Welcome to our monthly feature The PR Desk! Written by PR professional Heather Travis, it guides food bloggers on the ins and outs of navigating the world of PR agencies and brands. This month, Heather guides us through the difficult task of negative product reviews - and how to tackle them without being mean!

The PR Desk: Negative Product Reviews | Food Bloggers of Canada

We’ve all heard this one before: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” (Sometimes I wish a good chunk of the interwebs would remind itself of this, but that's a topic for another post.)

Yes, it’s nice to be nice.  And it’s nice to share happy, shiny, pretty things and foamy lattes. But sometimes we have to fulfill a contract and that means being not so nice. But it doesn’t mean we have to be mean.

Confused? Neither am I.

Let’s start at the beginning. Our task is to review a new cookbook, or new gadget, or new product.

Sounds simple enough, except when the recipe flops even on the fifth try, the gadget breaks, or the product is simply inedible. What do you do then? How can you maintain credibility with your readers, while at the same time make the PR person/brand say they want to work with you again?

You play nice in the sandbox.

Get In Touch With the Brand Or PR Contact

The very first step to playing nice is by inviting the PR person or brand contact into the messy sandbox with you.

Pick up the phone and let them know you’ve encountered unforeseen issues. List them out while also sharing your attempts at finding solutions. Hearing from you firsthand, and in a professional way, rather than reading a negative review when it goes live is always a winning move.

Your contact or the brand may have heard similar from others working on the project, or maybe a solution has been found, or maybe the next printing of the book will have recipes listed alphabetically because of feedback. All of this insight will help you provide a nice fair review, even if it’s negative.

And I’ll note, I mean negative in favour of the product, food, et cetera, not negative in tone. Negative in tone is not nice, it’s mean.

Don't Be Mean - Find Solutions.

I had a boss once who always reminded us to come to him with solutions and not problems. And in the case of a negative review, being mean is the equivalent of just stating the problem with no solutions in sight.

  • If the recipe flopped five times, but your ingenious solution of raising the oven temperature twenty degrees saved the day, include that and tell us how much you enjoyed it once it was made.
  • If the kitchen gadget broke, resulting in a funny kitchen fail story, share it and let them know you got your warranty product really quickly and you’re in love.
  • If the cookbook was filled with recipes you aren’t likely to make on a regular basis, but you know your sister-in-law would love it because it’s more to her food tastes, suggest it as a great gift and offer up reasons why you think your SIL might love it rather than all the reasons you don’t.
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Be nice, not mean. Come with solutions instead of problems. Your readers will see the true you they expect to see, and the brands and PR people will appreciate your honesty and your approach. Everyone wins. We ALL wear pink on Wednesdays.

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Heather Travis is a PR professional and lover of all things creative. She has extensive experience developing and implementing integrated public relations and marketing programs for agricultural brands, producers and processors, as well as high end sporting goods. She’s a DIY junkie with a mean power tool addiction, and can often be found painting, refinishing, and scouring both junk yards and antique markets for her next fix … err, piece of content for her blog heatherinheels.com. Find Heather on Twitter @heathertravis and Instagram @heathertravis.

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