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Are PR Packages Really PR?

Published on April 19, 2022, at 11:39 p.m.
by Jen Bowman.

Our TikTok For You Pages are flooded with unboxings of PR packages. Influencers with large and small platforms film themselves opening up cardboard boxes filled with brands promoting new items or lines. These videos get posted online for millions of people to view, with the hope of attracting new customers and to sell the new “TikTok trend.” But, where exactly is the PR in PR packages?

PRSA defines public relations as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

So, how does a cardboard box filled with free products create a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and its publics?

Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

From the outside looking in, it might seem a little ridiculous that these brands are sending hundreds of dollars’ worth of products to influencers for free. Just because these influencers have large followings, should that mean they automatically get free products? The answer for brands seems to be “yes.” The higher the influencer’s following, the more people will become exposed to brands and their products.

A popular makeup brand created by Anastasia Soare, Anastasia Beverly Hills is best known for its eyeshadow palette “Modern Renaissance.” In 2018, the brand launched an eyeshadow palette called “Soft Glam.” Beauty influencers such as Nadia Peri received a PR package with the eyeshadow palette, a crystal and a gold photo frame to promote the new product.

In Peri’s unboxing video, which has accumulated a little over 1,000 views, she expresses her shock that the palette came with a rock. While the entire PR package cost is not disclosed, each package comes with an eyeshadow palette ($45), large crystal and gold picture frame, plus shipping and handling.

The question is: How can brands justify spending so much money on something they might not see a return on?

What influencers aren’t telling you is that most of this free stuff they’re getting is through a contract, either with a management company or through the brands themselves. According to Forbes, a successful influencer contract will have some form of compensation for the influencer. The contract could specify compensation for posting content with the products or clear assignment details, such as copy points or how the content should be delivered.

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

TikTok influencer Addison Rae has a following of 87 million on TikTok alone. Rae, who has turned into a movie star in part due to her massive following, supposedly charges $50,000 plus for posting a TikTok with a brand’s items. While most influencers charge less than that, it illustrates how much brands are willing to pay to get their items promoted by influencers with high viewerships.

Some contracts even require influencers to give up their rights to the content they have made, which allows brands to own and distribute it however they please. Reporting engagement rates and adhering to behavior clauses might even be required.

The purpose of a PR package is to improve brand awareness, potentially resulting in an increase in overall sales. With influencers on the rise, sending out PR packages to those with high viewerships might allow brands to become the latest trend.

While PR packages and their fancy cardboard boxes are not PR-related, their creation and execution are. As our For You Pages continue to be flooded with unboxing and branded content, PR professionals are reminded that we could be on one end of the PR package transaction, whether that be creating PR packages or receiving them.

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