I write this for you with years of experience of both receiving and giving products to people in the make-up industry.
Beauty PR’s and brands constantly gift journalists, bloggers, celebrities, make-up artists and other media professionals, with product. This is known as “gratis”, or “something to try” or “newness” and in my case with a desk piled high of palettes and perfumes, (I used to look after digital marketing for Space NK) … “Are you aware of the Corporate Bribery Act, Emma?”
I received lots of stuff… and what I don’t know about calling-in product from brands or PR companies, quite frankly isn’t worth knowing.
If I loved a product, I would tell everyone and recommend the brand provided me with enough samples to give to the YouTube community, one for each of Lisa Eldridge’s team, Sali Hughes, India Knight and a key list of “influencers”. I would only send something I thought the specific individual would like. When somebody from my pool of fellow beauty lovers, gave the product praise on social media or in the press… sales went up and I could digitally track the source of traffic for these sales – India Knight’s article or Pixiwoo’s YouTube video. The brands were happy, my boss was happy, we were all happy.
So how do you as a make-up artist learn from this, or understand why a beauty PR would send you product?
What are you working on?
Firstly, what are you working on? Think about it and consider the positioning of your work – if it’s an editorial feature you can credit a brand, therefore declaring to the world that this editorial make-up was done with a specific brand. If a brand wants to be credited in the magazine, either digitally or in print, they must send you some products. Many PRs in house or at an agency will have a rough amount of product set aside for this type of crediting; it all adds to their portfolio of work to raise the brand profile by getting it featured in various magazines and on websites. This activity doesn’t generate tons of sales, but it is absolutely key for keeping a presence in the editorial fashion space, a space where make-up artists come into their own and do a lot of their best work. Editorial work is nearly always unpaid, but clever make-up artists know that for a brand credit they can receive products worth more than the fee they may have received.
Film and TV – Are you working on any celebs or known actors? Find out what these people use on their own skin and consider what they might like. Contact the agency and introduce yourself without being too formal, if you can attach a call sheet, always do and tell the PR you are preparing your kit to work with said actor or celebrity or model agency etc. Include a link to your website (if it is good). Trainees, designers and key make-up artists alike can do this. Check with your designer first and ask if they would like help getting some product from PRs. They will nearly always say yes. I connected the incredible designer Tina Earnshaw with one of her favourite luxury make-up brands, she spends a fortune on preparing her kit with this brand and has done for years. The brand PR got straight back to her and sent a bag of product worth thousands of pounds. Tina was thrilled and has credited the brand on an upcoming film. You see how it works!
How to ask the right way
Keep it simple. When reaching out to a PR you are getting in touch because you would like to know if they have any ‘X’ products as you have been told that so and so (your actor/celebrity/model) likes it *attach call sheet or email confirming the job if possible*.
Alternatively, pose a question:
“I am working with some Made In Chelsea girls next week, please see the call sheet attached. Currently I am looking for a really good matte eye shadow palette for my kit (or whatever – moisturiser, shimmer oil, lashes etc), do you have anything that fits the bill, or anything new I should be using on them?”
Be confident and professional
Don’t be too rambling, apologetic or nervous about it. The worst thing they will do is not email you back.
It is worth accepting that products from PR’s are not gifts to you as an individual, but for your kit, to be used on your clients.
If they do send you some products (which they might do because it’s their job), make sure to say THANK YOU. Following that, test out the products and provide kind feedback, don’t be too gushing or sickly sweet, but give praise where praise is due. If your actor/model/celebrity commented on the nice smell or loved their make-up, tell the PR, possibly even referring them to an image of your work on Instagram (if you have a good following – don’t do this if you have less than a few thousand followers). Always make sure you credit/tag the brand on social media. It is good manners!
I should tell you at this point that the top make-up PR companies in London are: The Commination Store, Purple, Seen, Kilpatrick and Dowal Walker. Others exist but these are the good ones.
Heed the following advice
Build a professional relationship – If a PR has been generous to you, they have given you product that that they didn’t give to someone else. As previously mentioned you must be grateful without seeming sycophantic. A simple way to build a relationship is offer to take the PR for lunch, or a drink or send them some flowers with a note to say how well the job went and how you wouldn’t have been able to do it without the product they kindly sent you. PRs tend to be gregarious and sociable, they are used to entertaining and taking other people out for lunches (usually in the Riding House Cafe), so why not switch it up and take them out? This builds a friendship, ensuring you can look after each-other’s professional interests. Here you can discuss work you have coming up and share contacts they might be interested in working with. Always be careful about sharing a specific PRs contact details with other make-up artists in the industry unless the PR approves; they may resent the barrage of requests and find you to be a drain on their resources.
Remember to be humble and grateful but remain completely professional, this is business darlings… not Christmas.