Today is the third installment in my Thursday Chats, where I discuss “hot topics” within the beauty community. As you can tell from the title, this month’s topic is PR trips. Just a disclaimer: none of these photos are mine, and they are all credited to the original source. There will always be that one person who tells me I’m gorgeous because they thought I was Tati (or whoever), even though I linked to the original source 😂
So, for those of you who may not be familiar with the term, what is a PR trip? It is a trip in which an influencer is invited to travel to another city (often a vacation hotspot and/or trending city) where they will participate in activities organized by the brand. The flight, accommodations, and activities are paid for and provided by the brand (likely partnered with other companies such as hotels or brands that will provide swag). The influencer may or may not be paid to attend the trip.
I feel like PR samples and PR trips go hand in hand – it involves brands collaborating with influencers in a mutually beneficial relationship. In the current market today, brands have hit the jackpot when it comes to influencers in terms of marketing. Traditional marketing tactics are costly and have a bad rap (“ugh, the model in this ad is soooo photoshopped”). This means that brands have to be a little more creative, and what better way to be creative and elaborate than to offer people experiences?
As I talked about in a previous Thursday Chats, I don’t mind influencers getting PR samples, but I will openly admit that while I’m not jealous of other people getting sent products, I am insanely jealous of PR trips! As much as I love collecting makeup, I’d rather collect experiences. When I say “jealous”, I don’t really mean in a bitter kind of way, but in the sense that I wish someone would pay for my vacations! I can still talk about the subject subjectively without bringing my emotions into it though, haha.
Part of me doesn’t really “get” PR trips, but I do try to understand the reasoning behind them. The cost of these trips are likely budgeted under a brand’s marketing expenses, as they seem to basically take the place of a traditional marketing campaign; it’s just another method of advertising and customer outreach.
At first, I didn’t understand the correlation between the trips and the brand – often it seemed like they just flew influencers into a city, maybe provided dinner and one organized event a day, and then left them to their own devices to do whatever they wanted during the rest of the trip. How is that building a relationship between the brand and the influencer? I came to realize that whether or not there is a full itinerary of activities planned, the trips are to provide influencers with an experience which they will in turn share with their followers. The brand benefits from the trip as they get exposure through influencer Instagram posts, geo-tags, hashtags, and blog or YouTube content, while the influencer gets a free experience, an opportunity to create social media content from all the things they see and do on the trip, as well as an opportunity to continue building their brand.
Source: Aspyn Ovard
I watch/follow very few of the big influencers/YouTubers these days, but even someone like me gets wind of these trips. At the beginning of the year, I watched a vlog of an influencer who went on a Benefit trip to the Maldives for the release of the BadGal Bang mascara. They flew her in, set her up in an overwater bungalow with a beach bag full of Benefit products and other goodies waiting for her, and provided dinner and entertainment for most of the trip. Then there was the famous annual Tarte trip to Bora Bora in March, as well as a Kiehl’s trip to Vietnam after that. Last weekend, there was Revolve’s sponsored trip to Coachella. I just listed four trips off the top of my head, but I’m sure there were more that were not on my radar – and it’s only April! I can’t even begin to imagine how much money that would cost if an individual were to pay for these trip themselves – all of these places are on my bucket list, but I know I probably won’t be able to cross all of them off in my lifetime (definitely not that underwater bungalow in Bora Bora).
Influencer trips are lavish and expensive, but they cost much less than running an ad campaign in a magazine or on YouTube, and the engagement and number of impressions is much, much higher than a traditional ad – it’s basically a better bang for their buck, so it makes perfect sense for brands to offer these trips. In terms of looking at it from an influencer’s point of view, it’s an amazing opportunity and I certainly do not judge them for taking the opportunity! Be honest, would the words “Oh no thanks, I don’t want to participate in a trip where I get a free flight and 3 night’s stay in a luxury hotel” ever come out of your mouth if you were given the opportunity?
I also understand that while these trips look like a dream vacation to non-influencers like us, most of the trip probably is work for the influencers. When my husband and I go on vacation, I’m usually not looking my best in photos – I’m sweating because it’s hot out, I’m in a comfortable outfit and shoes instead of the cutest ensemble I own because we’ve been walking for nine hours straight, and there’s a million other tourists in the photo jostling me because we are at a popular attraction. Plus, most of the time, we’re too busy to worry about taking photos at all – we’ll take a few as momentos, but we try to be in the moment and enjoy the scenery. These influencers are probably scoping out locations at 6 in the morning when everyone else is still asleep, bringing several outfit changes on location including heels, handbags and accessories, and maybe even a hired photographer to get the best shots of them. They probably spend more time posing for the camera so that they can get material for Instagram/YouTube than they do getting to take in the views. I’m sure the trip is still a lot of fun, but it’s probably not the same as going on vacation.
Okay, so that’s how I see PR trips in the role of the beauty community. However, looking at the whole situation as the consumer that I am, these trips don’t do anything for me. Seeing a beauty blogger review a new product that was sent to them as PR might make me interested in buying it. Watching a YouTuber go to the Maldives/Bora Bora/Iceland/France with Tarte/Fresh/Kiehl’s/Dior does not give me any particular urge to try their products. One thing I’ve wondered for a while now is whether posts of these trips have driven vacationing patterns, though. Has there been a surge of tourism in the cities that are frequently featured by influencers since PR trips became more widespread? Has there been a spike in hotel bookings at the hotels they stay at (which have likely partnered with the beauty brand in order to be featured in the videos)?
Personally, I can’t say I’ve ever felt compelled to go to the same places or stay at any of the same hotels, because most of the time the cities and hotels are out of our price point. Out of curiosity, I looked up one of the hotels once and it was $1,500 a night. That’s the price my husband and I would normally pay for our flight and hotel for an entire trip combined. So no, but thank you. But it does make me wonder that if tourism and hotel bookings are indeed increasing for these specific places and hotels – who is booking them? Is it people my age who watch these influencers and have the money to spend, or is it teenagers who convince their parents?
I question the effectiveness of these PR trips in creating sales, considering my own response to them and how they don’t increase my interest in a brand’s products. I’ve come to the realization that that’s not the point of these trips – the point is just to get their name out there and to get people talking. These trips must be at least somewhat effective though, otherwise brands would no longer use this marketing tactic. Plus, I have dedicated an entire blog post to talk about these trips, so maybe they are doing their intended job!
What do you think about PR trips and their place in the beauty community? Share your thoughts below!
Featured Image: Source.