Yesterday I received a note with an attachment from one of my editors. The note let me know that a manufacturer was unhappy with a review. The attachment was the manufacturer's letter. The "funny" thing about the review was that it was 99% positive! The manufacturer was objecting to the "fact" that my praise of the component was not as effusive as the accolades heaped upon it by other previous reviews...
My first thought was, "Just because you were able to pull quotes from past reviews and use them, verbatim, in your advertising doesn't mean that ALL reviews are copy for your advertising." My second thought was, "Another amateur..."
In point of fact ads that rely on using reviews as their primary text are as common as dandruff. And if a manufacturer can't garner a positive review from some "reviewer" they have a marketing department suitable for firing. And, of course there's always the fallback to judicious editing, changing "remarkable in its awfulness," to "remarkable."
But that was not the issue here - the manufacturer really felt I had slighted his latest offering by not turning into a puddle of organic fluids after the first listen.
Now, for an exercise, let me try to see this from a manufacturer's view. First, for some context, this was a relatively new firm that had only been offering audiophile gear in the US for five years and have released fewer than a dozen products. Perhaps because all their past products had garnered not merely positive reviews, but raves, they had come to the erroneous conclusion that ALL reviews would always be raves, so one that was more down-to-earth came as something of a shock.
Now, the professional PR folk who are reading this are, by now, shaking their heads while smiling that half-smile of Deja-Vu. Most have seen this kind of manufacturer over-reaction multiple times and when they could, that attachment that I received was never sent. That was doing their job...
Of course, the manufacturer's letter contained all the standard reasons why someone would not be gobsmacked by his latest offering - less than ideal ancillary gear, lack of comparisons with far pricier gear, and finally the "lack of objectivity." What I find most egregious about this circular reasoning is that in the manufacturer's eyes anything less than cries of "Halleluiah" marks a review as not being objective enough.
I suppose if I were a less experienced reviewer I might be tempted, somewhere in the recesses of my reptilian brain, to take some of that letter to heart and become more effusive and more of an industry cheerleader for whom any new product introduction is a reason for celebration. But, I won't.
My position has been consistent over thirty+ years - the object of a review is to describe a product so that a reader can decide if it would be appropriate for them. Since no technology is perfect, you can hardly expect any product based on technology to be perfect, so a good part of my job is to find where and how a product might be less than ideal for some of my audience. In short, my job is to find faults or features that may not have universal appeal.
So, if a manufacturer can't accept the fact that their product is less than perfect and will not always receive raves, perhaps they shouldn't submit it for review...and they should certainly not bank on using reviews for the bulk of their advertising copy...and perhaps, just perhaps, they might want to read a few reviews from a reviewer before submitting their components to that reviewer so that they will have some reasonable expectations for a review.
Nah, that would be too easy...