How long is too long? Let’s talk about this PR Fail…
On July 2, 2014, a brand representative who shall remain nameless (as will the brand) reached out to me and said their company had a lot of exciting things in the works, coming off a successful Kickstarter, and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing one or more of their new products (for my other blog).
I took a look at the links. I replied that yes, I would be interested. I loved the product line’s aesthetic and was excited to try it. I included my address to make it easy.
A few days later, I’d not heard back so I checked in. A few days after that, the rep got back to me. Product would not actually be available until the Fall but would I mind just posting about the product anyway? She included a discount code for my readers to purchase the product as “incentive.” (So they had product for my readers to buy but not one for me to review?) I immediately replied that this would be considered advertising, or a “sponsored post” and I would charge a small fee to execute that. (This is common practice for bloggers and in all honesty, my sponsored post fees are comparably low because blogging is not my full-time job.)
To be kind, because I still very much wanted to try the product, I threw out a couple tweets about it and sent the links to the brand rep.
They never replied. Silence. Oh well.
Then in November I received an email from a totally different brand rep. We will call this one BR2. BR2 informed me that three types of their product were en route to my address for review that week. Oh, and also, they had just secured $1M in funding!
I replied that while I appreciated them doing their due diligence, albeit quite delayed, I didn’t even live at that address anymore. BR2 said it was not a problem to update the system and they could still send me the items.
Maybe this is where it becomes my fault. It was a slow week; I said “fine.” As this was a new person, perhaps the previous one had made some kind of error and had been let go. Maybe BR2 deserved renewed hope. I’m a publicist, too, after all, and I was still genuinely impressed by what I knew of their brand and a $1M investment is nothing to sneeze at, so I still went along with it.
That said, when nothing ever came, I kind of didn’t care and mentally decided I was done with these people.
A month later, this email to me:
I emailed you a few weeks ago that we were getting ready to ship you a [redacted] and [redacted]. I’m sorry for the delay but we are making changes to the [redacted] which require a few extra weeks of manufacturing time. We want to send you the improved version so please keep an eye out for the package in Mid-January. We’ll follow-up with tracking information then!
I did not even reply. I probably should have, if only to separate myself from these people once and for all, except I had let go of hope long ago and did not expect to ever hear form them or ever see the product. Perhaps part of me was still morbidly curious about the product as well. Who knows.
Cut to February. (Note: Not “Mid-January.”) I get an email from a third brand rep (yes, now BR3) with the subject line “YOUR [REDACTED] HAS SHIPPED” complete with tracking number.
Five days later, BR3 followed up with a recap of what they’d sent and a link to a press kit that was, I’m afraid, the most uninformative, basic press kit I’ve ever seen. I glazed over with boredom. How did these people get a $1M investment?
The product arrived soon after. The packaging was pretty but kind of hard to open. Furthermore, there was nothing else in the box. No note, no business card, no one-sheet, no brochure. I’m not an idiot – I can go to the website – but I thought that was kind of a lazy presentation. I put the product aside. They had sent it without even asking if I was still interested and given the history, I certainly felt no urgent obligation to bother.
I heard from BR3 again asking when I would post a review. I replied that since I’d expected the product seven months prior, that frankly, I would get to it when I felt like it. BR3 quickly responded that they were so sorry for the repeated delays — they were just trying to get the product in its best shape before sending. Which begs the question, why were you even pitching a sub-par product? (Also, where were the first two brand reps I dealt with? At this point, I was kind of concerned they’d fallen down a hole in a factory or something, and no one was competent enough to rescue them.)
The other day I was bored so I finally tried out the items. To be kind, they did not work well. And I know the women will share my annoyance – I broke two nails trying to use one of them… It is possible my expectations were deeply, severely low by now and there was going to be no way to please me but so be it. There was no question I should have cut them off ages ago and that the parade of reps I’d dealt with had mismanaged this campaign. All I felt about the whole thing now was awkward.
BR3 was persistent and followed up again. At last, I was really done. I replied:
Thanks for writing. I’m going to be honest with you.
I waited and waited for these items (seriously, correspondence began in July 2014) and I pretty much gave up hope. I was told on more than one occasion something was finally coming and every time but this time, nothing ever came. So credibility was out the window leaving me with a sour taste in my mouth about it all.
That said, initially, I was excited to check them out so I was clinging to a glimmer of hope that the product would blow me away and all would be forgiven.
Instead, I’m even more let down. First of all, the products came in lovely packaging with absolutely no descriptions, No fact sheet. No explanations. So I had to go to the website. I suppose that’s fine, but as I’m a publicist in my full-time career, I would never send product out that way. Especially when it’s been waited on for more than half a year.
As for the product itself, ….. [TACTFUL EXPLANATION OF WHY THE PRODUCT DOESN’T SUCCEED REDACTED]
I wish you a lot of luck in your future endeavors. Sadly, this was just not for me and I’ll simply pass on writing up a review.
Thank you and best wishes…
Well, bloggers? What do you think? Has anything like this ever happened to you? How would you have handled it?
Publicists, brand reps, marketers, what say ye? Empathy? Apathy? Shakey fists?