It has happened to most bloggers at some point. You agree to review a product maybe in exchange for compensation or in hopes of earning affiliate commissions. But after you use the item for a few days, you realize that this product stinks. You just don’t like it. But you said you would review it. What should you do?
It might seen obvious that these are not good choices, but I have seen bloggers react these ways in response to a lackluster product.
- lie and write a glowing review
- write a negative review
- ignore the entire project
You cannot sacrifice the trust your readers have placed in you by writing a deceptive review. It’s simply not an option if you want to blog long-term and create true community on your blog. But you also cannot violate the trust the business placed in you by writing a negative review.
Some bloggers are so overwhelmed by those two extremes that they choose a third alternative — they stop answering emails and they never follow up. How unprofessional! When you shirk your responsibility, you are not only ruining your own reputation, you are also tarnishing that of the entire blogging community.
Many businesses have been burned by irresponsible bloggers who never followed up or followed through. It’s no wonder brands don’t want to invest marketing dollars in cooperating with bloggers. A few bad apples have ruined it for the entire group. Don’t be that bad apple.
- write an honest but positive review
- contact the company and communicate your struggle
The best option is to follow through by writing a review by the agreed upon time. After all, that is what you said you would do.
If a product is not a good fit for you but still has value, you can carefully write your review to be honest but positive. Just because I don’t like feature XYZ doesn’t mean that everyone else doesn’t like it. I can honestly talk about the features and benefits of a product even if they are not features I particularly value.
You might be able to delicately address some of the negatives about the product in an overall positive review.
If the product is just too terrible for you to even affirm with a blog post, then you have only one option: get in touch with the company.
I’ve seen bloggers worry about hurting the client’s feelings especially when they have dealt with a small business owner one on one. It’s great to be kind. But this is business. Maintaining your own reputation (and that of the entire blogging community) takes precedence over the potential risk of insulting the client. A savvy business person can divorce herself from the pain of criticism and see the value in honest critique.
Here is an outline for your email response.
1. Thank the client for giving you the opportunity to use and review the product.
2. Apologize for backing out of the agreement. But state clearly that you will not be writing a review.
3. Explain your problem with the product very specifically.
4. Reassure the client that you will not write a negative review or disparage the company on social media in any way.
4. Offer to return the product, refund any compensation, or otherwise make right any part of your agreement.
Make sure you send this email well prior to the agreed upon posting date. Nine times out of ten, the company will not ask for the product back and will appreciate your honesty. If they are offended and angry, that is not your fault (assuming you composed your email in a professional way). Your specific feedback can actually be more beneficial to them than a product review because your critique arms them with information for honing their product or for revamping their sales pages to better demonstrate what they are selling.
Learn From Your Mistake
To prevent this situation in the future, be sure to research before agreeing to write a review. Often bloggers are flattered by an invitation to join an affiliate program or allured by a compensation check, so they don’t read the product information carefully. Many times their criticisms are features that are clearly spelled out on the company website which the blogger didn’t take the time to read. Reading carefully will often make it clear to you that a product is not a good fit before you agree to the review.
Never be afraid to say no to a project that is not a good fit.
Ask questions and allow for an escape plan. If you aren’t sure about a product, ask! And be upfront with the client about how you will respond in the case that you strongly dislike the product. This doesn’t make you look mean; it makes you look professional. The only way to truly know if you love a product is to use it. Tell the client in your initial emails that you are unsure but that you will not write a negative review. Being choosy is actually very attractive to a potential advertiser. It demonstrates that you cherish your relationship with your audience.
In the negotiation process, ask the company if they want negative feedback. Smart businesses do. Sometimes you can write that carefully crafted, honest but positive review and offer your criticisms privately to the client via email. This way you have been faithful to both audience and the brand.