The Ugly Truth About the “PR Haul” videos you love (2024)

Influencer Meagan Faye spills the tea on the dark side of all those unboxing videos you see on social media.

Meagan Faye

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Feb 4, 2019

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The Ugly Truth About the “PR Haul” videos you love (2)

If you open up YouTube and search the term “PR Haul” you will get over 1.3 million video results to browse through. Most of the thumbnails will be of influencers giddy with excitement at the number of boxes they will get to open right in front of your eyes. While many of you reading this may have no interest in this, the staggering number of videos with over 1million views on this topic proves how many people do.

I get it, watching someone open up a package gives you a feeling of nostalgia and excitement that most of us can only experience on special occasions. It’s addicting to watch, and let’s face it, seeing what crazy random objects people get in the mail can be entertaining. Even I used to get giddy every time I watched a Casey Neistat “mail time” session. I couldn’t wait to see what kind of fun presents he was getting each day!

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However, as an influencer myself. I think it’s time to spill the tea on the dark side of the PR packages we receive. After many conversations with my peers, and long chats with friends within the PR industry, I’ve decided it’s the right time to spread this message. For better or for worse, because I’m sure I will get some hate over this.

It’s the sad truth. As an influencer with over 120,000 followers, I can tell you that on average I receive over 30 packages per month. Most of these packages contain multiple products per package. For argument’s sake, let’s say that each package carries two items (this is a VERY conservative estimate by the way). Even with each package containing two items, that would equal approximately 60 items per month, and over 720 products per year. As I said, this would be a conservative estimate. Now, let’s consider how many packages an influencer with 1 million+ followers might receive each month. Samantha Ravndahl, an influencer with 2.2million followers on Instagram claimed she receives upwards of 30 packages per week which would mean she likely receives nearly 3000 products per year. While I have always felt grateful and very blessed to be given these gifts and opportunities to try out new items and have something to share with my audience, it’s simply not realistic for me to use the amount of product I have been given.

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When a brand sends out a product, they know they are competing for space on an influencer’s feed. Therefore, they tend to think that the more elaborate the packaging or the unboxing experience, the more likely us influencers will be to share the item. They aren’t wrong, after all, it’s exciting to receive something fun and exciting to watch as an audience! However, the downside of that is the sheer amount of waste these packages produce. Packages are often sent in oversized cardboard boxes, filled with layers of bubble wrap. Wrapped inside these bubble wrap masses, you will likely find one elaborate plastic item, which is usually designed to hold large amounts of gifted products (which also happen to be wrapped in plastic & paper).

Some of the items I have personally received over the years include packages with video displays that can’t be removed (making them trash), doll-sized castles filled with fully packaged beauty products, packages filled with an entire foundation collection, including all of the shades that would never work on my skin. The list goes on.

Influencer Karissa Pukas, who agreed to be quoted for this article, stated that she has received multiple packages that have no useful purpose other than to showcase some form of branding. These are often the packages that are made with mixed materials making them difficult to recycle. She also claimed that many of the beauty products she receives come in excessive amounts, in shades or formulas that she cannot even wear. As a result, Karissa donates up to 90% of the products she receives to women's shelters and other charitable organizations.

At the end of the day, we are receiving these packages because these brands are seeking features and exposure in exchange. While there are some cases where these gifts are purely thoughtful, with no questions asked, there is always an underlying hope that we will share this “gift” with our audiences. In turn, these brands get tons of exposure for their latest products at a minimal cost.

Personally, I don’t mind supporting the brands I have worked with over the years, brands that have a good cause or the brands that I truly care about. However, there have been times over the years where I have been told by PR representatives that they expected their brands to be featured in my stories after an unsolicited mail out. When I didn’t post these brands, I was told that I had potentially ruined a relationship and they likely wouldn’t pursue working with me in the future if they weren’t featured going forward. These cases are very rare, but it is an example of the expectation that exists.

When I started out, I used to post anything and everything that was sent to me out of fear of losing a potential business relationship if I didn’t. I know for a fact, after many discussions with my peers, that I am not alone in this feeling. As an audience, it must make you stop and think. How much of what you see on your favorite PR Haul videos are products that influencers actually care about? I can say I am guilty of posting my fair share of products I’ve never used and it’s something I plan on changing going forward.

Most influencers that I know donate the 90% of products they receive that go unused, but there are many others in the industry who simply throw out what they can’t give away to their friends. Where does that end up? You guessed it. A landfill, oceans, etc.

As influencers, I believe we have a responsibility to our audience and to our planet to make small changes that can have a positive effect on our society. I’m not saying that we should all boycott PR packages, raise our fists in the air and burn our mail. I simply think we can and should make an effort to be better. Whether that is accepting fewer packages, choosing to recycle more or donating on a regular basis. There are so many people out there who could use some of the gifts were given.

Victoria, a UK Influencer most known for her blog In The Frow, wrote this suggestion in a recent post: “ I contacted most of the PR teams that I know, to ask them to send me press releases first. And if I can see a product I’m super interested in reviewing, then I’ll call it in, rather than being automatically sent it. It saves money for the brand, it saves packaging, it saves delivery costs and it saves product wastage. I would urge all other bloggers to maybe do similarly if they feel the same.”

To all of the PR folks reading this:

I challenge you to rethink your mail-out strategies. In this day and age, there is absolutely no need for excessive packaging and waste. I know so many of you are already doing this and it’s amazing to see. One thing I do suggest is sending us influencers an email before your next mail out. This way you can make sure your product will be featured and that it will be authentically represented to audiences. This will yield the best results for your brands and will help eliminate some of the wastefulness within our industry.

The Ugly Truth About the “PR Haul” videos you love (2024)
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