Don’t be the Cleveland Browns: A rant

Hi there, fellow writers, freelancers and other visitors to my fine little corner of the internet!

I’m having a much better week. Thanks for asking!

I’m willing to take on a lot of different projects, big and small. Sometimes they seem a little tedious (but I have a little fun with each one), sometimes they’re “glamorous” and exciting and let me rub elbows with bigwigs.

bigwig man look at that hair

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

There’s one type of project I’ve seen clients ask for that annoys me: paid reviews. It happens. People pay for positive feedback for their products.

Advertising is one thing, but paid reviews is something different. With advertising, you know what you’re getting. You pay a professional (like, say, me) to make your product or service look awesome. With reviews, you expect more honest, frank discussion among actual users of the product or service. Online reviews show the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s good to have both advertising and reviews so consumers can weigh pros and cons the best they can before making a purchase.

When you mix the two, though, you’re not exactly going to come up with Reese Peanut Butter Cups, you know?

reeses cups

Not a paid advertisement. I just really like them.

When you buy reviews, you’re skewing what’s at least a partially honest, blunt and real-as-you-can-realistically-get-on-the-internet feedback from happy or angry customers. You could be hyping up your “killer” app and setting up your customers for a big letdown.

You know what that is? That’s being the Cleveland Browns. A lot of hype before the big launch, seems good at the beginning and then it goes belly up worse than you could have anticipated.

Artist depiction of me, circa any given football season.

Artist depiction of me, circa any given football season.

Even if your app or widget or whatever lives up to the hype, I consider bought reviews to be ill-gotten gains. You’re buying feedback, not earning it. If your product or service is great, your customers will let you know. If what you’re selling doesn’t gel with them, they’ll tell you. And it’s ok to get bad reviews. Dust yourself off, see what you can fix and go at it again.

As for freelancers considering picking up one of these jobs…well, I won’t sit here and tell you what to do. I get it. It’s quick cash, and I’ve done small, quick assignments for cash before.

I just know I personally wouldn’t feel great about reviewing a product or service I haven’t used. It’s feeding an unethical practice and isn’t going to look great on a resume. Aside from the paycheck and other factors, I think the value in a good freelance gig is being able to brag about it on your resume; writing paid reviews just doesn’t seem like it would look all that great.

Maybe I’m alone in thinking all this. What do you think?

– Adam

(Photo Credits:
Maribeth Joeright)



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