One of the best ways to get free publicity is to give samples of your product to the media. Sometimes, the media themselves will approach you, requesting a sample for them to photograph or review.
However, even if you don’t get such requests, you can be proactive in sending out samples.
Doing so demonstrates your confidence in your product. The media themselves –or someone they know and trust–can try your product first-hand and give an unbiased opinion on it.
Plus, it’s much easier and more compelling to write about a product that’s already in your hands, especially if it’s relevant to your beat (a topic assigned to reporters). For example, a beauty editor may be more likely to write about a new moisturizer if they receive a sample bottle to try.
That said, there are right and wrong ways of giving product samples. Below are some useful tips to remember:
1. Be selective.
Even if your product costs less than $20, it doesn’t mean you should go ahead and send it to any journalist, willy nilly.
You’ll want to make sure to get your product in the hands of journalists and bloggers who reach your target market. If you’ve been regularly consuming your local media and have been building up your media list, then you’ll have a good idea of who these journalists are.
Also keep an eye out for writer or editors who are in charge of compiling gift-idea or shopping-list type of stories. Examples of this include, “Best Christmas Gifts of 2011,” or “Top Software for the Geek You Love.”
2. Ask first.
If your product is expensive, you’ll want to ask first if a particular media person is interested in receiving a sample. Otherwise, you could easily waste plenty of dollars giving away samples… without any media coverage to show for it.
3. Provide your best.
Don’t skimp on your samples; provide only the best of what you have to offer. This may seem obvious, but sometimes entrepreneurs try to cut corners to save on dollars. This isn’t the occasion for that.
4. Include complete information with your sample.
Don’t just send your sample without any background information. Include:
- the list of items you’ve provided
- instructions for how to use your product
- additional items a person may need when testing your product (e.g., a microfiber cloth to test your all-natural, all-purpose cleanser)
- product information
- precautions to take when using your product, if any
- photos of the product
- your contact information
5. Be clear about returning the product.
You may wish for the reporter to keep your product sample. However, he or she may not be allowed to do so by their company policy.
It also depends on the nature of your product. Perishable items, of course, can’t be returned anymore. Neither can products that are more personal in nature. When we gave out samples from our socks company, for example, I didn’t expect–or want–them back!
Or, your product may be too expensive to give away, such as a technology gadget. My PR agency works mostly with these types of clients, and sometimes the product is worth several hundred dollars or more. In this case, we make it clear that we are merely loaning the item for testing and review, and we have clear guidelines on how long the journalist can review the hardware or software.
If you want or expect your sample back, make it easy for the tester to return it. For example, include a prepaid postage envelope or packaging along with the sample.
6. Ship properly.
Pack your product properly to make sure it arrives in good condition. If it’s a food item, make sure it’s properly cooled and insulated during transit so the reporter doesn’t receive something spoiled. If your product is fragile, pack it securely.
7. Send samples on time.
Certain occasions are perfect for sending product samples, such as before Christmas, depending on the nature of your product. Remember that most media outlets plan their content months in advance, so keep that in mind when inquiring about sending samples.
Also be on the look out for little-known celebrations, which could be relevant to your product.
8. Keep track.
Finally, keep track of the samples you send, to whom, and with what results. Don’t be dismayed if you don’t get media exposure with each sample you send out. That’s just not realistic.
However, by monitoring your efforts and results, you’ll get a better idea of which journalists are receptive to your pitches, which approaches work, and which are the best times for sending samples.
If you do it right, sending samples of your product can be a very effective way of getting free PR, both in traditional media and social media. Follow the tips above and you’re bound to get better results.
Have you ever sent samples of your product before? What results did you get? What did you do right? What could you have done better?
Image from Crestock High Quality Images
Elena is founder of a technology PR agency that works with startups to billion-dollar companies. She is passionate about helping marketers and small business owners with practical publicity strategies.
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