My friend has a theory. He believes that a joke on its 50th retelling can be just as funny as it was the first time you heard it: he calls it the cycle of jokes. To this end, he’s been recycling the same jokes for years and – although they go through a questionable lull period in which we sorely wish he would stop – eventually they make us laugh again.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I wonder if the same logic can be applied to PR – is recycling an idea lazy or, like the cycle of jokes, is there life in it yet?
Now, I am not here to say creativity is dead or that big campaigns don’t have an impact because clearly, they do. We love a bold campaign just as much as the next person (yes, it is a shameless plug, but hey we’re a PR company).
What I’m saying is big splashy campaigns are not the be-all and end-all. Under every big campaign, there needs to be a solid drumbeat of coverage, a consistent cycle. And when it comes to consumer tech, a strong reviews programme is key.
Product reviews programmes work. It’s as simple as that.
It’s pretty well documented that consumers (66% in fact) consult reviews before making a purchase, with 88% stating that product reviews are the most important factor in deciding to purchase.
What this data tells us is that you could promote your product in skywriting above London, or project an advert onto the Empire State building, but when it comes to technology purchases, if the consumer doesn’t have someone telling them that your product is great because of x, y, and z – they simply aren’t going to buy it.
Whether it’s an influencer or the media, a credible mouthpiece is key to sales. They are the bread and butter. Sure, you can slap some jam on top and make things more interesting, but without the basics, you’re limiting your customer set to those who make impulse purchases.
And with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reporting that the cost-of-living crisis is causing shoppers to think twice about big-ticket items, tech companies need to do their utmost to convince people to cough up their hard-earned cash.
So, what makes a good product reviews programme?
1. The product
A good product is always a solid place to start. I know … duh. But unlike marketing materials, in which you can make your product sound amazing – regardless of the truth – professional reviewers scrutinise tech for a living, and they won’t take any prisoners.
So, choosing the right product to promote is step one. You want a product that aligns with your sales goals and has the technological credentials to back up your marketing claims. If you believe in the product, your PR team will and so will the reviewer.
2. The people
Next, you need the right reviewer at the right title. This comes partly from the client understanding the target audience and communicating that to the PR team, but ultimately this is down to your PR team creating a solid media list.
Any tech PR agency worth its salt will have an extensive list of reviewers but choosing the right ones is where their expertise really comes into play.
Reviewers have different interests – a journalist focussing on dashcams isn’t likely to be interested in your headphones, regardless of whether they write for a relevant title.
Making an informed choice about who to reach out to will ensure a higher pitch success rate and better-quality reviews. Reach out to the people who care – it’s as simple as that and is ultimately what you’re paying your PR team to know.
3. The persuasion
Once you’ve chosen the right people you need them to understand why they should love your product.
The best way to achieve this is to send them a review guide, telling them everything that’s awesome about the product and signposting them as to what features they should test.
If it’s a very complicated product (or a very important, and amenable journalist) it’s sometimes worth getting a media-trained engineer or spokesperson on a call with them to talk through the product.
Events are also great for these purposes, allowing media to get hands-on with your product in an environment controlled by you and in which your staff are on hand to help.
4. The process
Finally, don’t overlook the logistics. First impressions matter.
Experts reckon that 55 per cent of first impressions are made by what we see. If your product is arriving in a shoddy box, delivered by an unreliable courier who thought the rubbish bin was a sensible ‘safe space’, it is going to have a negative impact on the reviewers’ overall experience.
Now that’s not to say that if your delivery experience isn’t great the reviewer will unfairly bad-mouth your product (journalistic integrity is still alive and well) but emotions do have a known – generally unconscious – effect on people’s decision-making processes. It’s science. So, take as much control over the process as you can. Choose a good courier, test your loan samples in between reviews, invest in decent boxes for the kit and switch them out when they get tatty.
I’ve experienced everything from journalists who found their sample in the bin, to journalists who have written about how helpful the customer service team were in their published review.
In short, enlist your agencies’ help and do whatever is within your control to make the process as painless as possible. Reviewers will thank you for it and a reputation as a safe pair of hands is worth its weight in gold.
Now you’re all pros…
In summary, my advice is not to feel pressured to constantly break new bounds with every consumer PR activation – it’s not lazy to fall back on a strong reviews programme, it’s good sense to make strong reviews the foundation of your approach.
As much as it’s our job to make a splash, it’s also our job to ensure PR has a measurable impact on consumers, and reviews are a central part of achieving that goal.
For more information on Wildfire consumer tech experience, check out our some of our case studies here.
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