||Ensuring a Fair Product Review
The keys to putting your product in the best position for positive coverage
By Kevin McLaughlin, Principal, Resound Marketing
[Also published in The Navigtor newsletter, Cision's guide to successful communications]
It is a common adage that any press is good press. Some may even argue that bad press is good press. But I think most would take a different stance when it comes to a negative product review. There is no telling what the
repercussions could be from getting lambasted on a "hands-on" technical evaluation, especially in side-by-side round-ups or first looks.
When given the opportunity to have your product considered for review, you must make every effort to make sure it is handled appropriately. A favorable technical evaluation can jumpstart your product and company.
Getting your product in a publication's testing lab is undoubtedly the first and most critical step, but there are other stages within the process that can be equally challenging. To ensure a fair product review, you must be equipped
with all of the proper tools and techniques.
By following these guidelines, you can significantly impact the success of your product review campaigns:
- Allow Enough Lead Time
Be aware of the publications' preferred lead times for product reviews, and build this into your development and sales schedules. Weekly publications have shorter lead times than monthlies, so you should time your pitches accordingly.
As a rule of thumb, plan to get shipping product to the publications' labs four weeks prior to the official launch, or general availability, of the product. This is most critical for weeklies, which prefer to synchronize their
reviews on or around the time of the "official" product release.
- Provide All Necessary Materials
Don't leave any room for misinformation or misrepresentation – provide reviewers with everything they need from the start, including fully functioning software, passwords for Web-based solutions, and the proper test environment.
You must make sure all potential issues are covered, and nothing is left for interpretation. The following materials should accompany the product en route to any lab:
- Cover Letter – referencing the editorial opportunity, any dialogue in the process of securing the review, technical support contact information, and public relations contact information
- Complete Press Kit – including company and product overview, executive bios, press releases, etc.
- Printed User Guide – as a supplement to electronic version on CD-ROM
- Printed "Reviewer's" Guide – a packet that includes step-by-step instruction on the product being reviewed, as well as examples (with graphics/screenshots) on how to test key features
- Schedule A Preliminary Briefing
As a preface to the hands-on evaluation, coordinate a briefing with the reviewer to discuss the product's new/differentiating features, test environment, and reviewer's guide. This will help build rapport with the evaluator/editor,
and identify any potential issues or requirements related to the parameters of the review. If the product is to be included in a roundup of similar solutions, this conversation will provide an opportunity to level-set its positioning
among other competitive offerings (our article How to Build Rapport provides additional insight on how to interact effectively with the media).
- Follow Up – Use "Polite Persistence"
Be sure to touch base with the reviewing editor during the evaluation, offering to provide any additional materials or technical assistance if necessary. If the reviewer is non-responsive, contact the managing editor to gauge the
status of the review and verify that there are no issues with the product or testing
Typically, one or the other will address your inquiry with status or insight on the evaluation. It is critical to employ a "polite persistence" approach on follow-up, and not leave a barrage of voicemails/emails. It is
fair to ask general questions about the testing, but be careful not to cross the line by directly inquiring how your product fared, and/or requesting to get an advance copy of the final article before publishing. This could severely
inhibit your chances of a response.
Remember, PR offers no guarantees. Unfavorable reviews will get published, while glowing reviews will occasionally be left on the cutting room floor. Ultimately, the merits of the product itself will determine whether or not it
is a winner. But following these key pointers will significantly improve your opportunities to ensure smooth, accurate product reviews.