Sure, we pitch stories all day long. We convince folks that our news is worth spending time researching, reporting and ultimately writing. But how do we incite the commitment to spend hours using a new device and then spend the time to create an article too? Welcome to the world of reviews. Here’s a few of our tips on leading a product review program. And, if you have a product that needs to be in the hands of top-tier users, give us a shout.

Craft your story

Our latest example of a reviews program was in support of a product that had been in market for a couple of months. In most circumstances, the flow works like this:

  1. Announce upcoming product
  2. Conceive public GA launch
  3. Seed devices to reviewers with reviews embargo
  4. Optimize for a few days before public GA in order to build buzz
  5. Reviews embargo lifts and reviews hit

In this instance, that groundwork had already been laid, so we got to craft a story that aligns with the product, the product marketing goals and even the season. We developed a full narrative that we are using to help shape not only the experience reviewers are having, but the story they get to tell their readers.

Develop your list

I approach media lists not from a traditional Tier 1, Tier 2 structure. To me, smaller outlets are just as capable of driving a significant amount of buzz and interest as an established, large media conglomerate. In fact, oftentimes the niche influencers can have a more rabid readership. I generally suggest a breakdown of media lists that include a mix of “could haves” and “should haves.”

The could haves include top-tier outlets that are leaders in coverage, have significant web traffic and align with your narrative. The should have list includes the targeted publications that align with your narrative and are likely to cover the product. For example, a noted gadget reviewer with a long and significant history in many popular consumer technology products was on our tier 3 list because he did not historically fit into the narrative.

Managing logistics

Admittedly, our reviews program was not as adventurous as others I have been a part of. We have a modest goal for total reviews and have been able to achieve that goal. But you still end up with scenes like this in your office.

Your office can look like this too when you're sending out multiple devices for review.

Your office can look like this too when you’re sending out multiple devices for review.

Sometimes, I feel like I work in an Amazon warehouse. Accounting for the extra time of device setup, making sure batteries work, device activation and packaging for shipping is crucial.

Make sure that you’re tying devices to certain reviewers and have a method for returning the device in place as well. If your top-tier reviewers don’t get a device because you can’t prove it got sent, then who looks bad there?

AT&T Velocity, WiFi Hotspot

Managing 2 or 200 devices can be a logistical challenge.

Don’t be “that guy”

Following up is crucial. Stalking and being annoying is illegal. Don’t be that guy. Have an engagement and nurturing strategy in place before starting your reviews program so that you can deliver outreach that adds value to the reviewers experience. Highlight a key feature, provide assistance or just be engaging. But there is a thing as too much.

Close the deal

It’s great that you’ve sent out 200 devices for review, but being able to secure the story is a vital step that a lot of folks take for granted. It’s obviously difficult to guarantee coverage, but we as PR people need to be able to be engaging enough to deliver the results we and our clients anticipate and expect.

As you can see, running a successful reviews program is a bit different than the normal PR new product release/key partnership story flow. Being able to deliver the goods, both literally and figuratively, is vital to ensuring many successful reviews programs. Ready to launch a reviews program? Let us help you!