I am not talking about the product end of things. I am referring to the people like myself that either write or do video reviews of spicy products. How do we take it from our experience to the world wide web and make it a respectful one. Many of us have debated this before, and it is a very opinionated topic, so I am going to give you my thoughts on it. Maybe you will agree, maybe you won’t, but you are free to voice your opinion on it.
Having done spicy product reviews since 2007, I feel a lot more comfortable than I have ever been in voicing my opinion. I have never had much of a filter anyway, and sometimes I might go a tad overboard on my feelings on a particular product whether it be positive or negative. As much as I have given feedback on a product, I have taken much in over the last 4 years from the community good and bad. I want to click off some of the major points of my experience and tell you how it relates to making a product review one that is respected and carries much weight amongst my peers.
1- Being Fair– While honesty should be on top of the list, I think being fair is just as important if not more. When a product comes to a reviewer there are certain obligations that person has to the maker of the product. While this is not a paid monetary service, (unless of course you resemble Mr Burns from the Simpsons), you are still being paid in fiery goods. You have in some way entered into a contract, and you have a job to do. In this job you are asked to be as fair and impartial to the goods you are entrusted with. If you just taste the sauce and make an evaluation based on that, then you are doing a disservice to the product. If you eat food that the product was not intended for and make an evaluation, then you are doing a disservice to the product. If you make just 1 attempt on a product that can be used in many different ways, then you are doing a disservice to the product.
Being fair comes down to sampling the product as it was intended. Each reviewer should try the product in more than 1 way to be as fair as possible. Sometimes one food just will not work, and if you call it a day after that, then you are not “reviewing” the product, you are mailing it in.
2- Honesty– It is paramount to a company to make sure they have a product worthy of the investment they put into it. Sometimes getting feedback from family and close friends is like telling your ugly child they should be models. I am thankful my parents were so honest with me before I chose my career on the runway. With product reviews, brutal honesty might not be what makers want to hear, but it is a necessary evil before money is wasted on a product that just can’t compete with all the other products out there. There is nothing wrong with a mediocre product, unless it is you who spends the investment on it. It isn’t easy telling someone who put their time into the creation of a product that it just doesn’t fill a void in the marketplace. It doesn’t have to be a bad product at all, it could be a good one, but if it isn’t different AND good, then why make something that is all ready out there?
The makers do not want a bad review, but it happens. The other day a maker told me that they appreciated all my reviewers’ honest feedback, even though they wished they didn’t have the reviews out there for all to see. It has inspired them to fix the issues presented by the review team, and their drive to make it work is admirable. Going back to the drawing board might be humbling, but it is a necessary evil. So often a reviewer is afraid to hurt the feelings of the makers, but would they feel more comfortable knowing that they contributed to the failure of the product or worse the company? Money doesn’t grow on trees. Each reviewer must realize that their honest assessment comes with a price.
3- Treat the product as if it was their own– Each review I do I consider that review to be of a personal nature to me. I look at it as if it was my product, and if I was to spend my hard work in the creation of it. Then to spend on the shipping and handling for someone to review, I ask myself, what would I want from the reviewer? What kind of feedback would I expect? I would want them to do everything they could to treat my product with #1 and #2 above- to be fair and honest. If I drop the ball as a reviewer, then I not only let down the maker, but I let down myself.
4- Review Format– For years I have been pushing the use of multiple person reviews. The reason is simple, one person should not be the judge, jury and executioner/savior for any product. I am sure my peers will disagree with me because most of them do it the solo route. It is so darn tough to organize the 3 person video reviews we do most of the time. There is so much time that goes into it from the exchange with both the makers and the review team, all the way to the gathering of the reviews and posting it. I can’t tell you how many times I have had two reviewers finished and waited on the 3rd reviewer. I have 1 reviewer now holding me up for 3 months now, while the other 2 had the review done in 2-3 weeks.
My point is that I understand fully the effort it takes to put those kind of reviews up. Yet, some of these solo reviewers found out first hand recently that their opinions were the opposite of other reviewers. I did so myself as well. It is why I think it is important that we review as a team, even if it crosses chile blog lines, just to make things as fair as possible. There is that “fair” word again.
Another format issue is the look of the review. I am forever trying to make things better with our reviews, but I have had ongoing issues. Since we do video reviews, I want my reviewers to look at their setup before they start reviewing.
a- Is it bright enough? If you show the product, can you see it? It doesn’t take much to film a snippet and adjust.
b- Are you wearing another company’s swag? Don’t promote someone else on your maker’s dime.
c- Is the background disrupting?
d- Sound okay?
e- Chance of disturbances? Make sure your time is uninterrupted if possible.
5- Rate the Product– The company should understand completely what you think of their product before your review is over. We have setup a rating scale to force our reviewers to put their reputation behind their review. For the past year plus we have marked our reviews with the “flaming heart” rating , that uses the measurement from 1-5 including 1/2 marks. In the near future we will be unveiling a page where all the spicy products we reviewed this way can be referred to by anyone looking for some kind of critique before their purchase. We will post them alphabetically by each company with each of our reviewer’s rating.
5- Marketability of the Review– If the review is a successful one, then the maker can use it for their own personal marketing purposes. Whether they link to it or use the videos embedded codes, you can provide something to them they can use way past the shelf life of the chile blog’s front page posting. Since we do 3 videos, the product maker can use any or all 3 of the video reviews. If they have 1 or 2 bad reviews, they still can use the 3rd if they wish. While our overall review is together, our videos are separate on our YouTube page.
6- Keep Ego in Check– Don’t make the review about you, make it about the product. It is okay to shine with personality because people will be entertained at the same time as getting the facts in your review. Just be careful about taking the attention away from the product. Also try not to curse or say something unsavory so the positive review can still be seen by their family, friends and customers.
7- Focus on the Product– I mentioned not showing swag from another company, but note that it is just as bad when mentioning another company’s product in the review. A company doesn’t want to hear that unless you are trying to make a comparison that a majority of us understand like Tabasco for instance. Mentioning another small market company is not a good practice. Remember what I said in #3 about treating the product as if it was your own.
8- Handling Feedback– There will come a time when you will be criticized about your review. You might be verbally lambasted on your own blog. If you can give your opinion, you have to learn how to gracefully accept others. Control your emotions, and kill them with kindness. No sense to take it down to a level where you will not want to go. You can not control how someone is going to react to a bad review, so just learn to accept it and roll with it. Hey, it might actually be our fault. Something we missed. Not giving the product a fair shake. Having just a chip or a pretzel with a product could send someone over the edge. Whatever the criticism is, handle it with maturity and do not let it get you down. Rise above it.
9- Contact Info– Make sure you list something, even if it is just an email or Facebook in the contact area. Is there anything worse than not being able to buy a product that the reviewer just raved about? Sometimes it is out of our hand when the product maker has so little information to provide, but whatever it is, provide it. You never know who might be dialed into your review.
10- Business First– You have to remember this is more than a review to the people who send you products. This is a money making venture to 99% of these product makers. Don’t take light of this fact. I am driven to help this industry and the people in it. If I could cross promote companies and events with all the other chile blogs to better this industry I would consider it. The same goes for these reviews. Connect to ours with a link if you see a product you reviewed. If it helps, then I am all for it. There is a reason you do not see me on Twitter or have my own Buddah Facebook page. I rather promote and entertain with my blog than be the focus of attention. Sure I am ambitious and want to make some money eventually to pay for the trips I make to shows, but I sleep very well at night knowing that I can make an impact in some way to help out this great community.
Please feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with anything I have said here today. Add your own points if you think I left something out. This is my opinion, and not those of my review team. I do not have such a large ego, and understand that most times reviews are not much of a factor in a company’s success. I try to do my little part, and if it helps then even better.
Thanks for your time.