PR Asking Bloggers to Review Products They Will Never Receive

Lately, I have been taken aback with requests from PR to review products based only on images and written copy.  In other words, requests to review items that I will never touch, see, or most importantly, test.  Did you just let out a “Huh?” Yeah, my sentiments exactly.

While I understand the sad attempt to score a written review by a blogger without actually sending an item to them, I do not see how even the newest of bloggers would accept such an “offer”?  Even if you take away the entire issue of ethics (reviewing a product that will never be tested), you are still left with absolutely no benefit to the blogger.  None.  The brand gets all of the promotion with no investment made, unless you count the time it took to send out the mass email blast.

A few months ago, Crissy Page from experienced two similar requests, one for a review of, wait for it, one slipper, and another for an invisible rowbike.  Notice phrases like “we can walk you through the product” and “we are unable to ship out product, but you can find information here for your review”.  Another popular phrase that I keep receiving is, “I will be happy to send you an image for your review”, but they aren’t talking about in addition to mailing me a product. No, they mean for me to conduct my review of the product by looking at the image.  I’m serious.

I do not recall shady pitches like this ever being so rampant in the blogosphere, but maybe I have become hyper-aware since jumping into the realm of PR myself.  Personally, I have nothing against mass pitches, press releases, review requests, or even the “feel free to share this with your readers” messages, but these walking-on-a-fine-line “review” pitches without offering an actual product to test REALLY bug me.  Want me to blog about your product, but can’t send me a sample?  I’ll be happy to write a sponsored post for a fee, if it’s relevant to my audience.

One of two things is happening here. Ignorance or misconception.

IGNORANCE TO THE PRODUCT REVIEW PROCESS. I work with small home businesses often. There have been many times that I have reached out to them regarding a product review with a blogger and they simply do not how the process works.  Many of these business owners do not realize most products are meant to be kept by the blogger in exchange for the review, but I am happy to explain the process to them.  I do not fault these small shops of their ignorance, and in fact, I’m happy to guide them through it.

DELIBERATE MISCONCEPTION. Although it is possible that PR reps and interns may not know the difference between a sponsored post, press release, or product review, I believe most do.  If they don’t, they probably shouldn’t be sending pitches to bloggers in the first place.  No, I think PR reps who deal in this shady practice are deliberating doing so.  It ties right in with PR reps who ask not to disclose in sponsored posts.  It’s wrong, shady, and unethical.

I must note that most PR firms I work with are extremely professional and would never consider doing something like this.  For the most part, the pitches I am receiving for these “reviews” are from reps that I do not have previous relationships with.  I try to kindly let them know that it would not be ethical of me to write a review on a product that I have not, well, reviewed.  Seems so obvious, I know, but it makes me wonder about their success rate in these pitches.  Something right must be working in their favor, or I wouldn’t be receiving as many as I do.  Surely bloggers are not falling for this, or are they?

If you happen to receive a simliar pitch, I have written the following copy that you can feel free to copy and paste as your response:

Dear PR,

In order to review a product, I must receive the actual product.  Images, written copy, or website information cannot supplement testing a real, tangible item.  If a sample cannot be mailed to me, I will be happy to write a sponsored post for a fee.

Thank you.