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Samples and Review Items, Bribery or PR?

Nick over on his new ClickInfluence blog has a post up about Sending Gifts to Influencers

Sending gifts to bloggers, in the hope they’ll write about them may seem a potentially dangerous move. If it backfired it could certainly cause some nasty negative PR, but provided some caution, and a good helping of common sense is employed, I can’t find a reason not to like it.

It’s an interesting topic. I remember being on the other side of the issue, the agencies I worked at regularly would be charged with getting products into peoples hands. Getting reviews is an important part of PR. Having people sample a product is important in overcoming resistance and for generating word of mouth. In many cases a brilliant product just needs to be used to become a success, either personally or by someone you trust. Bloggers are incredibly influential because they are very much part of the communities they speak to so companies of course are going to target them with free items.

As Microsoft learned this has to be done with some delicacy but I think it is a win-win-win when done right. The company gets exposure and feedback, the blogger gets to try some cool new product and write about it, the audience gets to learn about the product and if it is any good.

I’m always shocked when I see people writing that they think bloggers are some how above this sort of thing, as if bloggers are more pure than traditional journalists. My answer to that is “get over yourself”, nobody is asking for anything underhand (or at least they shouldn’t be). Providing everything is on the level it has real value to all concerned. Disclosure and honesty is all it takes. “These people sent me ____ to try it out and tell you what I think”. When it becomes stuffed envelopes with non-consecutive large-denomination bills obviously it becomes a worry. Or maybe just becomes more like traditional journalism, ha.

I think most bloggers would care more about their audience than selling out for freebies. Those that would be tempted don’t deserve an audience so probably won’t last very long anyway.

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Comments

  1. I have no problem with bloggers getting “review” copies of items. I know several people in the gaming industry who both receive and send out free games for the sole purpose of getting reviews published.

    This is nothing new and I can’t understand why there is such an uproar about this. We can’t all be Consumer Reports you know?!

  2. I have no problem with bloggers getting “review” copies of items. I know several people in the gaming industry who both receive and send out free games for the sole purpose of getting reviews published.

    This is nothing new and I can’t understand why there is such an uproar about this. We can’t all be Consumer Reports you know?!

  3. You raise a very important point Chris. Bloggers are not above other people simply because of the popularity of blogs these days. Getting products to sample is what many reviewers, reporters and journalists do every day, and they have been doing it for years. The concept becomes bribery when extra incentive is included on purpose to somehow influence a review.

    It’s surprising how many in the blogosphere cited Microsoft being evil when it asked people to return the laptops they handed out to review their software, but people also complain when someone hands out free products [to keep] since that can be considered bribery.

  4. You raise a very important point Chris. Bloggers are not above other people simply because of the popularity of blogs these days. Getting products to sample is what many reviewers, reporters and journalists do every day, and they have been doing it for years. The concept becomes bribery when extra incentive is included on purpose to somehow influence a review.

    It’s surprising how many in the blogosphere cited Microsoft being evil when it asked people to return the laptops they handed out to review their software, but people also complain when someone hands out free products [to keep] since that can be considered bribery.

  5. @HMTKSteve, Ha, the game industry would grind to a halt without review copies, as would the music industry.

    @Bes, it seems whenever Microsoft does *anything* people call them evil eh?

  6. @HMTKSteve, Ha, the game industry would grind to a halt without review copies, as would the music industry.

    @Bes, it seems whenever Microsoft does *anything* people call them evil eh?

  7. I think the one concern that’s not been addressed is one of ‘credibility’ in a new media world.

    One of the national newspaper syndicates in Canada will NOT let their staff reviewers receive anything for free (movie tickets, books, dinners at restaurants, software..etc) if the writer is going to be ‘reviewing’ said item. CBC is (was?) the same way (Canada’s national broadcaster). This is to eliminate any doubt about the credibility of ALL news from that source, and sends the subtext to their audience that “we can’t be bought”.

    Now to blogs…this is the 21st century; do the philosophies of old media apply to new? Or are our readers more savvy and able to derive their own opinions from the content and can recognize a shill blog when they see it?

    In the end, what I’m looking for is quality post and disclosure (if any). Said writer builds a large audience with hi-quality posts; she’s built cred. Well done.

    If I get value from reading about that spiffy new windows OS on that spiffy new laptop, then I’ve gained something. As a reader, I could care less if you got to keep those things or not. If you had the huge cred to attract my attention in the first place, then I’d believe you know your stuff: of course I’d not stop there, I do tend to read more than one post about an item I’m considering purchasing.

    So yeah, it’s smart marketing for organizations to hit the A and B listers if the product and the blog are a fit.

    But if you’re a blogger, and you are approached with such an offer, you don’t have to take it.

    And, as always, if you’re a reader of blogs, Caveat Bloggeum!

  8. I think the one concern that’s not been addressed is one of ‘credibility’ in a new media world.

    One of the national newspaper syndicates in Canada will NOT let their staff reviewers receive anything for free (movie tickets, books, dinners at restaurants, software..etc) if the writer is going to be ‘reviewing’ said item. CBC is (was?) the same way (Canada’s national broadcaster). This is to eliminate any doubt about the credibility of ALL news from that source, and sends the subtext to their audience that “we can’t be bought”.

    Now to blogs…this is the 21st century; do the philosophies of old media apply to new? Or are our readers more savvy and able to derive their own opinions from the content and can recognize a shill blog when they see it?

    In the end, what I’m looking for is quality post and disclosure (if any). Said writer builds a large audience with hi-quality posts; she’s built cred. Well done.

    If I get value from reading about that spiffy new windows OS on that spiffy new laptop, then I’ve gained something. As a reader, I could care less if you got to keep those things or not. If you had the huge cred to attract my attention in the first place, then I’d believe you know your stuff: of course I’d not stop there, I do tend to read more than one post about an item I’m considering purchasing.

    So yeah, it’s smart marketing for organizations to hit the A and B listers if the product and the blog are a fit.

    But if you’re a blogger, and you are approached with such an offer, you don’t have to take it.

    And, as always, if you’re a reader of blogs, Caveat Bloggeum!

  9. While a lot of media outlets do have those sorts of rules it does restrict them to only reviewing things available by the general public. I find the reviews I like most are the early pre-general-release reviews. I want to hear about movies/software/gadgets/games before I can get my hands on them myself.

    A major difference between old and new media is the journalist/blogger is part of a conversation. It’s like the difference between a politician standing up on stage or a friend speaking at a party.

  10. While a lot of media outlets do have those sorts of rules it does restrict them to only reviewing things available by the general public. I find the reviews I like most are the early pre-general-release reviews. I want to hear about movies/software/gadgets/games before I can get my hands on them myself.

    A major difference between old and new media is the journalist/blogger is part of a conversation. It’s like the difference between a politician standing up on stage or a friend speaking at a party.