I am writing this after a particularly shocking bit of blogger/PR relations over a very expensive buggy being, well, a bit shite.
I have reviewed for a number of years now, through times when I had to turn down products down to the sheer weight, to the leaner times, and back around again. One thing that I feel has always kept me in good stats is my honesty.
Whether I have bought something, or been lucky enough to be sent it, I do always do my best to really give a 360 viewpoint of a product, however expensive it is. Otherwise, how will your readers know what they are getting?
My tagline has always been "testing the good, bad and overpriced so you don't have to", and I stick by it to this day.
Sadly, I have come in for some criticism from my fellow bloggers and reviewers, and have, on occasion, had a curt response from brands and their reps too. To my mind, I don't let it fuss me, as the good brands, those who actually want their business to survive, will welcome constructive reviews and will use them to their advantage.
I don't believe I've ever done a bitchy or unprofessional post as I've always tried to weigh up the good and bad points of a product or service, however bad it may have been. If something is utterly great, I will still mention the price or availability or boredom factor.
Unfortunately, not all reviewers are the same as me. Some will put the chance of what many mistakenly call a freebie over being honest. All I feel this is achieving is setting an unwelcome precedent for the honest amongst us, to be glowing about everything we ever review. It also means some-not all- brands and their PR folk tend to expect that, if you are sent something, you will be so overwhelmed with their generosity to pick you and yours that you can only bow and scrape and give it top marks no matter what.
The reason I say "mistakenly" call something a freebie, is because when you think of it, when the majority of us actually take time to put a review together, testing items, researching prices, and links, as well as taking pictures or filming vlogs (I do all of this on Family Panel), it all takes time. That time equates to the cost of the item sent, so great if an item is over £40, not great if you've been sent a game worth a fiver. Not only that, even if a product may retail for £500 (as is the case with Buggy Gate), yet their actual cost to produce is a lot less.
Other traditional media outlets, such as Which? do all the above, with a team of staff, all getting paid rather well. They have professional photographers, they have heavy hitting sites and tweet feeds, all run by different people, and they have very fancy tools to put these articles together.
We do it alone- or with their help of our kids!
I do think some-again not all but some- forget this.
Transparency should always win out over the mighty idea of products and parties, but sadly, with bloggers who are honest being called unprofessional and PRs demanding products back (even ones reviewed prior to a negative review of a separate product), what hope is there for actual professionalism and constructive reviews?
It seems some brands believe the might of owning a product and being sent it for "free" means they want a good review no matter what. And if that's really all they do want, why send a product at all, when you can canvass as many bloggers as you like for £50 each to write or post a pre-written sponsored post?
Let's hope this doesn't set us on a dodgy road to blogs filled with mindless fluff and little intelligent feedback.