Blogging & Negative Reviews: Whether and How to Write Them
Consider this: you’ve just received a parcel in the post, something you’ve bought or something you’ve been sent by a brand. You’re super excited to try the product out so you open it up and take a look, and… you don’t really like it. Perhaps you really, really don’t like it. What now?
If you’re a blogger (or vlogger) who publishes reviews, sooner or later something’s going to come along that you’re just not that keen on. Every product or experience can’t be fantastic. So you have a choice to make – do you publish an honest but negative review, or choose not to write about it at all?
First things first
Before you reach for the keyboard or fire up Snapchat, it’s a good idea to contact the brand to see if the situation can be resolved. Look at it as a golden opportunity to see their customer service in action!
If you’re able to say “I had a problem with the product but the brand was lovely and fixed the issue for me hassle-free” that can be just as positive as saying you had no problems whatsoever – no brand gets it right 100% of the time, so your readers will love to know that this brand will fix issues in a friendly and efficient manner.
What if something is just awful?
Okay, so what if the product isn’t faulty, you just hate it? Consider whether the product is not-right-for-you awful or not-right-for-anyone awful. A foundation for example might be too oily for your skin type but work just fine for someone with drier skin, so make this clear in your review or contact the brand to say “hey, this product isn’t a great match for me, can I try something else instead?”
Sometimes though, you just can’t put a positive spin on your experience. Perhaps you disliked the customer service, or there’s an inherent flaw in a product that exchanging it for another one won’t fix. In these situations, it’s really up to you whether you publish a negative review or not, but here are some pros and cons:
- The occasional negative review (or regular well-balanced ones that weigh up both the positives and negatives of a product) can make your readers trust you more. Would you believe a blogger who said that every product they tried was The Best Thing Ever, especially if many of them were brand samples, or buy from a shop where every customer rating was a 5* one?
- You might put the brand off of working with you again. If you think there’s the potential to build a long-term partnership with them and that’s what you want, perhaps some constructive criticism via a private email is the better way to go.
- It’s rare, but it is possible to be sued for a negative blog review. Check out this story for example. Do you want to open yourself up to that risk?
Wait, sued?! How do I protect myself against that?
Of course, it’s always a good idea to stay on the right side of the law when blogging or vlogging. Here’s a brief overview of the legal stuff you need to know when writing negative reviews (disclaimer: we’re influencer engagement folk, not lawyers! Please consult a lawyer if you need more specific information).
Defamation (called ‘libel’ when it’s in written form, such as a blog post) means making untrue statements that damage someone’s, or a brand’s, reputation. Stating a true fact is not defamation, so it’s best to stick to things that you can prove in your review. “The website guaranteed delivery in 48 hours, mine took a week just to be dispatched” for example is a fact, but do be sure to screenshot things like tracking details so you have evidence should you ever need it.
Writing “this company is a scam” on the other hand could land you in hot water – can you prove it’s a scam? Double check your wording too. “The product description said made in the UK but the label says made in China” is a fact, whereas “they’re lying about their products being made in the UK!” implies that all of that brand’s products are made in China, which you can’t prove if you’ve only bought one. In this example, a blogger was fined for saying a restaurant’s food was too salty when she’d only tried one dish.
But readers come to me for my opinion!
Giving your opinion on a product or service is also okay, provided it’s clearly an opinion and couldn’t be misinterpreted as a fact. Avoid sweeping statements like “this product is terrible” and instead say “I didn’t enjoy using this product because…“.
Similarly, “I thought the customer service was too slow because they took 5 days to reply to my email” (which is both an opinion and a fact) is better than “their customer service takes far too long to reply” (what is ‘far too long’ anyway? Can you prove they take this long to reply to everyone?). If in doubt, stick to provable facts and let your readers make up their own mind about the product/brand.
To review or not to review?
Ultimately, it’s your blog and it’s your choice whether you publish negative reviews or not. Think about why you’re blogging in the first place. Is your goal to create a space that shows off all the different things that you love? Or do you aim to provide a service to your readers, advising them on which products or services are worth their money and which aren’t?
We’d love to hear how you’ve dealt with negative reviews as a blogger or vlogger! Do you publish them and why or why not?
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Loved this!!! I have posted a few negative reviews….but not that many. One of them I was pretty harsh (not rude or crude), but the product didn’t work for me (or my cat at all)……….now, though…normally what I will do is contact the brand and let them know I am going to post a negative review to at least give them a heads up. When I do post a negative review I try to do what you mentioned, “hey, it didn’t work for me, but it MIGHT work for YOU!!!”