Several times over the past few weeks I’ve been contacted by US-based PRs who want to know if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their products for our beauty blog, Hey-Dollface. The PR will generally begin their pitch by telling me what a huge fan they are of the site (“I read it every day!”) and how their knowledge of the site has led them to the conclusion that their product will be of interest to my readers.
Now, this is nothing unusual. Product reviews are Dollface’s stock-in-trade: they bring more visitors to the site than any other content we publish, and in most cases the products offered for review are relevant to our readers, so of course my answer to this question is normally going to be “Yes, sure, here’s the address!”
But there’s the rub. Time and time again recently my positive response to these PR approaches has been met with a dismayed, “Oh. You’re in the UK. I didn’t know that. We can’t send the product to the UK. Sorry.”
Then I never hear from them again. So much for all the “love your blog, read it every day, huge fan” stuff.
Now, quite apart from anything else, I find this kind of thing very unprofessional. As I said in this entry, it’s not difficult to find out where I’m located. Our mailing address is listed on the site, on the “About/Contact” page, which is prominently linked from the top of the home page (Note: the site is actually having some technical work done to it at the moment, so that link isn’t live today, just in case you feel like checking it – the page is also accessible from the sidebar, though.).
If I was a PR thinking about pitching a product review to a journalist or blogger, I would have thought their “about” page would be pretty essential reading, no? And I know these PRs must have looked at the “contact” page, because they got my email address from it – scrolling past the mailing address to find it. Also: if these PRs were, indeed, the huge fans and daily readers they claim to be, surely they’d have noticed the British spelling (or maybe they just think I don’t know how to spell? I get a fair few emails form Americans pulling me up for my “incorrect spelling” of words like “centre” and neighbour”, and very few have the grace to apologise when I point out that, no, that’s how we write over here…) and regular references to living in the UK? Apparently not.
So, on one level I think it’s unprofessional to contact a writer asking them to review a product and then abruptly withdraw the offer as soon as you realise where they’re based. The bottom line? You should have done your homework. Even if you didn’t feel you could trust the mailing address listed on my site, a quick email asking where I was based would have been better than laying on the flattery thick and then suddenly realising that, actually, you don’t want anything to do with me at all. You just wasted everyone’s time by doing that, and made yourself look unprofessional.
But actually, the unprofessionalism of offering products for review and then withdrawing the offer (“Whoops, sorry, turns out you’re not important enough after all!”) isn’t what I meant to write about here. So yes, that was a massive digression, wasn’t it? No, what I actually wanted to do was ask this question of any US-based PRs out there:
Why are you so dismissive of journalists and bloggers who are based in the UK?
Now, you may think the answer to this question is obvious, and is something along the lines of, “Duh! Because we’re an American site, selling to Americans. What good would a mention on your UK-based website do us, especially if we don’t even ship to your country?”
If this was the print media we were talking about, this would be fair enough. There would be little point in the PR for an American company that doesn’t offer international shipping spending time trying to get their product mentioned in a publication that’s only available in the UK.
But this is the Internet. It’s not called the world wide web for nothing. And it seems pretty short-sighted to me to assume that if a website owner is based in the UK, all his or her readers must be based there too.
As it happens, although I’m in the UK, the vast majority of Hey, Dollface’s readers come from the US. Actually, the UK is only the 4th biggest source of traffic. This is interesting to me as a blogger, of course, but it’s not exactly surprising. After all, I don’t restrict myself to viewing only those websites which are written by people living in the same country as me. I don’t know anyone who does. Many major companies make just that assumption, though, and I’m not just talking about sending out product samples and press releases, either…
Take Sephora, for instance. They are one of the biggest cosmetics retailers in the world. They don’t ship to the UK, unfortunately, but I visit their stores every time I’m in the US, spend hundreds of dollars with them, and link to them every week from my beauty blog.
When I tried to join their affiliate scheme, however, I discovered that not only could I not join it, I couldn’t even apply for it: my application is automatically rejected because I have a UK address, and when I tried emailing the company directly to explain that although I may be in the UK, the majority of my readers are not, I got a standard reply stating that I would have to “amend” my location before I could apply to the affiliate scheme.
Clearly I’m not able to switch continents just to join an affiliate scheme, so I miss out on this opportunity, not just with Sephora, but with all of the retailers like them who have similar “no UK based affiliate” rules. Similarly, I miss out on information from US-based PRs, about products and issues which may well have been of interest to my readers – and they miss out on the publicity I could have given them, which would have gone right to their target audience.
So, what gives here? Is there a reason I’m not aware of why US companies and PRs don’t want to deal with UK-based bloggers, or is it just short sightedness?