How PR Pros Approach Product Reviews and Roundups – Part 1

May 21, 2024

Several clients and prospects have recently asked us about product reviews. So, we decided now would be an opportune time to take a deep dive into this topic.

Here is the Bospar Blog’s conversation with Brent Shelton, a public relations veteran, Bospar’s vice president of media relations, and our resident expert on product reviews and roundups.

What is the value of a product review for the company whose product is reviewed?

A good review can set you apart from your competition. It will give your products or services a higher rank. And, if you’re a smaller company or a newcomer to the scene, it can be beneficial to be included with the other businesses that have been in that sector for quite a while.

Do product reviews typically consist of a collection of reviews and comparisons about different companies’ products, or are they an individual review just about your product?

Sometimes reviewers who are looking for editorial will reach out to us and ask us what’s new. But one-off feature product reviews are usually a result of a pitch a Bospar PR professional brought to the reviewer as an exclusive for a brand new product or a huge update.

There are a variety of product review roundups. Wirecutter and Consumer Reports are two high-level examples that test and review a wide variety of categories in great detail; whereas other outlets may be more focused on a segment of products and/or services. Reviewing several products in a category allows them to update the reviews without recreating the wheel.  Annual or biannual updates keep the review alive and very relevant, which is important to the end user trying to find newer information on which to base a potential purchase decision.

What can companies and PR professionals do to get best results from product reviews?

One way to control the message is to create a reviewer guide.

A lot of media outlets no longer have the staffs that they used to have. As a result, some reviewers might not have deep experience with the products and product categories they are reviewing and writing about. A reviewers’ guide can tell the story for those reviewers.

If you want to beef up your reviewers’ guide and add credibility, have a third-party analyst cover the product. Reviewers are more apt to hold your product in high regard if someone affiliated with a university or an analyst in that sector reviews it and gives it their stamp of approval.

What should a reviewers’ guide look like and include?

The best reviewers’ guides introduce products. Here’s the product. Here is the terminology that is important. Here are the specifications. Some reviewers’ guides are rather simple, but some can get really technical, depending on the category (e.g., health vs. entertainment). Be sure to note ENERGY STAR, FDA and any other important certifications.

Explaining how to set up and use the product is critical. Reviewers often get frustrated when they cannot easily set up a product, which can lead to negative feedback in the review.

It’s also nice to include in the guide some visuals that help reviewers tell the story and give the reader an idea of what the product looks like.

What kind of visuals?

If the product has been tested, you could include a graph showing the test results. The guide could also contain diagrams showing the inner-workings of your product or how the product actually works. For consumer use products, lifestyle visuals can show product placement in the home and give readers an understanding of how they may hold and use the product.

Are there any common product preview missteps that PR professionals can work to avoid?

When submitting products to be reviewed, first and foremost do not make claims – especially scientific claims – that are aren’t true or haven’t been vetted and certified by a third party.

One of the biggest missteps is to assume the reviewer knows more than or as much as the company. That’s where a reviewers’ guide is most effective. It assures he reviewer and the company whose product is being reviewed are on the same page. The expectation of what will be in the review has been provided – all the facts, figures and pertinent details in one place.

If you just submit a product for review without all of those details, you’re assuming the reviewer is going to know what’s important and can figure out how to use the product and test it the right way. Provide very simple instructions on how to set it all up. If there’s an app that’s involved, for example, explaining how they can easily download the app and get started are super important. Why? Because anytime a reviewer makes a little mistake and it’s difficult for them to set something up, that could appear in their in review. Those are the kinds of things that you want to avoid. You want to make things as easy as possible and have reviewers say, ‘This was so easy that my grandmother could do it.’ That’s the ultimate outcome that you want.

A company gives a product to a reviewer. What happens next? Can you expect the review to happen within a month? Two months? How long do you typically have to wait to see a story?

It’s very common that reviewers cannot guarantee they’re going to review your product. That’s why preparation is key. Make it as easy for them as possible. Almost write the story for them, using a reviewers’ guide to help. That’s important because they could be getting dozens of products they need to review or consider reviewing.

Everyone wants their products reviewed and featured going into big shopping events like Black Friday and Prime Day. If it’s a consumer product, or before a show like CES, reviewers may be getting hundreds of products. So, it’s best to get ahead of that as much as possible.

Part 2 of this Product Reviews and Roundups Q&A blog will publish this Thursday.

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About the author

Paula Bernier is chief content officer at Bospar PR. She has more than 25 years of experience writing and editing for tech trade outlets, including Inter@ctive Week. Bernier is known for her ability to quickly produce compelling content on a wide range of business and technical topics. Areas of specialization include AI, cybersecurity and networking.