pressure to do a good job with a review if it’s something that’s been sent to me but if I don’t like it, i just make the point that I didn’t get on with it but that others could. I don’t think there’s anything else you can do really, it’s important to be balanced.

    • Makeup Monster

      Totally agree balance is the key!

  • Emma

    I think it’s important to always remember that even if you absolutely hated a product, there will be someone out there who will love it and I think as long as readers keep that in mind when reading a negative review then it’s all ok. Companies won’t expect everyone to love their products and I think negative reviews only serve to help companies make their products better. I tend to know when someone genuinely loves a product or not and like you I prefer to write about the products I love so it may seem like I’m always raving but that’s because I Love the product. I think it’s more the overall bloggers opinions I trust whether it’s a sample or not. If I’m going to buy something I tend to read multiple reviews anyway.

    That’s just a few muddled up thoughts for you! :)

    Emma x

    • Makeup Monster

      I always read a load of reviews if I’m planning to buy a product, especially if it’s more pricey!

  • Beauty Angel

    I always assume bloggers remain impartial but I suppose it’s not as easy as that. I always take reviews at face value even if it is a sample, but i would read more than one review especially if I was buying something pricey. I’ve never received samples to try so not sure how I’d feel myself. I think I’d have to be honest with my readers I owe them more than the PR company. Very few products are perfect at the end of the day!

    • Makeup Monster

      Most bloggers do and all bloggers should!

  • Kassandra Fairhall

    Great post! I def think it’s a touchy subject for some people, personally for me I love reader product reviews no matter if the blogger bought the product or was sent it to review, becasue at the end of the day if your just reading a review it doesnt mean to will hate, or the love the product and you never know until you try it out for yourself. I’m a blogger and I get sent products all the time, I’m always honest not matter what beside my readers trust is what makes my blog what it is, without that I would be no where