The #1 Question You Should Ask Before You Accept Swag

by Rachel on February 28, 2011 · 11 comments

Whether it’s a condiment or an app, I love talking about stuff on my blog. Buying and trying lots of stuff so you don’t have to is part of what my blog is all about. Realizing this, companies want me to talk about their stuff. I get lots of e-mails from bubbly PR girls telling me all about their product and why I should try it, and I’m sure you do too. You get a gushy e-mail from a PR girl who just loves this product and knows you will too! And she is just so excited about this product, she’s happy to send me some to try for free!

Like most bloggers, I get excited about this. You want to send me some new “enhanced” granola water to try for free? Sure! Why not?!

I’ve written about reviews and freebies before, but now, I take it a little further. Before I accept swag from any PR person who is kind enough to send me (and, generally, ten other bloggers — just sayin’) an enthusiastic e-mail offering me a GREAT new product to try, I ask them one question. And this question is becoming more and more important to me as I build my readership and get more marketing and advertising opportunities coming my way.

“What’s in it for my readers?”

And I don’t mean, I “ask” this question, but I don’t really ask this question.

No…I actually ask this question.

“Hi, [bubbly marketing girl]! Thanks so much for thinking of me. That enhanced granola water sure does sound special, and I’d love to try some, but I have to ask — what’s in it for my readers? Could I get an extra one for a giveaway after I try it and review it? I don’t like to write a review unless I can offer a giveaway at the end as well.”

In most cases, the PR person has already offered something great for my readers, so it’s a non-issue. But if they don’t offer, I have no shame in asking. If they really can’t offer a free product, and you really want to write about this product, then push for a sweet discount code at the very least.

Once you’ve gotten them to agree (and they usually do), make sure you think about how to give a great giveaway. This is still part of that original question: What’s in it for them? Tons of giveaways of products you aren’t excited about makes you appear less authentic over time. But doing one awesome giveaway that you know they’ll love — even if you have to reach out to a company yourself or (OMFG!) spend your own money on the prize — is a great way to thank you readers for being there and show them that you know who they are and you care about what they’ll like.

But accepting free stuff — whether it’s stuff you love or stuff you have no interest in trying — and then not bringing enough to share with the class can make you look like a spoiled brat. Oh, you love it? Cool. Lucky you. I wish I got free stuff too. Oh, you hate it? Cool. I’d probably love it. And I have to pay for it. Like it or not, when a blogger gets a lot of free stuff, she runs the risk of turning off her readers. Ask this simple question and you’ll probably start building a very loyal reader base.

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