Most of you know that I also write a review blog, Mummy's Product Reviews. Initially, I didn't set out to write product reviews. It all started right here back in 2006 when as a weekly feature I did 'The Product of the Week'. People were always asking me about places to go, brands, beauty items, I could go on. As a self-admitted "product whore" and advice columnist wannabe, it seemed a likely fit. 'The Product of the Week' was simply my take on a product I tried, loved and wanted to share. That's all. Nothing was sent to me, no one pitched me. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Just items from my house. Review bloggers didn't hold much world wide web space if any back then.
Over time things have obviously evolved. An Arbonne consultant sent me a slew of stuff and I joined the Parent Bloggers Network. Review bloggers began showing up all over the place. It was time to create a separate space for it all, thus MPR was born. Right from the start I promoted honest reviews. I wasn't there to appease some company and stroke their fur. Call me an idealist but I really did want the companies to know what I liked and disliked about their products. Pitches from PR reps began to trickle in and by the end of 2007 they were pouring in. I was invited to review a car! I couldn't believe that this was really happening. I loved it.
Now, in 2009, I still love it. Honest reviews are my thing, besides my regular writing. I have a handy star guide and I hate to say it but this is one of my passions. Sometimes a company will give me an honorarium and even before the FTC decided to crackdown I was honest about that too. I willingly admit that I like free stuff, just not all free stuff. Having a company request a review is nice, sometimes. I like building relationships with companies and I admit I have passed on quite a few whose products and/or practices didn't jive with mine. When I work with a company or seek them out it is because I respect their brand and want to learn and share more- good or bad. I enjoy most of the events I attend because I get to learn something new (good or bad), see some blogger friends and network. I don't let it cloud my judgement or ability to be objective about the product. My belief then and now has always been that a company must be willing to take a certain risk when they ask someone to review their product. The very definition of the word review is this- "To examine with an eye to criticism or correction. To write or give a critical report on (a new work or performance, for example)."
I don't review everything that comes my way either. Unsolicited items, products without paperwork and pitches that don't fit my criteria or the blog don't make it as a review. I don't see the point of reviewing an item for only positive purposes either. What good does that do the readers or the company? I also think that review bloggers should be paid for their writing. The writing, not for shilling a product. I realize it is a fine line and requires disclosure and I wish it didn't affect a bloggers credibility (read this!). It's work testing a product, working with a company, writing up the review and spewing it out to the masses. PR work, writing work, just plain Work. Work, I love but yes, work. I actually think about what I write and I do not just post up a press release. That idea alone makes my skin crawl. I admit that if a company intrigues me or produces an item that peaks my interest I will set up a review. That is how it works. If I don't like it, I say I don't like it. Attending an event, being put up in a nice hotel and being given free stuff could sway me but it doesn't. Yes, really. I'll cop to it being nice having all that attention and stuff lavished on me but at the end of the day, when the blog post goes up, it is all about the product and not the attention. It really is about blogging with integrity.
Again, call me an idealist but I believe and agree with Liz at Mom-101, that PR companies and the companies behind the products we all review, should be honest. They want us for who we are and like any good relationship we shouldn't have to change who we are just so they will like us. They should love us, respect our opinions (good or bad) just for who we are even if a bad review comes their way. That being said, bloggers need to own up to the relationships they have with these brands and what went on behind the scenes. Be professional and weigh the pros and cons of an item. They should be honest with their reviews and not have their heads turned just because someone gave them a truckload of chips, a night in a hotel and some free meals. Like any job it is your credibility that is at stake. I hate feeling dirty because as a reviewer I am lumped in with "gimme bloggers" who are not credible or professional in their work.
My blood gets thick and begins to boil when I hear reviewers say they only do positive reviews and don't want to offend the company. Really? We are the consumers, people! We buy the stuff. If we don't like it we don't buy it. If we don't tell the makers, they have no idea their product doesn't work, smells bad, tastes awful, is a rip-off or doesn't last. It's just like a regular ol' relationship. It irritates you when your boyfriend bites his toenails off with his teeth while watching television? He's not going to stop if you never say anything! Tell him it grosses you out. To me it is all the same thing.
I'm seriously considering putting up a monthly column called, 'Disappointments' on MPR and listing a bunch of products that didn't perform well regardless if I bought it on my own or it was supplied. I don't care if companies back off from my reviews because then it shows they are just in it for the free PR. It's not about ruining a brand or a product, it's about providing real research and true thoughts and findings. That to me is highly valuable information when it is handled tactfully.
I could say, "Can't we all just get along?" I could say that we are just on the cusp of having real, open discussions surrounding this ordeal but we are right in the thick of it. December 1 is looming large and everyone who reviews is going to have to figure out where they stand. I already know where I stand and it is with full disclosure and honesty.
I'm climbing off my soap box now. Thanks for your time.