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How not to ask for samples to review (bloggers and youtubers, please take note)

Most of you will know that alongside this blog and Unfurling Your Wings, I also run a stationery subscription company and online boutique,  Ink Drops,  with my friend and business partner Annastasia.

Now, as bloggers ourselves (I have been blogging for just over a decade now so am hardly a newbie), we are no strangers to freebies, PR collaborations and reviews. Though neither of us have been brave enough to venture onto YouTube yet. I think these are in principle a brilliant way to spread the word about companies and products without being at the mercy of enormous corporations.

And I’d like to point out here that we have worked with (and continue to work with) some AMAZING blogs and writers – who we love.

I get, on average across Ink Drops and my own sites, between ten and fifty requests a month for free samples to review on a blog or a YouTube channel. I keep track of every single one of these, reply personally to each one, and maintain a spreadsheet of requests, so that when we do have samples to send out, we have a list of people who we’d like to work with on each site.

However. In between the wonderful collaborations we have, I am heartily sick of receiving ‘requests’ that look like this:

Screenshot 2015-05-01 10.41.37

That is not a request for a collaboration that could be mutually beneficial to the blogger and to our company – that is a lazy, rude and frankly offensive way of asking for free stuff from a small company.

Aside from the tone, there’s no link to the channel it would supposedly be reviewed on, the grammar is bad and the address has no capital letters. Not the greatest of adverts for us if we were to work with them.

If that was a one off, I wouldn’t be writing this post. But I would say 70% of the requests we get are much like this.

No link or stats, a demand for free stuff, an address to post things to and (crucially) no personalisation, even though we more or less ARE our companies and our names and personalities are splashed all over our websites.

I’ll let you into a secret.

I keep notes on the requests we get for free samples (because to a company, especially a small one, they’re not free – we have to account for them and we do need to see some kind of return on our investment).

We have lots of lovely people who get in touch, who have bothered to read our about page, address the email “Dear Carla and Annastasia” or “Hi Carla” and who are clearly genuine stationery lovers or tarot enthusiasts with a real interest in what we are doing. They don’t just want to grab anything free they can get their hands on, but want to create something that both they and we will benefit from.

Guess what? These are the people who get the slots when they become available, the people we want to work with and the people we want to build ongoing relationships with as we grow.

The ones whose emails scream that they can’t be bothered to even read our website, the ones who forward the same emails every few months without trying to build any kind of relationship with us and the ones who are clearly out to get every freebie they can (and believe me, when you get twenty emails a week asking for the same thing, you get to recognise these pretty damn quick) – those get a note which says “don’t send”.

Because why should we send you a part of the company we love, when you haven’t even read our website or bothered to find out our names?

I believe wholeheartedly in blogging and the power of independent bloggers working with small companies and solopreneurs to advertise in a way that is different from all that has gone before. You won’t find a more enthusiastic ambassador for blogging and social media (and, yes, vlogging though I don’t do it myself yet) than me. I’ve been championing it for ten years.

But for the love of all that’s cat shaped on the internet, if you want samples to review, PLEASE put some effort into reading the website first and don’t just send badly written emails to the first few companies you can find.

With love, unicorns and a little bit of weariness,