I have been a professional product reviewer for many years and am signed up by several companies that seek individual bloggers who will review their products to spread the word.
I am not paid to praise products. My job is to provide honest feedback. Even with all the freebies I get for soulcybin review, I still ask companies for samples because I think the product will be of interest to “our” audience. That is not wrong. What is wrong is asking for something that sounds like: I’ll write a great review if you send me one of your goods because I can’t afford to buy it.
I can also keep the product for my own use. I do not have to return the products in a prepaid envelope or give them away in a drawing, although I sometimes choose to. Some publications, like the New York Times, have strict guidelines about returning products that were used for reviews. Other publications, however, allow reviewers to retain certain products but require them to return larger ticketed items.
Professional reviewers don’t just “give” positive reviews for free products. They give honest feedback–constructive criticism that the public reads, not just your staff. Some reviewers give equal weight to both the positive and negative aspects of a product. Some reviewers focus on only the positives. However, this doesn’t mean that they’ll give a positive rating if they dislike the product. They simply won’t give a review. It’s more fun to review a product that I like than to force myself to review one I don’t. It’s easier to write when you are writing about something that you enjoy, find useful and like than if you were to write about a product you dislike, found unsatisfactory, or had concerns with. Third, negative reviews are harder to write. Will something I say get taken out of context? Can I justify my review so it isn’t purely based on emotion?
If I receive a product that does not meet my standards, then I will not review it. It’s as simple as that. And I don’t want to explain in great detail why I will not review the item with the product owner. I have been there and done that, and it was a very unpleasant experience. No matter how much information I get, it doesn’t change my opinion. No amount of background info will change my mind if the product does not perform as described or reaches my target audience. If there is one small thing I don’t like about a product but it is still a great investment, I will mention that along with my positive comments.