Review programs are an essential piece to product PR and key to driving exposure and sales for clients. Behind every successful product review program is a well laid out game plan and hours upon hours of strategic thinking, materials development, and preparation to ensure your client’s product is perceived well by consumers. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you map out your review program strategy.  

Preparation is key 

Before you start conducting outreach, establish what materials are essential. A press release, assets, and fact sheet probably come to mind, but pulling together a product Q&A to help you get ahead of common questions that reporters may ask, and a detailed reviewers guide with all the pertinent information reporters should know before and during testing, can help ensure a seamless review process. Upleveling these materials with helpful visuals, a clean layout, and other extra touches can make all the difference on your reviewers’ experience and make a good first impression of your client’s product, helping result in more positive and impactful reviews.  

Time is your friend 

Many clients expect to see product reviews hit at, or shortly after, launch, especially if the product was pitched under embargo. To make this happen, however, you need time — and lots of it. It’s important to manage expectations with clients early on and communicate that it’s impossible to guarantee when coverage will publish, but giving media extra time to review products can help increase the likelihood of securing timely and thorough reviews. And in today’s media landscape where newsrooms are short-staffed and reporters are backlogged with dozens of products in their queue to test, giving them ample time to review the product is even more important in helping ensure coverage will publish either at, or around, launch.  Developing a workback timeline early on will not only help you optimize how much time you’re able to give reporters for testing, but also allow you to map out the other components and important deliverables in the lead up to your announcement.  

Staying in consistent contact 

Consistently keeping in contact with reporters throughout the product review process is of the utmost importance. From sharing logistical details such as shipping updates and tracking information, to offering troubleshooting support during the testing phase, having a clear line of communication with reporters can make or break a favorable review. Of course, there’s an art to finding the right cadence for follow-ups so that you’re not nagging but being completely hands-off can potentially lead to things going awry, resulting in less than positive reviews due to lack of communication.  

Something else to keep in mind is that most reporters have a long list of products to review and may not get to the product you’re pitching right away. In other cases, sometimes reporters can also go completely silent in the weeks following their initial agreement to review a product. In these cases, it’s helpful to make note of when to follow up with reporters, whether that’s documenting it in your notes or even setting a reminder on your calendar, to ensure communication doesn’t fade during the testing process and your product remains top of mind.  

Stepping in and stepping back  

When a reporter reaches out with questions during the testing process, especially for more in-depth, technical questions, we often work as middle(wo)men between the reporter and the client, product manager, etc., and help relay the appropriate responses back to the reporter. There are scenarios, however, where it may be more practical to connect the reporter to an appropriate contact on the brand side to ensure their questions are answered correctly and efficiently. Too much back and forth, or even worse, misleading responses, can further frustrate reviewers during testing, so understanding when to step in — or to step back — and getting them in contact with the right people will ensure a more seamless review process.  

There are many components that go into creating a successful reviews program, and while we all do our best to prepare ahead of time, it’s not uncommon to face several twists and turns during the process. That said, with these best practices in mind, along with a well thought out strategy in place, you can develop and execute successful reviews programs that drive impact for your clients.