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PR Mailer Boxes: Editors Spill On Which Ones They Love, What They Can’t Stand, and Much More

Most editors or social media influencers would agree that one of the best parts of our jobs is receiving the fun, creative PR mailer boxes at our door (or in pre-COVID times, at our office’s mailroom). I’ve received some incredibly thoughtful mailers while working in this industry. But I’ve also opened some PR boxes that I almost wish hadn’t been sent. From excessive, wasteful packaging, to brands shipping boxes without consent, there are some issues when it comes to the ever-evolving PR mailer. 

Below, you’ll find some super insightful (and sometimes funny) anonymous answers to questions I asked editors and writers about PR boxes. From things they love and hate to see in mailers, to which box has been their favorite. And ways in which brands can really stand out from our mountains of mailers, I hope publicists find this Q&A helpful as we all continue to navigate our two-years-old-but-still-feels-incredibly-new normal. 

PR Mailer Boxes: Editors Spill On Which Ones They Love, What They Can’t Stand, and Much More

PR Mailer Boxes

What do you love to see in PR mailer boxes from brands? 

“I really love originality and clever packaging. I know we’re living in a world of eco-friendly. But it’s interesting to me to see how packaging evokes a certain perception about a product or a brand. Also love to see variety. It’s great if you want me to experience a product or food. But are there any complementary products that should go along with it? Please note that I’m referring to actual PR mailers. If someone is pitching me something and offers a sample, I don’t expect that package to be anything other than a regular box.”

“Simple is good—just the products, or something useful. At the risk of sounding obnoxious, because I really don’t mean to, I think it’s better to just send the product than something not-so-great, like another waffle robe from Amazon that’s just taking up space I don’t have.”

“I love seeing the new launch and pertinent information, or a custom mailer box with products selected specifically for my skin type. I feel guilty when I receive products that don’t work for my skin. They end up building up in my office until I look like a hoarder and have to give them away. I’m definitely a quality over quantity type of girl. I also love receiving functional things like beauty blenders and brushes. Hair masques, or cult-favorite products that I will definitely use or try. I get more excited over toothpaste (always use that) or socks (always lose those) than receiving an entire shade range of eyeshadow or foundation.”

“It’s always lovely to get something that brightens my day, which can be something small and simple to a generous splurge.”

“Small packages containing simply the products that are easy to recycle/break down—I want the unboxing experience to be painless.” 

“Thoughtful, personalized gift boxes and/or practical gifts—Uber gift cards, Seamless gift cards, things of that nature. I love when we get to choose the gift that’s going to come in the mailer. Make sure that the product itself is worthy of being a mailer—i.e. don’t send me a massive box just with one lip balm that’s been around forever.”

“This is not about mailers but I recently got a ‘newsletter’ from a PR agency outlining their monthly launches which I thought was efficient and convenient for everyone.”

lipstick in 3 shades

What do you dislike seeing in PR mailer boxes? 

“Excessive packaging and any kind of electronic-type screen or monitor that plays a video—biggest waste of money. Also, branded basic things like water bottles, notebooks, hats—again, a total waste of money.”

“Crinkle paper and other difficult-to-contain packaging. Also, a tiny product in a giant box.” 

“I hate, hate, hate super wasteful mailers and excessive boxes designs. When a mascara comes in a box that can fit an Olsen twin, it infuriates me. It’s so unnecessary. Have you heard of global warming? I also appreciate when brands are cognizant of the fact that most of us live in small NYC apartments, where space is tight.” 

“This is very specific, but I wish brands would move away from sending sugar cookies with images or logos printed on fondant. I don’t know a single editor who eats these and I feel bad that I’m wasting (likely expensive!) food. I try to give them to other people but often I end up guiltily throwing them out two weeks after I receive them.”

“If there’s glass in the mailer, make sure it’s packaged very well—I think corrugated cardboard and proper packaging help a lot. I’ve had an instance where glass broke and I had to throw everything away. I felt so terrible since I know all the hard work and money that goes into creating those.”

Thoughts on PR Mailer Boxes from Editors

What’s something a brand can include in a PR mailer box that would make it more personal or memorable?

“Well, I think just that: making it personal. I love when I get something that’s specifically for me with my name on it, or for my child.”

“I think useful, thoughtful things are best—or if there is a genuine connection to the product. I’ve talked to numerous peers who agree you can’t go wrong with a Seamless or Uber gift card. I’m also a fan of high-quality pajamas—I think in general, a good rule of thumb with gifts is something you wouldn’t typically buy yourself.”

“Shade-matching for me or letting me pre-select the shades/products included has been a game-changer. I’ve definitely received some really thoughtful mailers before. As well as some containing high-quality and/or on-trend goodies that were really exciting to receive. I am gluten-free/dairy-free and don’t eat meat. So when I received a year’s subscription to Thrive marketplace, I was so excited. Stuff like this makes my life so much easier.

“I think anything that is really thoughtful is always nice. This can really range. But I love receiving useful things (i.e. food or Uber gift cards) or something nice that I wouldn’t necessarily buy myself. For example, one brand sent such a pretty dress this summer. I love the fun, practical mailers, like a cozy cashmere sweatsuit I was sent last winter.”

“Anything truly utilitarian that would get used around the house, like kitchen or cooking things. Jewelry is usually a nice gift because it’s small/easy to gift for friends’ birthdays and holidays.”

“I think initial or monogrammed items are fun, but kind of overdone—things that speak specifically to me and my interests are always appreciated.”

What Editors think of PR Mailer Boxes

What’s your favorite PR mailer box you’ve ever received and why?

“A haircare brand sent a ‘custom’ one that included a gift for me and a dog toy for my dog because they know I’m obsessed—it was so unique and special! Also one from years ago that was a carry-on suitcase—so practical and I still use it to this day.” 

“This goes back to the practical and/or splurges, but a few favorites include a multi-course Friendsgiving dinner, designer rain boots (chic and practical!), and a very generous gift card to one of my favorite stores.”

“I did an event that was a cooking class and the mailer included a cookbook and an extremely fancy knife I never would have bought myself. The epitome of useful! Also, I once got a retinol serum that came with Eberjey pajamas, a weighted eye mask, a mug, and some other thoughtful, nighttime, sleep-related things that was just lovely.”

“One time, I covered a planner/notebook company, and as a thank you, they sent me a ton of personalized planners and notebooks—even for my son for when he starts school. It was super thoughtful and meaningful.”

“I once received a mailer containing personalized drawings of my two dogs and I literally cherish them! They’re on display in my foyer. I saved a Venus et Fleur mailer, and received a pair of Levi’s that I wear all the time. My favorite mailers are the ones that contain things I will really, genuinely use, even if they aren’t ‘novelties,’ per se. For instance, my antibacterial towels and washcloths by Resoré? LOVE! But that being said, receiving a Michele watch feels pretty badass. I’m not complaining.”

“I think it was an Oui package that came in a Calpack suitcase. It’s now my favorite suitcase for all traveling. But honestly, all my travel gear (bags, suitcases, makeup bags) were gifted and I love them. They all get used and if I don’t need it, it makes for a really nice gift for friends and family birthdays. I also loved the Sunday Riley brunch in a Yeti. That was really well thought out and fun.”

Beauty PR Mailer Box

Let’s talk sustainability: in what ways are you seeing brands become more sustainable when it comes to PR mailer boxes? And in what ways can they improve?

“I see a lot more sustainable box packaging efforts, the puffs (packing peanuts?) that dissolve in water. That’s great. Still a bit unwieldy in terms of getting them out of my house. I’m not sure how that can be improved.”

“I’m noticing when brands send boxes that are genuinely biodegradable—not laminated! I was impressed with Seed’s (the probiotic) streamlined packaging. Some of the more decorative boxes contain pretty displays that are clearly there for aesthetic appeal but are difficult to dispose of and are genuinely a waste of resources. I don’t personally need it to be flashy or fancy!”

“Many brands are getting better about sending launches in plain cardboard/recyclable packaging and minimal packaging, but many brands are also still sending way too much packaging and large box sizes for small items. That being said, it seems like more and more mailers do not have sufficient packing protection. We all know that FedEx treats our boxes like they are training for the World Cup (I once saw a FedEx guy kick a box marked ‘fragile’ down the stairs leading to my apartment). So if you’re sending something fragile, please pack it accordingly.

I’ve now had multiple mailers containing glass arrive in shards and have cut myself several times opening boxes. I recently had to pick a splinter of glass out of my bleeding hand with tweezers and was not in the mood to cover the product after that. Please don’t think one piece of straw is going to cut it.” 

“Unilever is killing it. I have always been impressed by the corporation’s dedication to sustainability; it’s not easy on such a massive and global scale. I got a mailer this summer from its re-FRESH brand and the entirety of the mailer was compostable/recyclable/plantable. Love that brands are using more recyclable filler; I used to dislike receiving mailers with that crinkle paper filler at the office, but now that I’m at home and composting, I love it. The only occasional flaw of sustainable mailers is that sometimes the packaging chosen is too flimsy for the product inside and then it arrives damaged.” 

“I hate those freaking tiny shredded packing paper—there’s no way to not get it all over the place. And anything with a screen. What am I supposed to do with essentially an iPad that only replays a promo video? All paper recyclable packaging is ideal. It’s the easiest to break down and recycle. Except, I’d rather recycle my bubble wrap than get those shredded packing paper.” 

“The dissolvable packing peanuts are all the rage, but to be honest, they’re kind of annoying and time-consuming.” 

beauty products flat lay

What is the percentage of products you actually try/use/write about when it comes to mailers you receive?

“I test more than I think would be expected actually, at least sort of, in passing, but no one can test everything. I would guess for everyone, the percentage that gets written about is quite small — there is just so much.”

“The sad fact is that my skin does not allow me to test with reckless abandon! But receiving mailers is a helpful reminder to try to include a brand or a product, or to pitch a specific launch/trend.”

“I truly try to test as much as I can and include as much as I can, but it really is impossible. The percentage really varies depending on the time of year/how many mailers I get that week.”

“Oh gosh, I probably end up including like 25-30% of the products that are sent to me. Again, unless I request it or say yes to checking it out. This way, the product will be a priority/at the forefront of my mind.” 


Beauty product PR mail

How have you been coping with receiving mailers at your home since the pandemic started?

“It’s hard to know how to answer this—I don’t believe in complaining on social media about this kind of thing. This is a double-edged sword of our jobs. Frankly, I am not brutal enough with giving enough away and donating it and my apartment pays the price. I would love to talk to more fellow editors about this because it really is hard. I have extensive beauty storage systems and it feels like nothing is enough.”

“Let’s just say that breaking down/disposing of boxes takes up a major portion of my life.”

“Ugh, this is practically a full-time job. Some publicists are great about asking permission first, but there are times I politely decline, but then I get them anyway. If we pass on a mailer, please respect that and don’t send it anyway or essentially bully us after declining. One publicist asked two more times after I declined a mailer and I finally relented and said yes because it was so awkward. Please don’t do that!”

“I’ve worked from home since I went freelance in 2014, so I’m used to it! I try to open packages at least once every other day, because otherwise it builds up and becomes super overwhelming. I’m lucky enough to have a large office and big beauty closet with plenty of storage, so I have a full system when it comes to organizing things that are new, for stories, for desksides, giveaways, etc.” 

box of macarons with pink ribbon

Have you seen a shift in the content of PR mailer boxes since you began your editor/writer career? 

“I mean I think the industry in general, unfortunately, just revs up year after year. More launches > more mailers > more events that maybe aren’t necessary. This isn’t something any single entity can fix, but certainly ties back to questions around sustainability, etc.” 

“Yes! I think as my career has progressed, the caliber of my PR mailer boxes have become more impressive. But aside from that, they really have reflected the trends—I’m seeing lots of plant mom-themed mailers!”

“In my opinion, the PR/editor relationship has really evolved, at least over the course of my career, from ‘here’s this mailer, hope you enjoy and consider it for something upcoming’ to ‘that mailer you got — when’s the placement coming?’ Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. But it is kind of disheartening and does affect relationships. I do much more marketing copy than editorial these days. So I prefer not to accept mailers unless I (a) have a good potential fit (b) it’s something I’d really like to try and potentially pitch out (c) the publicist is a friend and insists I accept regardless of placement opportunities.”

“Yes, absolutely. I’ve been in beauty editorial for nearly two decades and the evolution has been major, but we all understand that budgets have changed over the years, especially since the pandemic hit.”

“There’s a lot less invasive ones, as in oversized, since we started working from home primarily, which I appreciate. Lugging giant boxes up my four flights is my least favorite. There was also a phase where we got a ton with screens in the boxes, which I’m happy to say is little to none now.” 

“Definitely less exorbitant when it comes to included gifts—and a higher quantity of mailers for even random, unimportant things (i.e. not new launches, etc).”

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  1. This post was SO helpful and SO thorough. It reconfirmed a lot of my initial thoughts, gave me new ideas, and now I can relay this info to my clients so they don’t push silly branded items anymore! I will definitely be referencing this as I start to plan for new launches this year. Thank you !!

  2. Great info here! We are always trying to work with the editorial community to send them what they need to help with their features while providing something fun and useful. Staying on top of the sustainability issues is extremely important to us as an agency. Thanks for this!

  3. Daley for the WIN this Friday!! This is so helpful. Seriously appreciate you taking the time to ask all the right q’s that help influence how we gift – love being guided on what’s working & what’s not!

  4. Will be saving and referring to this often. Glad it reconfirms what we’ve been thinking, but so helpful to share with clients who have other ideas… Thank you!

    1. Awesome–I’ve heard from others that they will be sending this to their clients as well. Thanks so much!

  5. Important insightful and thorough — some expected and somewhat surprising. Gives me as a PR “pros” more ammunition to share woth brands and client teams — who often see things through their spectacles with only their needs wants expectations in mind. This has already been circulated to our team and will be shared on the client side. We can all do better and….smarter, smaller, strategic, customized, personalized, meaningful, memorable, thoughtful and environmentally mindful.] Thanks for this important dose!

  6. Important insightful and thorough — some expected and somewhat surprising. Gives me as a PR “pro” more ammunition to share with brands and client teams — who often see things through spectacles with only their needs, wants and expectations in mind. This has already been circulated to our team and will be shared on the client side. We can all do better and….smarter, smaller, strategic, customized, personalized, meaningful, memorable, thoughtful and environmentally mindful.] Thanks for this important dose!

  7. This is super helpful Daley – thanks so much for giving us the insider knowledge and love that you keep focusing in on sustainability being a huge factor. We could not agree more. Keep up with the engaging content sister, and miss ‘seeing’ you IRL.

  8. Thank you Daley. This is so helpful to keep us on the pulse of what’s desired and what’s not. We always try to steer our clients away from useless packaging and crinkle paper to be more mindful. Thank you for being so thorough in your questions.

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