Here's the scenario: you heard that one of your favorite makeup brands just came out with a new lip gloss and you can't wait to try it! You request a sample of the aforementioned lip gloss from the publicist, and upon testing, you are devastated to discover that it is a chunky, goopy mess that possesses a “summer subway garbage stench” fragrance and insanely dries out your lips. So….
Perhaps this example is a bit extreme, but have you ever had a situation in which you've been given something to review that's been requested or voluntarily sent from a brand or PR firm that just isn't up to your standards? Be it fashion, beauty, tech, or otherwise, there must have been something that you've tried that has been mediocre at best or just plain awful.
It's an awkward situation because you don't want to offend anyone or tarnish relationships…
It's an awkward situation because you don't want to offend anyone or tarnish relationships, but I've found that being up front and honest about why you aren't going to feature an item on your site, or give it an unfavorable review tends to be the best policy. It's good to start a communication about it early in the game, before the publicist, designer, CEO, etc begins the repeated check in with you to see when you may feature the product. As a market editor-turned-blogger, over the past ten years (and a shopping addict) I've had my fair share of products come across my desk and closet that truly weren't worth writing home about, so I'd like to share some polite, assertive, and professional ways that I've devised to handle this kind of situation.
The Polite Distraction Approach
This kind of email is the softest blow to not featuring a product because you basically think it sucks; it basically lets the recipient know your personal point of view, and that even though this particular product wasn't a home run, you want to keep the door open and stay in the loop for future opportunities.
“Dear ___ ,
I received the lip gloss you sent on Monday; thanks so much for giving me a chance to review your latest offering. I found that it didn't quite work for me, and since blogs, and mine in particular can be rather subjective, I'm going to pass on reviewing it on the site at this time. Thanks again for the consideration, and please keep me updated on future releases and the latest excitement regarding the brand, as I'd love to continue working with you.”
The Constructive Criticism Offer Approach
With this option, you are more than just saying “I won't be reviewing your product, sorry,” or “I will be giving your product a crappy review, sorry!” but are rather giving the opportunity to turn your experience into a quick, complimentary analysis on what didn't work and where you think there can be improvement. If I was making a product which had some flaws, I wouldn't want people to be hush hush about it; tell me so I can fix it!
I recently tested the lip gloss that you sent, and to be honest, I was disappointed with the quality, as I was really looking forward to trying out and writing about a blockbuster product from such a reputed brand. I hope you don't mind me being so forthright, but I'd be glad to share my experience and speak with you or jot down some of my feedback on the product if you may find this helpful, since I believe, with a few tweaks it could certainly be a star!.”
The Mission Statement Insurance
Depending on the kind of site that you have you may review things that aren't necessarily great in order to warn readers about them, or you may not breach this subject at all. I am the latter; I feel that I don't want to waste my valuable time and publishing space writing about things that weren't good that will also live on my site forever, so in my “about us” page, I include in the mission statement that I only feature the BEST products on my site so that readers can cut to the chase. Basically, I save them time and money by testing out a bajillion products and picking out the best ones so that they don't have to do it themselves.
Because I'm candid about this on my site, it's almost as if I am free of the anxiety of being held hostage by a bad product, as the readily available info in the site's mission statement acts as insurance; a place to ‘back me up' in this kind of instance. Whatever your policy is, or is going to be when reviewing the good, the bad, and the mediocre, I'd recommend mentioning somewhere easy to find on your site so readers, brands, and publicists know what to expect.
While I am honored that you sent me a sample of your new lip gloss and I enjoy working with you, I wanted to let you know that unfortunately I won't be featuring the lip gloss on the site. My site's mission is to only feature the best products on the market (insert link here to your mission statement page), and after a thorough testing and analysis, sadly I didn't feel that this product met those guidelines. I appreciate you respecting my opinion and site's policy in this matter, and look forward to working with you again soon on another feature.”
In the past, what have you done when you've been in this situation?
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