At some point in your PR career, you’ll be tasked with a project that requires you to reach out to brands to request product.
Having been on both sides of the equation, I’ve made and seen my fair share of mistakes from people who don’t quite understand how the process works. Recently, a friend of mine who runs a rapidly growing consumer product business shared her frustrations with me about the types of requests she’s getting from people who haven’t actually researched her company or from people who approach with a sense of entitlement; thinking that because it’s a small biz, they can make certain demands.
With this guide, I hope to demystify the whole process.
When to Request Product From a Brand
- To add to gift bags for an event;
- To use in an event auction;
- To gift to a celebrity or VIP client;
- For platform contests and/or giveaways; or
- For blog or vlog review purposes.
Identify Which Brands You Want to Target
Never blindly throw a list of brands together to appease a boss or your team. Take your time and research brands that are actually relevant to your project or to the intended audience.
Do Your Research and Find the Appropriate Contact
Now that you have your short list of brands, you’ll need to do some additional research to see if they have any information publicly available (on their website’s FAQ page perhaps?) about their sampling and/or product request process. If they don’t, you should still skim through their FAQ page as it may answer some questions you intended to ask in your pitch/request email.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to go to the brand’s Contact or About Us page to find a PR or brand manager contact. Larger brands that still haven’t quite figured out how to be human tend to bury most or all contact information deep in their website, so you might have to scroll to the bottom of the page and view the site map to find it or use the available contact form.
For smaller brands, you’ll most likely be making the request directly to the founder or CEO of the company, so before you reach out you should definitely make sure you know who you’re talking to.
This is especially important if you’re forced to use a contact form because, as petty as it is, messages that begin with a generic “Hello” that aren’t addressed to a specific individual often get deleted or overlooked.
How To Make ‘The Ask’
The Email Subject Line is Your First Impression
I’ll never understand why people neglect the email subject line as it is the reason whether or not your email even gets opened and read. When you are crafting a subject line make it as descriptive as possible. Tell people what they can expect to read in the email. Don’t play coy.
Bad Subject Line: NYFW – September 2014
- No sense of urgency.
- No descriptive words that make the reader curious about the contents of the email.
Better Subject Line: Product Request – Need Items for VIP Gift Bags During NYFW
- Tells you exactly what you’re going to see inside the email.
- Gives you a “what” and “when” teaser.
- If they know that NYFW is approaching, they’ll probably check this message as soon as they see it.
Contents of the Email:
- WHO: I don’t care who you are, or what marquee brand or agency you work for, NEVER make an assumption that someone knows who you are.
- If you don’t have a prior relationship with the person you’re reaching out to, you need to introduce yourself in the opening lines of the email.
- WHAT: Tell them what you want immediately, they should not have to SCROLL to find the “Ask.” (Example: I’m writing to request product for….)
- Know- or at least have an idea of what products from their line you want. The final say may not be up to you (based on availability, etc), but you should make a request for a specific thing.
- Mention the quantity.
- WHEN: When is the event or giveaway? When do you need the product?
- WHERE: Where will the event take place? Is the giveaway online? On your blog? Instagram? Be clear.
- WHY: Why are you interested in featuring this particular brand’s product? Why should they want to send you their goods? Clearly describe the audience and your intentions and why what you’re proposing is a mutually beneficial arrangement.
- HOW: Do they have to ship the product to you? Or, are you close enough to pick it up?
This is just one of countless ways you can go about requesting products or anything else from a brand.
It’s a very straight forward approach that, if followed, will increase your response rate and help you build a relationship with the PR person or executive tasked with processing the request.