Make Sample Management a Breeze with These 5 Expert Tips

Samples

PR samples are an important part of any fashion PR strategy. If you’re trying to place your client or brand in top fashion publications or on celebrities and influencers, you’re going to need a set of PR samples. If your budget allows, it’s a great practice to have multiple samples of your client or brand’s most popular items. Depending on what type of brand you’re working with, you could be responsible for managing and tracking hundreds of samples. Here are some tips to help you stay organized and maximize your samples.

1. Keep an accurate inventory of your samples

There are many tools like Fashion GPS and The Runthrough, which can help you streamline the sample inventory and trafficking process. If you don’t have the budget for a service like this, a detailed Excel spreadsheet can also be effective. The most important thing is to have accurate records of the samples you have in your inventory and also of every sample loan you send out and every sample return you receive. PR samples are a valuable resource in any product placement strategy, so it’s important to know where every sample is at any given moment.

PR samples are a valuable resource in any product placement strategy, so it’s important to know where every sample is at any given moment.

2. Send out detailed loan forms for every sample you send out

Programs like Fashion GPS and The Runthrough can help create loan forms that include images of every sample you’re sending to a publication, stylist or editor. Again, if you don’t have access to these resources, you can still create your own loan form template and manually insert the product names and product images of every sample you’re sending out. While this may seem like a tedious process, it’s really important to have accurate records of which samples you have loaned.

Some brands or agencies will require that publications and/or stylists sign and return a loan form before any samples are sent out. You can include some standard language in your loan forms that outline your terms and expectations for the sample loan. For example, it’s a good idea to include the expected return date for the samples and language about what happens if samples are either returned damaged or not returned at all. The industry standard is to charge a publication or stylist for the wholesale value of the product if the sample is either damaged or lost.

3. Regularly follow up for sample returns

Check your records often and if a shoot date has passed and your samples haven’t been returned, follow up with the appropriate editor, stylist, assistant and/or fashion closet. Be sure to include product images in the email to make it easier for the borrower to know exactly which samples you need returned. If your budget allows, offer to send a messenger or let them use your FedEx account to return the samples. Be polite but persistent in your follow up emails. Magazines and stylists are working on many projects at once and they’re dealing with a large volume of samples, so returns are not always their top priority.

Magazines and stylists are working on many projects at once and they’re dealing with a large volume of samples, so returns are not always their top priority.

4. Invoice if necessary

Unfortunately there will be times when PR samples are damaged or lost. Hopefully, this will be a rare occurrence, but when it happens, you can send an invoice to the responsible editor, stylist or publication. If you included terms and conditions in your loan form, then follow whatever process you have in place. If you have a signed loan form or a letter of responsibility from a publication, then make sure to include that documentation when you send your invoice.

In some cases, you might want to make an exception with an editor or stylist, who you either work with regularly without issue or with whom you are trying to build a relationship. You should still address the damage or loss of the sample, but you can let the editor or stylist know you’re making an exception because of your relationship and/or their reputation.

5. Develop a screening process

Since PR samples are a limited resource, sometimes you might have to decline sample requests for a variety of reasons. Always consider whether the publication or opportunity is a good fit for your client or brand before loaning any PR samples. If you’re unfamiliar with a stylist or a publication, do your homework and ask for images of past shoots before deciding whether to loan samples. If you’re working with a freelance stylist for the first time, you can also ask to keep a credit card on file in case the samples are damaged or lost.

Image via Etsy

About This Author

Melissa Pastore is a seasoned PR and communications professional, with a decade of experience working with global fashion and accessories brands including Swarovski and LACOSTE. She currently holds the role of Public Relations Manager at LACOSTE, where she is responsible for developing and executing a U.S. press strategy for the brand. Melissa holds a B.A. in broadcast journalism and policy studies from Syracuse University, where she was dually enrolled in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Maxwell School.