As its name implies, the product review describes the editor’s experience with a given product. A good review can dramatically increase credibility and often lead directly to sales. However, technology product reviews are tricky.
Although many types of products are reviewed, I will focus on professional reviews of technology products (such as are on CNET.com) as opposed to user reviews (such as are on Amazon.com).
First, some background.
Professional reviews of technical products come in two types: group (comparative) and individual (standalone) reviews.
The group review compares similar products, generally rating and ranking the results. A schedule of comparative reviews is typically included in the magazine’s editorial calendar – the listing of planned articles often found on the publication’s website.
Group reviews are time-sensitive; all the products will be reviewed within a specific period of time. Most comparative reviews give an Editors’ Choice or similar award.
Standalone reviews typically focus on a new product or major upgrade of an existing product. Standalone reviews are usually more in-depth and provide a better chance to position your product.
Typically the reviews editor organizes the reviews, and reporters or outside contributors do the actual hands-on testing.
So how can you maximize your chances for positive reviews, whether standalone or group? Here are some tips.
Do your homework.
If possible, test the product yourself or at least see a demo. You must be familiar with the product’s strengths and weaknesses.
Develop or review the basic messages about the product. Why does it do? What do you want people to know about it? What are its main strengths? Main benefits? What problem does it solve? What capability does it enhance? Where does it fit in the marketplace?
Research the potential reviews.
Review the target publications that have reviews of similar products. Make a calendar for the group reviews. Prioritize the magazines according to their value to you, and concentrate on the top five or six publications.
Pitch the review.
To be considered for a comparative review, e-mail the reviews editor and check on the parameters. If you fit the criteria, you’ll probably be asked to forward your product by a certain date. (Several reviews sites, such as on CNET, also have an online link to reach them. Many reviewers prefer to be contacted in that way.)
To pitch a standalone review, e-mail the reviews editor and describe the product’s main “claim to fame.” Editors generally prefer relatively new products for standalone reviews. If the product is significant, try to start the review process early enough so that the review can appear around the time of the product launch. (That’s often not possible, but it’s a good goal.)
One advantage: generally reviews editors will go under nondisclosure, meaning that they will not write about the product until the announcement date. It’s best to have them sign a nondisclosure agreement. This means it is “safe” to talk about the product before your official launch date.
For standalone reviews, contact the editor of a monthly publication about five months before the announcement date, the editor of a weekly publication about three months in advance. For group reviews, the editors will tell you when you need to send the product.
This gets you started on the review process. In my next post, I’ll discuss what to do once you’ve been accepted for a review.