Guest post: A beginners guide to writing reviews

Helen writes reviews about everything from bathroom toy holders to coffee makers on her blog www.petitmom.co.uk and she also blogs at petiteladies.blogspot.com. Here, she shares her tips for getting in to the reviewing game.

Do you think you have a unique viewpoint and knowledge to write reviews, whether for products, services or entertainment? Have you seen other blogs and wondered how to start reviewing? Here are some tips and advice to help you begin.

Twitter
This was invaluable to me when I started out. You can find many companies on Twitter who are very friendly and some will even be more than happy to send you some of their products to review. If you want to ask over Twitter you should ask in a polite manner. Don’t just say “Got any stuff for me to review?” That makes you sound like a blagger, not a blogger. An example would be this tweet to Tommee Tippee, where I merely ask them if they were looking for reviews from mummy blogger (our kitchen is full of their products) and I got a response fairly quickly asking if we can speak over email.


This led to me being able to test and review their new Digital Monitor & Sensor Pad, which they read and emailed me to say they appreciated it. I keep a list of companies on Twitter which you may wish to look at and follow some of them. People I suggest to follow are:
@TommeeTippee_UK
@OrganixBrands
@LittleMeBaby
@MamasandPapas

Tip: Sometimes you will be asked to DM them an email address; however if they aren’t following you then you cannot do this. If you don’t want to say your email address out over Twitter, ask them for an email address you can contact. Most will either follow you and DM you with a contact address or will just reply with the email address for which you can then speak to their PR team.

Another bit of advice: Don’t simply put out a general tweet saying “I’m doing reviews”. It can look like a freebie-grab. A personal approach will get you a lot farther.

Resource Enquiry Websites
I started using these after I had done a few baby food reviews. I was amazed by the response I got, but I will warn you that you may end up with an inbox full of opportunities, not all of which will be of interest to your audience. Some may be not what you even asked for! I attract maternity clothes even if I ask for baby bath equipment. The Response Source website has worked really well for me. Many people have asked me about what they should put into “Media Outlet” and that is to click “Can’t find your media outlet on the auto-complete list?” and write in all your details in there.

Don’t forget to join the BMB “Working with Brands” group – you’ll find opportunities to work with brands and review products. You can also share you reviews and talk about reviewing issues in the Reviews and Recommendations group.

You can also use the products you get to run a competition or to giveaway prizes after you’ve reviewed it, as long as it’s in pristine condition.

Tip: Ask for a specific range of products. If you want to do reviews related to child safety, make sure you clearly state this. These could be car seats, baby-proofing kits or a safety gate. You also should consider your audience. What sort of age of children do they have, are they mostly full-time mums, mums-to-be or dads that read your blog? Get products that suit your audience’s interest.

IMPORTANT: Some companies may request for you to send the product back to them. Make sure you ask for a return address, payment or prepaid label for posting or arrangements for a courier to pick it up. Don’t forget to keep all the packaging and manuals.

Review for Other Blogs
If you are very new and are finding it hard to get interest from companies because you don’t have much traffic, you may want to consider reviewing products for someone else. Some bloggers get loads of interesting products they want to review but simply lack the time or the product’s age range doesn’t fit with their child’s age.

Approach sites that do a lot of reviews and offer to do it for free. Most of the time they will send you the product and put a link to your blog either on the review post or on the sidebar of their blog. Not only does this increase your exposure in the world of mummy blogging but it also gives you the chance to work on your writing skills as a reviewer.

Tip: Some sites may have a review “layout” and want you to keep to that. When I review a product, I do a full review that includes issues I may have with it, followed by a simple Pros and Cons list and then finally a score out of 10. Do check with the site and look at past reviews too.

And there you have it, folks! Now you are on your way to writing reviews for your readers to enjoy. Good luck and have fun testing products out!

— Helen Grounds blogs at www.petitmom.co.uk and petiteladies.blogspot.com

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About Jennifer Howze

Jennifer Howze is the Creative Director and co-founder of BritMums. She blogs about family travel at Jenography.net, tweets at @JHowze and Instagrams at @JHowze. Previously, she wrote the Alpha Mummy blog at The Times and as a journalist has contributed to The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, Budget Travel, CNN.com, Allure, SELF and Premiere, among others. She won The Maggie Award from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for a health article in Seventeen magazine.

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5 Responses to Guest post: A beginners guide to writing reviews

  1. Domestic goddesque 15 February 2011 at 12:33 #

    What a great post and some really useful advice. Thanks!

  2. Jennifer Howze 15 February 2011 at 17:27 #

    Thanks for the comment, goddesque!

  3. MumVersusKids 17 February 2011 at 10:31 #

    I always welcome reviews on my site (http://www.reallykidfriendly.com)! I have dozens of contacts who always offer toys/games/books/apps/shows etc to review, but I don’t have time to do everything myself so have to turn things down.
    I can’t afford to pay you for your reviews, but you might be able to negotiate a payment with the company on the basis of our traffic and the exposure they’ll get on Twitter etc. At the very least you should be able to keep the products you’ve reviewed.
    Similarly if you want a free day out or want to see a show, I can usually arrange for free “press passes” if you can guarantee you’ll write a decent, well researched article within a short time after your visit.

  4. alex 19 February 2011 at 19:51 #

    I find good SEO also makes a difference. If you have one or two reviews or articles that come directly after the sponsored results in google, then people are more likely to want you to review things.
    For example, if you google wii dance junior, my wife who writes http://beingamummy.co.uk comes above the likes of Tesco and HMV Online with her review!

  5. Mimchelle 16 January 2012 at 12:39 #

    Jennifer. Thanks for this post. Very useful for a newbie to learn these tricks. I’ve contacted the Response Source website but fear, like you say, I may not be top of their list as I really need to improve my traffic first. Therefore, like you suggest, I’ll see if some review sites need some help.