We all know the excitement of getting an e-mail about an interesting campaign. “Hi! This is [ ] from [Company/tourism board]. We saw you on Instagram and think you would be a great fit with our brand. Would you like to [try our product/go on a trip]? Please let us know what your rates are.” When it’s a company or a destination you’re excited about, or when you have it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and immediately respond “YES!” then soon after give away personal information such as your address (to receive product) or personal information for flights/visas. Even when you’re not necessarily excited, sometimes it’s second nature to quickly respond “Sure, I’ll try the product and if I like it we can discuss working together” followed by an address.
I’ve been in this situation plenty of times myself, and one day as I started responding to an e-mail, I started thinking “what if…?” These days, I’m pretty careful when working with brands. Here are a few questions to ask and thoughts to consider when considering working with a brand:
Who are you really talking to? Can you confirm the brand’s identity? If you were approached through a DM on Instagram, is the account that approached you verified? How many followers does the account have? Did you do a search for the brand to see whether there is another account out there? Check the contact email on Instagram. Is it a company email address? If you receive an email from a brand, is the email a company email? Does it match the email on the brand’s Instagram account? Did you google the sender’s name to see whether they have a LinkedIn that says they work for the brand? If you are approached through a reputable Influencer platform or thorough a reputable PR firm, you can probably feel safe – but don’t forget to vet platforms and PR firms before working with them!
Who are you giving your address to? So what if you aren’t dealing with the brand you thought you were dealing with…and you give your home address to a random stranger on the internet? Yeah, not good. Always, always vet brands before telling them where you live. And if you can avoid using your home address, please do. Maybe you can have products shipped to a P.O. Box or to your office. I’ve always felt safer having products shipped to my home because I live in a condo building with a 24 hour front desk.
Are your travel plans really what you’re told they are going to be? If you’ve been approached by a tourism board or travel agency, or are for some other reason going on a press trip, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to verify your travel plans. Do you remember hearing about the scam luring influencers to Indonesia? If you’re going on a press trip, get an itinerary beforehand. Independently verify the details of that itinerary. Call the rental car company, call the hotels. Make sure they all have a reservation under your name. Consider speaking with influencers who have worked with the brand in the past.
Are you protecting your money? Be careful with your money. Don’t ever give money to a brand that reaches out – whether it’s to get a visa or for anything else. Be skeptical about promises of reimbursement. Be careful about information you give out to get paid. Don’t give someone the information needed to hack into your bank account. Also, make sure you get paid. Keep track of who you’ve worked with and what they owe you.
I wish there were a hard and fast rule for verifying the identity and reputation of a brand you are considering working with, but unfortunately there is not. Take into account the advice I’ve given in this post and ultimately trust your gut – if something seems off, it probably is.