PR peeps take note: what NOT to do when sending out BelVita Breakfast biscuits

Free sample FAIL - Nabisco's BelVita Breakfast biscuitsBloggers get sent tons of stuff. Some it’s good, nay, GREAT (such as the Philips AirFyer and Philips electric toothbrushes) and some of it is smaller, but still good stuff. Sometimes, however, you wonder what the PR officer was thinking when they sent it off. Like today’s sample of BelVita Breakfast biscuits…

I was sent some Belvita Breakfast biscuits by Kraft/Nabisco.

The package arrived today in an Express Post bag. Immediately, you get a little excited – yay! New stuff, hope it’s great!

Then I opened the Express bag and saw it was packaged in an Australia Post Padded Bag. I opened that and found a crumbly, messy pile of crumbs. And the inside of the boxes had oil spots all over it, making the sample seem quite old and stale. I received two boxes of BelVita Breakfast biscuits and inside box were six packs of four biscuits. Every single biscuit was smashed to smithereens.

Crushed hopes, crushed biscuitsThe idea behind sending samples to bloggers is to showcase your product and hope that they like it, thus recommending it to their millions of readers.*

It doesn’t hurt to flatter the blogger and try to influence their opinion. Of course, that would never, ever work with me. Unless you’re a car manufacturer and you gave me a free car. Then my opinion is totally for sale.

But I digress.

The free products are tested in the home of the blogger. We use our husbands and children as guinea pigs, fodder to feed our relentlessly un-stoppably hungry blog which requires more and more words to sate our ever-increasing readership (hopefully).

We do a lot of work for our free stuff. We research the products, we test them, seek opinions and then try to articulate those opinions in funny, clever (or at the very least correctly spelled) blog posts. We also do a lot of work on our blog away from product reviews. We pour hours and hours and hours of our time into it and we don’t get paid for it. We try to find readers and yank them, by the eyeballs, to our blog and hope they keep coming back. Hope that our copy is worth five or 10 minutes of their precious time.

And then a company wants to skate in on the loyalty we’ve created and built up to sell more stuff. And they expect us to do that for free.

And our reviews are valuable. There is actually a value you can put on editorial reviews.  Many experts, such as Steve Allen of Fusion Strategy, value editorial mentions at five times the value of an ad. So, for example, a quarter page ad in a metro newspaper could be worth $5000. But a recommendation in a story written by a skilled trained journalist, is worth $25,000.  And we’re giving away our editorial for free, or for a few dollars worth of free products.

BelVita Breakfast FAILSo when an excited blogger opens up the package the excitement definitely sags when you realise you’ve been sent some housework in a packet. Yes, the crumbs spilled out of the packet all over the floor. Thanks for that.

The other thing bloggers get are messages from PROs (public relations officers, which I think is an old fashioned term. I don’t know what the newfangled term is, but that’s what we called them when I was working for an advertising trade rag 10 years ago) gushing about how much they love your blog and how “we thought this might be something relevant for your blog and/or something for you to enjoy, particularly on busy mornings”. I suspect the PRO in question has never seen my blog and has very little idea what I write about, apart from the fact that my email address and my blog address appear on a list somewhere under the heading “Mummy bloggers”.

(Check out the postscript to this post)

Now, I don’t actually object to these notes, gushy or not. They are usually young people, not long out of uni and just trying to get a job done. The client’s got a new product and these young things think that anything on the net is cool and will help them get ‘buzz’ for their product, their client, and by association, for them. Go for it, I say. Send out all the samples to all the bloggers you like. We’ll write nice things, mostly because we’re nice people and have some sympathy for people like these young PROs. After all, we were young once too.

Smashed to smithereensBut just spare a thought for the blogger at the other end opening the product. And when you’re sending fragile foodstuff in the post, bear in mind that Australia Post doesn’t give a shit about your client or the money they’ve spent on the campaign. If you’re sending fragile foodstuffs, like BelVita Breakfast biscuits in the post, PUT IT IN A BOX. Not a post bag.

Because when you put the product in a post bag it gets crushed into little tiny crumbs. And they fall onto my floor and make a mess. And that pisses me off. Just a little.

So, thanks but no thanks. I don’t want to take you up on your kind offer of a giveaway for my readers. Largely because I don’t want my readers pissed off at me for giving them all that extra housework.

The End.

*By millions, I do mean millions. But only if you talk about the entire blogging community. In the world. Not many mummy bloggers get millions of readers to their blog. Maybe @miafreedman does on Mamamia, but I sure don’t.

Postscript: About 12 days later, something else arrived in the post…

10 thoughts on “PR peeps take note: what NOT to do when sending out BelVita Breakfast biscuits”

  1. the funny thing is, i bought some of these very biscuits yesterday and they have been a huge hit with me and the kids alike and i already have orders to buy more and buy them regularly.

    they are great biscuits – pity about the postage fail…

  2. LOL, PR fail on their part. I’m sure that’s not the kind of review they were after. Obviously nowhere near as bad as Coles’ hashtag debacle on Twitter the other day, but a fail on someone’s part nonetheless. Which is a real shame, because I like your reviews. I had never heard of BelVita biscuits before and a good review may well have seen them go in the trolley on my next shopping trip.

  3. That is one heck of a fail…hopefully they do read your blog. If they have any conscience, you should expect a huge parcel of these biscuits in a box with extra trimmings anytime soon.

    Somehow I don’t think you should hold your breath though…

    I wonder if the person that sent this is the same person that used to work at my workplace many years ago and would write checks out in pencil. If not, I would hazard a guess that they are related.

  4. Hello Felicity,

    As a publicist myself (or PRO), I read your blog post with fascination. Admittedly, it was a huge PR fail to send fragile biscuits with little cushioning in the post, and I’m sure the publicist in question would be horrified to hear they had fallen on your floor, extremely apologetic and very eager to send you some more (only this time with plenty of bubble wrap). However, I don’t feel that naming-and-shaming the said publicist’s brand is very kind, or fair.

    I was a little offended that you assumed all publicists are just out of uni and that bloggers only write about our brands because they ‘feel sorry for us’. I am neither young and nor do I rely on bloggers feeling sorry for me to write a sympathy post about the brands I represent. I actually believe that contacts I have established in the blogging community are mostly delighted to hear from me and hear about my brands when relevant to their audience. I’ve received fabulous feedback from these bloggers and their posts have in turn been promoted through the said brand’s social media channels etc – meaning both parties benefit considerably in terms of exposure.

    As a publicist who has been in the industry for several years, I, and the company I work for, has taken on valuable information from bloggers and journalists regarding what they like to be sent, and how. One of the major complaints revolves around the amount of excess packaging (tissue paper, bubble wrap, Styrofoam, bags etc) that come with the product. On the one hand, if it wasn’t there products could end up like the ones you received, however on the other hand, they might arrive – and you could be frustrated by the amount of packaging. It’s a catch-22.

    With regards to our ‘gushing’ emails when we probably have ‘never seen your blog’ – please keep in mind that it is our job to contact hundreds of media outlets each week, and while I always make sure that I’m familiar with and have read/viewed the outlet, if I read in detail every single blog post or article, I wouldn’t have time to sleep!

    I value a blog post endorsing a client’s brand as much as I value an article written by a trained journalist and I hope this gives you some insight into a publicist’s dilemma. If you have any suggestions about how you’d prefer us to approach you I’d be interested to hear.

    Kindest,

    Penny

    1. Hi Penny,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I’m very interested in your views.

      While I agree there is a small point to be made about naming and shaming, I didn’t name the PR company or the PRO involved. It’s only industry insiders who would even know who the agency is. And my readership is largely mums, not PR industry insiders. So I think I did a pretty good job of NOT naming and shaming the PRO/publicist. And by the by, it’s not my job to protect the brand. They’re not my client and don’t pay me! My opinions are honest, unvarnished opinions. Otherwise they’re not worth anything. And while we’re on that subject, I don’t really see how my post reflected negatively on the brand. And lastly on this particular point, it seems pretty important to reveal the product that was smashed to smithereens in the post.

      Secondly, on the topic of offending you, I’m happy to cop criticism on the chin but I would suggest that it’s a pretty thin-skinned person who could take the level of offence that you seem to have, from what is largely gentle ribbing and a few lighthearted jibes.

      Thirdly, I’ve never heard anyone complain about the amount of packaging around a fragile object. Ever. And I would suggest that anyone who did was tending toward the lower end of the IQ spectrum.

      Finally, Penny, as someone who has been in the industry for many years I would have expected the observation that many PROs are young and only a few years out of uni would not be news to you. I spent almost four years writing about PR, advertising and the media at large and I have a fair bit of my own experience to go on. Young people are inexperienced. D’uh. We all were at one time, a point I think I raised in my blog. Young and inexperienced doesn’t make them stupid. It makes them young and inexperienced.

      Penny, it was a lighthearted joke. Being sent housework in a packet played well to the masses. It wasn’t intended to cause offence and it’s a shame that you’ve managed to construe nastiness in what was not intended to be nasty.

      Thanks again for your time and your thoughts.

      cheers,
      f

  5. Flick, it’s a bit rough when a journalism degree and 15 years working in newspapers and magazines and online here and abroad doesn’t qualify you as a “trained journalist”.
    And what happened to “any publicity is good publicity”. The brand received a FAR greater write-up then it would have as just a review of a dry breakfast digestive.
    And, although it was almost cetainly sent by a brand reputation manager PR-type, there is a comment published above saying how yummo the product is, and how all the family are crying out for more.
    Seems to have worked out OK for the brand, if you ask me.

I would love it if you would tap out a few words here!