Share: how much do you trust my reviews?
At the end of July, I received an email from a rather reputable ‘Asian-born’ PR agency with a harmless subject line “Looking for Ghostwriter for XX Product” but when I read the content, it angered me greatly. Those who follow me on Tweeter would have sensed my indignation back then. Let me show you the extract of the content and you will immediately understand why I was fuming.
We’re trying to look for a ghostwriter to help us do some blogging of a XX product.
Our client, is also a brand of XX. What we required is to provide you a new competitor’s product to try. We have heard some bad reviews recently about this new product. That being said, we are seeking a ghostwriter to help to write bad reviews about the product. Of course, we will provide you the competitor’s product to try as well.
Do let me know if you’re keen to be our ghostwriter for this? I can brief you further. Upon engaging you as our client’s ghostwriter, you’ll be return in kind with our client’s product.
Do let me know this soonest as this new competitor’s product will be selling in SG pretty soon in 1 week time. We need to get the reviews out before the product is selling in shop.
Do you think we bloggers are so low class?
Okay, despite the multiple language errors, I think the content is understandable to most of you right? They basically wanted someone, and in this case, ME, to write a POOR review on their competitor’s products. HELLO! My first thought was – what kind of PR strategy is this? Is it necessary to stoop SO LOW? And the next thought I had was – why a blogger and why me? Does this PR representative think that we bloggers are so low class that we will comply with such a ludicrous request?
Can we trust reviews we read online?
I chose to bin the email immediately but it got me thinking for awhile – can we really trust reviews that we read online? I mean, surely this is not the only agency that came up with such a lousy strategy to bash their competitors…so does it mean we can’t trust positive reviews and neither can we trust negative reviews? What can we trust then?
How much do you trust our blog reviews?
Since you all read my blog and probably other beauty blogs too, then let me pose the question to you – to what extent do you trust our reviews and has it ever occurred to you that our product reviews could be ‘fake’?
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It has never really occurred to me that your blog, or any other, has ever written fake reviews. I tend to trust what I read and have never thought twice about it.
From the blogs I read, I didn’t think they would write a fake review. I don’t think you will:) As a blogger myself, I would never do that. I want to share what I really like and don’t like with the reader that put their trust on me:)
Mimi last post is: Blog Hops of the Day
i guess desperation will bring one to another level down.
for me, i normally trust 85% of the bloggers review. the rest i would research on other sites.
melmok last post is: Sunday’s homemade chicken rice
I usually trust the blogs that i always go to. Being a ghost writer and get compensation is such an insult, esp to the ghost writer him/herself!
xin last post is: LASIK Surgery Experience & Thoughts – Excelview Mid Valley Megamall
Being a beauty blogger myself, this anger me too. I can’t believe anyone have the cheek to write this email.
I got invited to write a review for a brand too. But guess what? They said I cannot write any sort of bad things about the product. I decided to decline and never ever entertain this company again.
PS: I love your blog and trust your review too. I have been following for quite sometimes.
Emily last post is: Review Products from Naruko Singapore
Goodness! I remember you tweeting about it but to see the email extract blows me away. What on earth were they thinking?! And yes, why bloggers – I’d like to think we all have integrity. And to say “We have heard some bad reviews recently about this new product.” gosh presumptous or what? What if you end up liking the competitor’s product? LOL!
As for your question, as a reader I trust most blog reviews and I’d like to think the trust is reciprocated ?
Paris B last post is: So in love with Diorblush Pink in Love Glowing Colour Powder Blush
Hi Sesame, I trust your reviews but I always do a research on other sites as I have sensitive skin. Sigh, why don’t the reputable PR agency create their own “ghost beauty blog” where they write good stuff about all their client’s products and bash their competitiors. But I don’t think they have any followings as readers are smart people too :P. We have a golden rule in advertising, never treat consumers as fools!
I read your blog and went straight away to purchase the product. Probably I didnâ€™t read hard enough, I ended up dislike the product and let it expires and eventually trash it away. I wish I would read more reviews before getting it.
That’s a shame but yes, you should check out more reviews because different people have different skin types and what works for me may not work for you. I myself always check reviews at Makeupalley.
They won’t get sufficient readership if they write only good stuff or publish only press releases. You’re right that consumers are no fools these days…
Actually sometimes when I read an extremely bad review of a product on a blog, I tend to think the blogger tried too hard to prove herself as I know some want to gain readership via building trust this way too.
It’s good you declined for they should never try to control you. Or tell them to pay you if they only want you to write a good review. There’s something call an advertorial.
Insulting right! Made me boil!
Good to do more research…especially when it comes to skin care since different pple will have different issues.
Yes, build your content on trust and not on what the companies want you to write.
Hi Sesame! Hope you are doing well now:)
I believe when a writer/blogger writes about something,as a reader, you will just know whether the writer writes with integrity and truly from the heart. You are one of them.:)
Eventually, by resorting to bashing up a competitor in such bad taste will just have the tables turn around to them sooner or later.
Alexandra last post is: Review and DIY: Garden of Wisdom Neroli and Rose Damascan Hydrosol.
Unfortunately, I have come across fake reviews because we know when a product was given, and how long it’ll take to test. So there are some who just received the products and yet wrote that they’ve tested the products for days…
Oh yes I agree with that too. Well, unless it was extremely bad to start with…
Paris B last post is: So in love with Diorblush Pink in Love Glowing Colour Powder Blush
This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard about PRs, and I’ve heard quite a fair share of stories. The PR(s) behind this client should be fired. Such a lowball tactic of discrediting their competitors.
It’s a huge insult to the client (assuming they don’t know), and to bloggers! I hope no other bloggers take it up. No amount of products is worth someone’s integrity.
WTF?? That is terrible and I really hope no beauty blogger out there will “sell out” to do such a disgusting thing!!!! My loyalty is to my readers and not to any brand!
Ling last post is: Remington Pro Ionic 2100
That’s horrible.. Thanks for sharing though! I trust every review I read online and it doesn’t get me thinking when they write really bad reviews. Simply because they probably have bought it with their own money, and to be furious.. they have all rights. But I always search for reviews from different sources and sites anyways ?
Yes, WTF…don’t get how these PR agencies work these days. Really NO standard. And it’s not a small agency…
I won’t be surprised the company endorsed it or maybe even suggest it! Some of these companies are shameless and they’ll pressure their agencies to be the same.
Thanks Alexandra…I’m okay now. ?
I appreciate your comments regarding my reviews…it’s important to be honest in our reviews but at the same time, also declare if the products were sent complimentary or bought. This will allow the readers to decide how much they want to trust the review too.
This is the first time I’ve come across requests to write bad reviews…and so blatantly. Yes, it makes me think twice too when someone bash a product…I mean the person can also lie about buying the products if she wants to.
Omg. Sesame I remember you tweeting about this but the email is even worse! Some people are ridiculous. They really think bloggers will do anything as sleazy as this, and for what? A free product?
Recently a really big brand asked me to join them for some big event they will be doing, over a span of a month, and asks that I not only take the time off to go down and attend all the events, but to film videos for them and blog about it about 5 different times. And they ended with, “we’ll give you some free products in the end”. So basically I will be doing free PR for them for a month, for a few freebies?! I was SO insulted that they think bloggers just do anything for free stuff, and reading this email you posted above just makes me so mad. What the hell do they think we are?!
Thanks so much for this post. I hope this PR agency reads it and feels ashamed.
That is really insulting, even as a writer, reviewer and/or blogger. Who do they think they are? Who do they think writers, reviewers and/or bloggers are? I am boiling with indignation! ?
I generally trust reviews written on blogs, but of course I don’t take everything they say completely. There are a lot of factors why one product is good/bad to them- no one is alike, after all. I prefer to personally try or check them out for myself even after reading reviews. I like reading other people’s opinions on the product, it’s ingredients, it’s availability and price and the like, but in the end it’s up to me to judge whether it’s good to -me- or not ?
That said though, you’re one of the handful of blogs I read ?
Stephanie/Yukaeshi last post is: What’s In My Bag Part Deux
mm.. i nv tot whether is it a truth or a fake review.
alot of time oso have to depend on the blogger/reviewer skin type or preference too.
it might work on the blogger/reviewer but might not be suitable for me. if the item review it good, i will go check it out before buying it too. To me the review is helping me to narrow down the product to look out. keke
Goodness… apart from the bad grammar, this is just ridiculous.
I have to say I reconsider buying something if I read many bad reviews about it (especially from people with my skintype), but reviews that are too enthusiastic put me off, too.
Just a few days ago, on makeupalley, I landed on this one girl’s site who had given almost every of her ~100 reviewed products 4 or 5 stars, with some saying nothing but “bought this, looks great” – that was the first time I made use of the “report this” button.
Julia last post is: Beauty Mishap: I said off with those blackheads, not the whole nose!
Sleazy…yeah, that’s a good choice of word to describe the PR strategy.
I can totally understand why you felt insulted about the requests you receive. I find that the companies here or the agencies here really have no idea how to engage the bloggers. They think we are some rubbish bin that they can do some dumping! Sure, they can invite you to their event but how you wish to cover the event is your discretion! Truly, why should we offer them free publicity at their terms? This is our blog and we call the shots!
Angry right? It’s like we have no standard and we have no brains or something. Haven’t they thought that we will be angry with their requests. If I were more nasty, I would publish the full name of the agency. In fact, I have a good idea who their client is based on the product they described.
And thanks Stephanie, for reading my blog. I really appreciate that. ?
Yes, agree. I think the reviews help to narrow our choices or give us a better idea but to rely on it totally maybe risky.
Makes you wonder what kind of PR personnel this is right…I mean they are supposed to be better in their writing skills.
But I’m surprised that the girl on makeupalley gave so many superficial reviews. I’ve always imagined that pple who take time to post their reviews there are more genuine…but of course, there could be ‘fakers’.
I’m beyond words. It is just so rude to send you this kind of request! Do they think you’ll agree to this offer? Oh come on.
That several companies are trying to use the beauty blogger community as a portal to promote their stuff for free is very cheap. That’s why I’m suspicious when it comes to sponsored products. Even more so when the blogger is part of a program and obviously doing a review after another that’s being sponsored. The “it’s 100% my honest opinion” part is also nice! Why is there a need to emphasize it’s your honest opinion? When reading a review I somewhat expect that it’s your honest opinion…
I’ve been a long term reader of your blog and I think you are professional enough to keep your blog going. ?
Lydia last post is: Alverde Rose Garden LE
That was dirty trick that played by Negative PR, it existed in business industry unfortunately. Really ugly and unethical.
BT last post is: Neogence C+ Multi-Whitening Mask
How shameless of them. It just goes to show that there really are people out there who would do anything to bash the competition.
I tend to read blogs that are very popular and are run by people of integrity. Sometimes I do come across a blog or Youtuber who is clearly in it for the money. There is one Youtuber who always gives a positive review to any free samples she gets. I hardly ever see anything she buys with her own money. It’s as if she doesn’t want to give free publicity to a company that didn’t pay for her cosmetics.
Chris last post is: The Toolbox: Revlon Eyelash Curler
Basically, I trust what I read because I normally only follow those blogs that I do not think are talking rubbish.
There are definitely those that I find superficial/childish, etc, which I dump upon reading a handful of posts.
Jyoan last post is: Esmeria Wrinkle Repair Eye Serum
Oh wow, is this for real? Pretty dirty, huh? I knew that car reviews worked this way too, so I should have figured out that even beauty product are reviewed similar too. I am not happy, we, consumers are treated like idiots.
Nella last post is: Zahnprothese Ungarn
Car reviews work like this? Woah…I never knew. So these reviewers get paid in kind…with a car too? Hmm…
Yeah, there are increasingly lots of blogs set up just to get freebies…we probably can smell them from a mile.
Oh…I guess there are some bloggers who feel that it won’t be worth their time to review products if they’re not given free. It is okay but they ought to be honest in their assessments.
True…just that I was surprised that a reputable agency will resort to such dirty tricks. And then indignant that they should approach me. ?
Hi Sesame, I trust you. I’ve tried and liked some of the products you recommend. Not sure about other beauty blog but I can relate with you ?
Maddysmum last post is: Going Private
Shocking isn’t it? I was like you…beyond words. And the tone of the message seems to suggest that it’s kind of a ‘norm’. There is no sense of embarrassment at all. And the funniest is they think they can get this done with a few freebies.
And thanks for your comment re my blog. I try not to review so many sponsored products. I am very selective and increasingly, I feel that the best way is to get someone else to review because that would mean more transparency too.
Thanks for your trust Maddysum! ?
I’m very selective in reading beauty blogs. A lot go by the trends and have lots of misinformation too.
It’s so good to hear that your family is okay now. ?
May I know what eye cream you’re using right now?
I also think that they think we’re desperate for money or compensation or free products or whatever it is that they might offer, that we’ll agree to them. We’re obviously not that type of person to be angry and indignant over this PR gaffe. Let’s just hope that the PR company gets a wind of this and learn their lesson, if not, then they really deserve having their full name published :
You’re welcome Sesame. I do sincerely enjoy reading it, after all ?
Stephanie/Yukaeshi last post is: What’s In My Bag Part Deux
I tend to choose blogs and blog sites to believe and follow. We know how it is in the real world. We may also encounter it here.
I would say, let us all be cautious.
You’re right, it’s okay to review free products, but I noticed that some people ALWAYS give a postive review for freebies. I get the feeling they want the company to be pleased with them so that they can continue receiving freebies and possibly get paid to do sponsored reviews.
Aside from Viva Woman, the other blog I completely trust is Temptalia. Christine is honest. If a product doesn’t work, she’ll tell us it doesn’t work, whether it was free or she paid for it.
Chris last post is: NOTD: Experimenting with Revlon Grape Fizz and OPI Houston We Have a Purple
I have been reading customer reviews (MUA and the french beaute-test.com) and blogs (yours is actually the only one I check regularly) for many years now and I always cross-check opinions when possible – after all it’s my money I am spending and myself I use these products on! ?
Now, fake favourable “reviews” have been a norm in beauty magazines for ages, right? I don’t think I have ever read an unfavorable text for any large cosmetics company’s product. And we all know that more often than not, not only they are not as miraculous as advertised, but they also are not worth their money. That’s a reason “real consumer” reviews have been so popular and this is what these PR people are trying to take advantage of.
I fully understand your reaction and I do appreciate your “airing” this, but I have to think that these requests are so blant exactly because there are bloggers who fulfill them! So, many thanks for your integrity and honesty!! ?
Oh noâ€¦ That email is truly insulting and horrible!!! But to be honest, people/company with such low character also implies they do not have much confidence for their products as well! Let them bear their own consequences for their conduct!!
Your blog is my main beauty blog as I share the same skin type and culture with you ïŠ Though I would still do my research on other blogs and reviews, both in English and Mandarin websites, coz I know there are still individual differences effects of products (due to different places we live in, different lifestyles as well as dietâ€¦ etc). But your website has already provided so many useful information and good stuff!! So big thanks to all your effort :DD
Yup, agree…if they have more confidence in their products, they will know better than to do something like that.
And thanks Carrie, for coming by often. I appreciate that. You’re right that different cultures, weather, etc will make a difference in terms of what works and what don’t.
Yes, now that you mentioned, favorable reviews are the norm in magazines, also mainly cos they don’t test the products but rather just preview them. We have blogs that do such things too…
You think that there are bloggers who fulfill such requests? I would think for positive reviews but negative reviews too? But it is really possible and what a shame.
You’re right you know…that many bloggers are desperate to get into the good books of the companies / PR companies. That’s really a pity because we shouldn’t let them own us. This is also one reason I find it important to declare if the product is given becos sometimes subconsciously, we may write more favorably so it’s best to leave it to the readers to decide.
It’s very funny…maybe I should have been cheeky and suggested this to them – hey, how about I write an advertorial on the bad review? Haha…that would annoy them for sure!
I am using the Snowberry Beauty eye cream I reviewed last week in the night. Haven’t found one to use in the day yet and so relying on my oil for now.
The PR company has not been following your blog long enough to know your blogging personality perhaps. The performance of a product speaks for itself. No matter how good the reviews might be, it still depends on the consumers who use it. Just like SKII, heavily endorsed and advertised. But there are many out there who couldn’t use the range without breakouts despite many raving testamonials. I say we read more reviews from trustable bloggers to get a more general perception of whether a product might or might not work for us. And i say that if a product is so great in performance, then it will speak for itself and not having to resort to this underhand tactic. If the product is not so great, at least they can resort to better ways to improve the product. I’m sure their PR schools did not teach them this. End of the day, it’s the employee’s integrity.
I do trust bloggers generally but as an informed shopper, I will read a review, do my own research, gauge if the price point,brand and the ingredients are suitable for me before spending on skincare products.
But readers have to gauge if the blogger are doing an advertisement or really reviewing the product based on their own passion. ?
This amuses me:
“…to provide you a new competitorâ€™s product to try. We have heard some bad reviews recently about this new product.
Upon engaging you as our clientâ€™s ghostwriter, youâ€™ll be return in kind with our clientâ€™s product.”
As their ghostwriter, you will be compensated with what’s deemed as a “bad product” and then write a bad review. What kind of planet do they inhabit on?
Joyce September last post is: CLARINS Eye Quartet Mineral in Violet
I read quite a few beauty blogs, and I’ve never thought their reviews are fake. I believe we can smell it from faraway if anything is wrong.
Besides, I would do my own research before purchase. That PR person actually did a lousy job by approaching you like this. I doubt how much he/she really knows about PR.
Amanda last post is: Dabbling in Essential Oil to Treat Eye Wrinkles
I agree. I don’t understand why the PR pple want to put their personal reputation at stake. A good agency would have come up with a better strategy to counter the competition. I mean, let’s face it…competition is unavoidable.
Well, if I am writing an advertorial, I will state it in my post so all are clear. I think transparency is the best approach. That way, readers are in a better position to gauge the review.
You can simply call this monkey business. ?
I trust your reviews a lot ’cause I can see the effort you put in researching about a product and its ingredients before claiming it doesn’t work or otherwise. At the same time, I remind myself that my skin is different from yours so what may work for you might not work as well for me–I keep my expectations reasonable and realistic ?
And yeah, reading your insider stories about dealing with PR companies makes me trust you and your opinions even more.
But I’m not surprised at all that certain companies can resort to something as unethical as that. Even in forum communities, there are a lot of fake ravers and haters of certain products.
oh, what that PR company did was so low… and to answer your question, yes, i do trust the reviews i read. it never occurred to me that someone can do that! and i believe that beauty bloggers are the most honest and friendly people i know! but still, i do research because i know that not everything that works for someone will also work for me…..
Heh I remember being quite shocked when I saw your tweet, so it’s quite interesting to see exactly how the agency had stooped so low!
I trust your blog A LOT. Partly because I’ve been following you for a few years now, and I know you’re always very clear about whether you received the product as a free trial or if you bought it… and you’re always quite upfront if you didn’t like products for various aspects – without being mean. It’s helpful too that you do consider price points when you dish out your hearts!
It may be because of my faith that I disapprove of such tactics. However, it is up to the individual as they own their own blog. I hope no blogger takes up the offer from this PR firm though.
I don’t approve of this kind of tactic either…it’s no different from lying and in this case, the lie will harm others too.
Oh Chenyze, thanks for trusting my blog. ? I try to be careful as it always worry me when readers go out and purchase a product upon my review…I really don’t like the idea of pple wasting their money.
Yeah…better to do more research. Even for me, I always read reviews before buying. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. But at least if most are saying a makeup is too drying for example, then I’ll probably not buy it but I might still check it out for myself if testers are available.
Thanks EcoBeauty! Appreciate your trust. ?
Now that you talk about forums, it is true. I’ve seen some brands ‘advertising’ themselves in the guise of forumers. I’ve also had pple come to badmouth brands I review in the comment sections.
I have the same thoughts about the PR company not so much the person because she may have acted under instructions. But the grammar errors are a little questionable for someone in the industry…perhaps the agency isn’t as good as it used to be.
Definitely makes you wonder.
I usually trust reviews like yours because you don’t just say “this is good” or “this is bad”, but give real descriptions and reasons.
The girl on MUA – she posted a lot of reviews in a short time and they were all like “bought this, it will be my new HG!” (what’s with that word anyway?) and then bought the next thing a week later. Maybe she’s just really young, but reviews like that contribute to the overall rating of a product and I thought I’d better report them then. ?
Julia last post is: Beauty Mishap: I said off with those blackheads, not the whole nose!
She maybe young and just enjoy the thrill of seeing her reviews published. But yeah, it’s not effective because many pple would rely on the reviews there to purchase.
Hi, Sesame, I follow your blog regularly and trust your reviews. I also purchase some products you recommend. Thanks ! ?
Hmmm…this is not the first time I heard something similar to this. Honestly speaking though, I think I’m more prone to buying a product if someone blog reviewed it. However, I do tend to rely on multiple blog reviews not a single review. If there’s a product that catches my interest from a blogger I usually do research and read other reviews as well. I think it’s always to get a second opinion in terms of buying a product. I can’t see anyone buying a product relying on one review from one person.
You’ve come across bloggers who received requests to blog negatively? I hope it doesn’t become a norm.
Yes, good to do some research on the products rather than just relying on a single review. Forums are quite good for that actually.
Thanks Alice! I hope those products you’ve bought based on my recommendations have worked well for you.
Alamak!!! This type of PR… sian~
I think it’s kinda easy to tell whether they are being honest or not after reading afew of their “reviews” (becos lying takes alot of hardwork to keep it up!)
And I believe that passion and interests are somethings that cannot be cover or fake… unlike those who blog for the sake of blogging and getting stuff (shake head)
I like what you said – lying takes a lot of hard work to keep up. True! They would have to be persistent liars!
WOW, that would make my blood boil for sure. Instead of making sure they manufacture good product for healthy competition, they prefer to bash a competotor’s product to make them look worse. That’s definitely uncalled for. Low, low class. You can’t build your business and integrity on this kind of conduct. It’s amazing that these people actually have time (and/or money) to invest in this type of activity. Their energy is definitely misdirected.
Personally I can tell apart most of fake reviews. I generally trust reviews that say some good points as well as go over some points that can be improved. There is ALWAYS something good can be found in any product.
As for this case, I would contact the company they asked you for write badly about and report to them that such and such PR company peddling a scam about them. They deserve to know.
I have no idea what company it is because the PR company did not reveal. I’m just suspecting based on some information they’ve given but it cannot be confirmed. Just hope no one stooped to their level and played their game.
Facebook has also engaged a PR agency to pitch to bloggers and do a smear campaign on Google, in the advent of the release of Google+.
While I think what both Company X and Facebook did is wrong, Company X did worse because at least Facebook’s PR provided journalists with a news angle (regarding intrusion of privacy). This one? Hits a new low.
Now, it makes me really curious who company X is and which PR company it is. Disgraceful.
Oh that’s interesting! I have been reading headlines about Google+ and noticed how most of the write ups are negative…now I know. We really need to be discerning in what we read on the web. Okay, a hint to you about this company X….it is in the hair business and I saw the competitor’s products out on the shelves here. As for the PR agency, it’s Asia-Pacific based and quite reputable…at least at one point.
This narrows down a lot of option and I may actually know who it might be ?
Glad you said no. But just a curious question to you, and perhaps to your readers – would you have considered taking it up if they offered cold, hard cash instead? Say, $5000.
Kristen last post is: Pantene Beauty Roundtable at 1Altitude
The money is attractive but no, I cannot do something just for money because I’ll lose my self-respect. And I say this with confidence because I’ve had brands offer to pay me about 3k for advertorials and I rejected because I did not believe in promoting their brand. Also, if I were to accept this for money and got found out later, then the credibility and hard work I’ve put in to build this blog would go down the drain.