If you’ve ever done product reviews on your blog or you anticipate doing product reviews, there is going to come a time when you have a product that doesn’t meet your expectations. So what’s a blogger to do?
Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do: LIE.
Don’t ever lie about a product. If you give every product you’ve ever met a glowing review, your readers aren’t going to value your opinions. They aren’t going to feel your writing is authentic. And yet, too often, I hear that bloggers are afraid to write their honest opinion because they don’t want to hurt the brand relationship. More importantly, they want to be asked back by the PR rep they are working with.
There are always some basic considerations you should give when writing a good product review.
- Write in your own voice and style.
- Make it compelling. A review can still be interesting and creative.
- Don’t use marketing copy. Readers can go to the product website for that.
But what if you don’t like the product, or even worse, you HATE the product? I’ve experienced both and the worst thing you can do is write about how much you love a product that you really don’t.
Here’s my advice.
1. Always include pros and cons.
You should be able to find the positive in anything.
“It’s small and can fit in my purse!” “It’s made of plastic and it’s lightweight!” “It comes in a wide variety of colors!”
This is factual information about the product but can still be seen as positive, or a selling feature.
Present any negatives in a constructive manner.
“I’d like to see this offered in stainless steel for better durability.” ”Purple might be a better choice for girls since the pink is a bit drab.”
2. Give it perspective.
Not every product is for every person. I once did a review for a video game called Battle of Giants Dinosaurs Strike. It was a game for the Wii and I couldn’t imagine not liking it. Well, guess what. I did NOT like it. But it was a sponsored post so I didn’t have the option of not posting about it. Instead, I tried to give it perspective.
I told my readers this game wasn’t for me:
“I was thrilled to be asked to review a dinosaur game for the Wii. In true flighty mom fashion, I saw the E rating and the word dinosaur and jumped on board. Turns out that an E 10+ game is a little much for a 3 year old. And sometimes his mommy. It was a little violent for my taste.”
“While this game had some fighting and strategy involved, it didn’t allow you to fully engage your body. It’s not that it didn’t live up to the expectations. It’s just that I have different preferences when it comes to games.”
And then I wrote about who I thought might like this game:
“This is a boys game. If you have boys roughly between the ages of 8 and 15 (yes, I know the box says 10+) that like fighting games and have some interest in dinosaurs, this is the game for you.”
I actually had a copy to giveaway. I was worried about saying that I didn’t really like the game but yet I was giving a copy away. Turns out that the majority of the people who entered thought it would be perfect for their older son or grandson.
3. Provide feedback.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to review a high-end messenger bag from Tierra Ideas. I gave it a great review because it’s a great product. Expensive, but great. The company founder and designer, Matt Mahler, sent me an email about the bag and closed with this: “btw, ..what do you think of the bag i sent? criticism is welcome,… as it’s how I improve my designs!”
I appreciated that and took the time to give him my honest feedback privately, via email. Before I posted my review, he had responded to any of my questions or concerns as to how they are addressing them in future bags. I chose not to include any of the “negatives” because none of them would prevent me from purchasing or recommending. But I did appreciate the ability to provide feedback and know that it was read and considered.
If you are working with a PR company, they might not always be in a position to respond to or pass along your feedback. It’s worth a shot. However, if you are working directly with a brand and yoga re dissatisfied with the product, have a dialogue and see if some of your concerns might be alleviated before you write your review.
4. Don’t write about it.
And finally, the one you’ve all been waiting for. Is it bad form to write about a product that you just can’t stand? Not really. It’s true. The company may not contact you again or want to work with you again. But it’s better to lose one brand relationship over a super crappy product than your relationship with all of your readers because you endorsed a really crappy product.
I’ve only done this once. I was contacted by a tool company to review a battery-operated screwdriver. I knew the brand and was excited to possibly work with them (me being a bit of a tool connoisseur and all). When it arrived, it was the cheapest piece of junk I had ever seen. It had no real power and I would have been lucky if I could tighten my eyeglass screws with it. It was cheaply made, failed to meet my expectations, overpriced, and did not function as expected.
I had nothing positive to say about it other than “Wow, it’s red.” So I chose not to write about it. I stressed about it and never wrote the company back (it was early in my blogging career). These days, I would politely respond with something to the effect of:
“I received Product X for review. I have to admit I’m disappointed by the quality, construction, safety, etc. and it’s not what I was expecting. As I am sure you were looking for positive PR from my review, I’ve chosen not to publish at this time.”
Short, simple, to the point, and most of all, professional.
Have you ever reviewed a product that you don’t like? Did you publish your review? Were you honest and fair? What advice would you give to others?