Best ways to approach bloggers for product reviews
November 18, 2005 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Blogging MeFites, have you been approached by companies to receive samples and write about their products? What are some do's and don'ts when it comes to interacting with bloggers for this purpose?

I've been working with some companies who want to distribute sample products to bloggers for evaluation. To do this, I've been sending some emails to bloggers asking them if they would like to review product XYZ. While I do get responses from interested bloggers, some my emails are either ignored (and, I imagine, deleted as spam) or met with hostility. While I am aware that some bloggers just aren't into this sort of thing, I think I am also missing something in my approach when contacting bloggers who would be interested.

In order for me to do my job in a way that doesn't suck, and not inadvertently present myself as marketing sleaze, please help me out with tips and pointers: have you been approached by companies for this purpose? How do you feel about it? When companies do approach you, what works, what doesn't?

Just to be clear, I'm not posting this to sign-up bloggers and I don't want to turn this into PepsiBlue Filter. I'm just looking for some tips and feedback.
posted by necessitas to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, I've been approached. I do accept samples. However, unless I'm paid, I will not commit to blogging about the product. I do it on my own timeline (if ever) and I will make criticisms as I see fit. If the company wants a positive review, then I would need payment and I would make a disclaimer to my readers that I may be under contract with certain companies. So far, I just blog about what interests me.

That being said, I've reviewed a few books and had positive interactions with many companies. As long as I'm pitched the way you would pitch the media, I'm happy. But I run a blog about marketing, which may not be the same as a cat blog!
posted by acoutu at 12:29 PM on November 18, 2005

Thank you for your comment, acoutu. It made me realize that I should point out: I'm not talking about advertorials. I'm talking about straightforward reviews, criticism and all.
posted by necessitas at 12:34 PM on November 18, 2005

I am approached by book reviewers all the time, and I accept the books (90% of the time; the site I run is about Arts & Crafts design and architecture, so when a publisher sends me a book on another topic, I offer to send it back) and write short reviews, or give them to friends who will write a short review in exchange for the book. I've never been paid, nor do I feel any pressure to write a positive review for a less than good book.

The solicitations I get are very straightforward: this new book is going to be published; would you consider reviewing it on your site? Sometimes, though, the books come with a press release, just out of the blue - no solicitation.
posted by luriete at 12:39 PM on November 18, 2005

Approach appropriate bloggers. I don't mind it if, for example, someone contacts me about a review copy of a book about maps for my mapping blog, because it's on-topic. Off-topic stuff would likely irritate me.
posted by mcwetboy at 1:00 PM on November 18, 2005

I have gotten a couple of offers but they're so far removed from what my blog's about that they shouldn't have wasted their time.

My suggestion would be to target bloggers who inhabit the same space you're trying to tap. And if there's no money involved make sure there's some kind of an incentive for taking part. And by incentive, I don't mean 20% off something your company sells, that's bait and switch marketing and pisses people off no end.

An incentive would be something they can take and use without having to spend their own money. Gift cards to Circuit City or Starbucks might be nice.

And you are bound to get the mad blogger response no matter how delicately you tread.
posted by fenriq at 1:04 PM on November 18, 2005

And if there's no money involved make sure there's some kind of an incentive for taking part.

You mean in addition to the free product they are getting to review? Would payment or gifts on top of the actual product might be viewed as bribes or something?
posted by necessitas at 1:10 PM on November 18, 2005

As long as you're suggesting an up front situation and aren't implying that bloggers should fein enthusiasm magically about your product because you've sent them something without disclosing your influence to their readers, then it's on the bloggers to be grown ups about it.

Otherwise, you deserve your bad reception and chiggers in your genitals.
posted by dong_resin at 1:24 PM on November 18, 2005

Otherwise, you deserve your bad reception and chiggers in your genitals.

If I was implying that bloggers should feign enthusiasm, I agree; I would deserve that. No, I make it pretty clear that I want them to review the product honestly. If that means saying that they hated it, no problem. I am completely on the up and up about it.
posted by necessitas at 1:33 PM on November 18, 2005

Bloggers, in my experience, have a low threshold for BS, ad-copy or smoke (as in: that which is blown up one's ass).

If I was contacted by a company, a low buzzword, informal and personal email like:

"Hi, name/handle, I work for company and noticed you write about product, service or industry in Their blog a lot. I was wondering if you'd consider reviewing one of our products link to product page on your blog. If you're interested, let me know. mailto link"

Would get the ball rolling nicely. Anyone who's uncivilized enough to respond with hostility to something that innocuous is not likely to provide useful exposure anyway.
posted by Crosius at 1:43 PM on November 18, 2005

Yes, I've been approached, and yes, I've accepted samples. I've also been approached by other companies that I've ignored, and one that I wrote about with a fair amount of hostility (the person writing me had a link in the .sig that led to a site written with the presumption that bloggers could be manipulated according to the client's wishes). In retrospect I see it was just marketing speak from the PR company to those potential clients, but personally I took umbrage at it.

Speaking only for myself: I don't want extra incentives and I don't want false flattery (sometimes it comes through formatted differently from the rest of the email, which is a bit embarrassing, and even if it doesn't, you can often tell: first, sometimes people say things that aren't quite right, and also sometimes other bloggers post the emails they get, which might match your own word for word).

What I want is for people to be straightforward: "here's X that does Y; we'd like you to take a look at it and review it if you want to." (or in my case, since I have an mp3blog, also post it). This would be best followed with information on how to get the product--sent along in snail mail, where to download, whatever.
posted by Tuwa at 1:45 PM on November 18, 2005

Crosius, I'm one of those uncivilized people: the email itself was fine; the URL in the link left rather a bad taste and raised my ire.
posted by Tuwa at 1:46 PM on November 18, 2005

It's the off-topic ones that annoy the crap out of me. I was approached recently by someone working for Casey Kasem, of all people, asking if I'd like to review some new CD of the greatest hits of the 70's. They claimed they were sending this because my site was all about the 70's. It's not. It was evident that they'd just done a Google search for ABBA or something and then just sent the form letter to any decent looking blog that mentioned it. I deleted it immediately. If the person hasn't even taken the two seconds necessary to look at my blog and see what it's about, then I consider that spam.
posted by web-goddess at 2:24 PM on November 18, 2005

I'd love to be asked to review products. I'm a little jealous of a multi-writer blog got invited to an industry trade show and is getting approached to review products.
posted by fixedgear at 2:50 PM on November 18, 2005

As a blogger, I was asked to review the documentary on Enron before it came out. It's nice to get free review copies -- and typically easy to do -- but I was shocked to find that the PR firm began sending orders mandating when I was to write about their product: "Your review needs to appear by X."

Never let a flack tell you shit...
posted by johngoren at 3:49 PM on November 18, 2005

I've been approached a number of times to receive review copies of books and DVDs, but I always delete the emails that are obviously form letters -- the personal touch goes a long way.
posted by Robot Johnny at 8:50 AM on November 19, 2005

I've gotten books on language-related subjects from people who obviously hoped I'd write about them; sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. But:

I've been sending some emails to bloggers asking them if they would like to review product XYZ.

I would resent being asked if I "would like to review" something. If you're going to send something, just send it; you can say "I hope you like it" or whatever, but to me asking for a review is treating the blogger as a shill (I know you say you don't mind criticism, but that's not the message inherent in the situation). It's like asking someone if they put out when you're trying to get a date. It's obvious from the situation you're hoping they'll write about whatever you're sending them; no need spelling it out.
posted by languagehat at 9:55 AM on November 19, 2005

Languagehat, when people asked me if I'd like to review product XYZ, I always took it to mean review the product, not write a review about the product. It never occurred to me that they expected a written review!
posted by acoutu at 8:41 PM on November 19, 2005

I think languagehat's situation is slightly different from mine, at least in the time it would take to familiarize myself with the product (books vs. mp3s). I don't mind if people write asking me to listen to something, even to write about it if I like it (key words: if I like it)--but quite often I don't like the songs sent and so I have to beg off. If the email's a form letter I just delete the song and the email without responding; if it's more personal I feel more obligation to write back.

As languagehat and acoutu both point out, it wouldn't be wise to feel entitled to a review, much less to expect a positive one. Worse still would be the demand that johngoren mentions above--that's just presumptuous and insulting (and doubly foolish, since people tend to post about whatever they're passionate about).
posted by Tuwa at 9:43 PM on November 19, 2005

« Older Is the flu vaccine worth it?   |   Where do the birds go when it rains? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.