The point of this article is not to slur any reputations but to share my not so pleasant experience and some of the negative aspects of blogging about things we love!
This subject resurfaces a lot on blogs, twitter, facebook and in general chats with other bloggers. If you think PR agencies are frustrating and sometimes a little cold then after reading this, you will look at them differently. I now look at them with the fondness they deserve at trying to manage bloggers and their clients. I have never met an unfriendly or unprofessional PR company. To my face they are utterly lovely and if they have any opinions to the contrary about me I would hope that they would vent them suitably professionally manner too!
I must say this is a first for me and I will go on to explain the story for you. *deep breath*
I approach a company to review their products as they look interesting and I haven't heard of their products before.
A delighted owner writes back and sends me some products to try, I did not ask for any products in particular and said that any products would be gratefully received. To be honest, samples would have been fine but I was sent full sized products. I take my time in using the products and when asked how I am getting on, I tell them the truth. The products are lovely but there is an issue about one of them that I can't get on with and don't like.
Instead of asking for more details or offering me guidance, they simply say that it is a personal issue and that's the end of it.
I then make a video review listing it in my favourite products for it is still a wonderful product and has helped my skin no end. I of course mention the aspect I don't like, and probably in overly graphic terms but it's all true and I stand by it.
I then receive not one, not two, not three but four long, offensive and threatening emails from the owner who wants to pursue legal action against me unless I take the video down.
What would you do? I talked to a few colleagues and friends for their opinion. They see that I have done nothing wrong, phew.
I decided not to take the video down and replied to the emails in a very professional and polite manner. I could of course see that they were very upset that they had sent me products and I didn't give them a 100% glowing review and that I got some of the details incorrect about the method and system. I attempted to correct the mistakes with annotations so people now have the correct information about it.
More emails ensue with even more personal attacks, insults, threats and demands. I suggested a phone call but they didn't want that. I also suggested a blog review clearing up the inaccuracies they felt had come out of my video. But I would not take the video down as I stand by my review and there is nothing libellous contained within it. I think they preferred to just hurl abuse at me in emails rather than sort it out.
I don't really care to be honest. I read the exhaustive literature on the website and in the packaging. I followed it for a bit and it wasn't really suiting me so decided to use it how I saw fit and how I got results best. In my reviews I always say to go to the official website for more information, it is not possible to give every bit of information in a video that is five minutes long!
In the end, I decided not to respond to any more emails as it was not really a resolution that was wanted, just more abuse. I happily sent payment for the items as requested. I didn't even want half the products but paid for them all anyway.
I am not malicious though, I prefer not to mention the company because I do not wish to harm a business or bring about bad feeling. I am not recommending or warning anyone off the products either. I will simply seek alternatives when they are finished and tell you all about those! I believe in Karma, what goes around, comes around.
I believe that I have behaved with empathy, respect and honesty. I have paid for the products which were sent to me for free review, I now feel completely unbiased.
The owner then emailed me (more emails *sigh*) to tell me that they had been approached by another blogger to review the products. My heart sank again and went out to the other poor blogger, who I then emailed to warn her of the wrath of this company at any negative feedback.
The point is that the owner has the right to reply to the video, I have no problem with that. That is the beauty of the system. We review because we want products to be better, if they can be made so. I am not the expert, I am just someone who has an opinion and I am willing to share it. Instead of taking this opportunity, the owner has decided to take a heavy handed approach. I am not going to break my own rules and be pressurised in to taking down a review because they don't like it. If I did that, what kind of reviewer would I be?
The difference in dealing directly with a small company and with a PR agency is simple. Any PR which gets a brand noticed and establishes credibility is given a pat on the back when reporting back to their client. Good for them, they at least do some research spend time communicating with people, it's not an easy task at all!
I struggle to see how an honest review can be taken badly unless you truly don't want to hear about it? Name me a company that thinks that they know better than their customers? I feel that it is in the customers' best interest to have the opportunity to feedback and improve products for everyone else.
It makes me wonder if PR companies feel like this when I place negative reviews about products they have sent me? Of course I feel bad, but it is an opportunity to gain respect for taking that feedback and improving products that will bring in more customers.
I urge you all to make sure that when you review you are upfront with those expecting reviews. Make sure they know that just because they send you a product it does not mean you will review the product and more importantly that it will be a favourable one. A decent company will accept this point. I often send an email outlining the review so they have a chance to respond and help with any issues before the article is published. I personally think this makes for a more rounded review unless you like the shock value or writing scathing reviews! Be aware that scathing reviews work both ways and only dish it out if you can take it.