@HealthJourno (aka Alex G.) ran another excellent live coeliac Twitter chat last week, a lot of which focused on what bloggers wrote about freefrom products that they were sent to review. (Click here if you want the full transcript.)
Some felt embarrassed about posting negative reviews if they had received free products or worried that it might have a damaging effect on that supplier’s business, while some said that they had given up reading blog reviews as they were always glowing. Stevan from the Foodamentalists even worried that because he always got good reviews from bloggers, readers would think that he had paid for them.
All this chat made me think about just how we approach our reviews for the FreefromFoodsMatter site – and I came up with the following (which I also posted on Alex’s site):
I know that we come from a slightly different angle (as a website whose purpose in life is to review and write about freefrom foods) but we very firmly believe that reviews must, if they are to be worth doing, be honest.
That does NOT mean that they have to be abusive (‘that was the most gross and disgusting cake I have ever eaten’) but that if a cake, for example, is too dry/sweet/overcooked/solid you do need to say so.
However, we see it as our role as to encourage manufacturers to do better so we also always praise when we can and phrase any critical comments in as positive and constructive a way as possible. (‘This cake has lots of potential – and really good that it is egg free as well as gluten free – but we felt that it needed a little more work on the texture as, although the flavours were interesting, it really was a touch on the solid side.’)
We do accept – indeed ask for – free samples. In an ideal world we probably would go out and buy them but, realistically, doing so would seriously stretch our resources both in terms of time and costs and, as a result, far fewer products would get reviewed. But we absolutely do not believe that the fact that we have not paid for it should in any way restrict our comments – and hope that anyone who sends us a product to review understands that. If they are not happy with our comments they are free not to send us any products in the future – and some companies have chosen not to do so in which case, if we think it is important that they are reviewed, we go out and buy them.
However, for what it is worth, we have found that manufacturers’ responses to constructive criticism have been almost entirely positive with many taking on board our comments and coming up with what we all (including them) felt was a better product.
Interestingly, when I went back to Alex’s blog just now there was another comment from a blogger whose daytime job is selling high end fashion accessories. She is Polish and made two very relevant points.
Culturally, Poles tend to be very straightforward and say it as they find it (‘no bushes are beaten’ as she picturesquely phrased it) whereas Brits tend to be more reserved in expressing criticism. (Yes, how often do we actually complain when we should?…..)
Secondly, ‘if no one tells her that there is an issue that needs fixing’, how is she to know to fix it? However, there is a way to do these things and while she will bend over backwards for someone who tells her nicely about a problem, she will feel much less inclined to do so if they are gratuitously rude. And so say all of us……