I can NOT believe I have to go there again.
*glares into the bright Mac screen*
The whole PR thing.
I’m not happy because I do not enjoy repeating myself. Broken records…not my thing.
But sadly, here I am, fingers to the keyboard again.
You see, I recently was added to a list of bloggers to contact via a rather large firm. It’s a totally legit deal, legit firm and I thought it would be legit fun because I was thinking about doing a tiny bit of reviewing. Just on things that strike my fancy. Particularly shoes, handbags, clothing, hair product, jewelry…you know, stuff.
As soon as my blog name and email hit their database, I began receiving pitch after pitch.
They ALL sound eerily familiar, despite being from a whole slew of different PR firms.
Dear Melissa (in some cases…Blogger),
Brand blah, blah, blah. Information about the brand making it sound fabulous and totally alluring. Link to the site where brand is located.
If you are interested, we could provide you with high-res images or samples.
from blah blah pr.
On a few occasions, I’ve responded because OMG…the product seems cool and something I’d REALLY like to check out.
I tell the PR person thank you for reaching out. I tell the PR person that OMG…that sounds awesome and I’d love a sample to write a review on. And, I sign my email.
EVERY. SINGLE. TIME…
Thank you so much for your interest. We have no samples but would love to provide you with High-Res images.
High res images?
To review a product?
Who in their right mind would accept a review…for $0.00…based on nothing but a HIGH-RES IMAGE of the product in question? Oh, and some information via the email.
How can that review even be trust-worthy? Transparent? Written with integrity?
You aren’t able to touch, see, smell, hear and whatever else you would do with a product to even be able to vomit out a single word.
And because of these pitches, I’m starting to really wonder about some reviews. Are disclosures being made that UM…no…there was no product nor payment, that a review is being written based on a photo, bio and assumption?
Yeah, I’ve tweeted and FB status updated about this. And yeah, I’m still receiving pitches offering High-Res Images of the product.
You know what, I’ve begun to respond to EVERY SINGLE ONE of these pitches in my own, standard, obnoxious form…
Dear BlahBlah PR,
Thank you but I can not, in clear conscience, write a product review based on a High Res Image unless it’s a review FOR a High Res Image. Because, kind PR person, without a product in hand to review, there can be no review.
Thank you and have a nice day.
And then, of course, I sign my email.
Friends, I’ve written about similar things before.
I mean, you do what you want but just know this…you’re worth more than a High Res Image. Really. The only future work with these lovely people…more High Res images to review. And if you note at the very bottom of the email, under the signature and contact information…even if you get a sample to review…which, they never seem to have…you have to return them. Yes, the elusive samples must be returned. Even after you’ve used, worn or whatevered this product. The person before you who used, wore and whatevered the product had to send it back, too.
I’m not talking cellphones or devices.
I’m talking about clothing, shoes…personal items.
Would ANYONE think this would be of interest to us bloggers?
Receiving NOTHING…only a sample (on rare occasions) or a lovely High res image.
I think I’m going to take a High Res image of myself scowling and doing the tsk tsk and attach it to my standard response.
Stop, please, for the love of blogging advancement…
Don’t accept these types of reviews.
Because somewhere down the line, if no one is accepting anymore, something is bound to click within the PR and brands they are working for. I hope.
Something is bound to dawn on them. I hope.
Something, like an epiphany, will enlighten them that if blogger outreach in the name of product review is part of their campaign then maybe, just perhaps, there should be product to review and funds set aside to compensate them for their work.
It’s common sense, not rocket science.
Disclosure: This post received no compensation of any kind, not even a high resolution image. And yes, I’m entertained by the pitches because I’m curious about the brands but I will NEVER, EVER do a review unless there is, at the very least, a product that goes along with it. And pictures don’t count…
Lately I’ve been getting email/pitches saying that they’ll send me a product once I send them a link… Of course, I reply, telling them that I actually NEED the product BEFORE I write the post, thus the name *review*, and they tell me that they won’t send it until they get a link. Are you kidding me?? When did this become the norm?? So sorry, but like you, I can not write a valid, honest review based off of air… unless, of course, I was reviewing air…
Monica´s last blog post ..Sandals that can do a world of good
As your favorite PR pro (and you know that I am!), I’m going to have to ask you name names of said ass backward PR agency 🙂 No, not here, over some cocktails.
As your second favorite PR pro, I feel the need to join you and discuss. Where I work, we send samples to bloggers all the time in exchange for an honest review. We’ve built up good relationships with many of them. However, we do our research to make sure the products we have fit in with the blogger’s audience. And we would never just send a photo!
Nancy´s last blog post ..Another Foot Update (Hopefully the Last One)
Well pshaw Nancy…apparently you’re all old school. Get some HighRes images instead, dontchyaknow.
I received my first one of these last month. I’ve only been blogging for a year and wondered if this was the norm. How could anyone provide a “review” of any product without the actual product. They refused to send me one and I refused to do it. I’m still building my blog and trust to my few readers and don’t want to jeop ruin that.
I love your honest opinions and feedback and always look forward to your post!
Irene´s last blog post ..Coupon for Pillsbury Baguette Chips
What the hell kind of company is that!?!? An image… for a review! I do reviews and have never once been asked to do one based off of an image. Honestly, it’s not even a review at that point…. it’s just a bunch of words that mean nothing!
Guess they’re not into building relationships and really helping out the brands.
Jackie´s last blog post ..40 Before 40
Alan Stamm says
You’re right that expecting product reviews based simply on images is lame and inappropriate. Any such posts indeed would lack trustworthiness, transparency and integrity unless the “written virtually blind” status is disclosed.
That said, I’m equally troubled by several of your assumptions about the role of product reviewers and sample providers.
I’m a former Detroit journalist who has been a marketing communication consultant for nine years. Best place to start is with one of your key questions:
Q. “Who in their right mind would accept a review for $0.00?”
A. Bloggers who value trustworthiness, transparency and integrity — and especially the traffic numbers that credible, well-promoted sites can ear, which in turn qualifies them for paid ads when metrics are attractive.
Don’t get me wrong: Writing for free sucks and isn’t a sustainable approach. But as you know, FTC regulations require bloggers to disclose in-kind compensation (samples) or payments from companies they write about.
So accepting — and sometimes keeping — samples is fine and doesn’t necessarily undercut credibility. But paid reviews? Nuh-uh. That happens infrequently for most products, except self-published books praised on Amazon by shill reviewers. Would you trust a paid reviewer? Would your readers? Me neither.
On to another:
Q. “The elusive samples must be returned. Even after you’ve used, worn or whatevered this product. . . . I’m talking about clothing, shoes, personal items. WHY?”
A. Because the manufacturer or distributor can use it for other reviews (gross for body-touching samples, I agree) or donate it to charity for a write-off. You’re dealing with businesses, after all, and they like to reduce costs. But yes, it’s cheesy.
My overall beef is with what seems like a sense of entitlement (“Would ANYONE think this would be of interest to us bloggers?”) and an interest in “pay-to-play” reviews.
In the realistic world, bloggers tap out unpaid reviews (from product samples, yes) because:
* They enjoy writing and being read.
* Having posts and blog subscribers raises visibility and showcases abilities in ways that can be used to land full-time jobs, freelance assignments (including SM consulting and blogging), even speaking invitations that further expand visibility/career networking.
* A few top-tier blogs that start as sidelights or “hobbies” become money-makers from advertising.
I say this constructively to answer the questions posed, Melissa, and hope the tone doesn’t keep you from considering that “how can I build an audience” beats a “gimme” approach to blogging. It’s about earning sway, not getting swag.
But definitely you deserve more than pretty image files, no matter how high the resolution.
Alan, Thank you for your comment!
I’m thinking that I must not have translated my thoughts as well as I…well…thought I did.
I don’t necessarily believe in paid reviews because then it seems like bribery. But, I believe that in order to write a review, there MUST be a product on hand TO review.
I agree with your point on the entitlement issues. There are far too many bloggers who have it and their hands are always out.
Yes, I completely agree with you. Without a doubt. You said a lot of what I wanted to say only much better than I did!
I still hate that those of us who are looking to do some reviews…mostly for the fun of it and for a slight rebrand…are being sent High Res images. Yuck.
UGH…and P.S…When I said that “who in their right mind would accept a review for $0.00″…I COMPLETELY meant without a piece of actual merchandise to review. Like I’ve said…I’ve NEVER taken money for a review!! EVER! (Yes, I’m obsessing now)
Alan Stamm says
Appreciate the quick clarification, Melissa. You’re right — we’re closer than I realized.
References to “a review for $0.00” and wanting to keep samples (if not pre-worn) threw me off.
Glad you took my borderline-snarky (who, me?) rant in the instructive spirit intended. And thanks for graciously suggesting your thoughts weren’t clearly translated by you, rather than saying I misinterpreted them. Humility is good. ;-}
G’luck with Rock & Drool . . . and with getting the real deal treatment you deserve from PR contacts.
Jessica @FoundtheMarbles says
You said it. If a reviewer cannot actually review the product, is the review an actual review? Send the product, folks.