Tuesday 14 February 2012

Reviewing with Integrity from Wendy (New Bloggers Fortnight)

Today's guest writer is Wendy, she is someone I met quite early in her blogging journey and one of the people who joined in with the original new bloggers fortnight last year.  At that point Wendy had been blogging for just about 4 months, now it is more like 16 months but I have to say that I think her her as one of the old hands.  She is a super nice lady who blogs honestly and extremely regularly, I have no idea where she gets the time. But as I value her input I cheekily asked her to squeeze in this guets post for me.

I'm Wendy from Inside the Wendy House, forty something mum of five amazing children aged between 2 and 24.  I've been there and done that through every stage of parenting and I've lived to tell the tale with a smile on my face. I've been blogging since October 2010 and have loved every minute of the adventure. I enjoy reviewing products with my team of Tiny Testers, and writing about my thoughts and feelings on life Inside the Wendy House!

When I first began my blog back in October 2010, I had no expectations of what being a blogger would bring. I was aware of other bloggers out there who did a lot of reviewing, but I had no idea how they got involved in it, and never assumed it would be something that I would be a part of. However, very quickly I saw an opportunity to apply to become an ambassador for Graco. I thought I'd give it a go, so filled out my application form and was very excited to be picked as one of the lucky five people who would be given a Graco Symbio pushchair to try out. We had to promote the pushchair using social media and as someone who also enjoys entering creative competitions, I used those skills and enjoyed making fun videos, writing songs and poems and taking photos of the Symbio. I was chosen as the winner, and with the title of Graco Ambassador under my belt began my journey into reviewing. Since then I have become a John Crane Craniac, a Toys R Us Toyologist and a Quinny Caster through similar routes. As a stay at home mum, my blog helped me retain a sense of identity and working with brands gave me a sense of credibility and improved my self-confidence no end.

As my blog developed and my internet presence grew, I began to get approaches by PR companies and brands asking me if I would like to review products or services for them. I also saw companies asking for reviewers to contact them via Twitter or Facebook and contacted them directly. I was actually stunned by the way it all snowballed. With every review, I made sure I researched the product and company, wrote original copy and included photographs of the product in use and often included a video. It was time consuming, but I really enjoyed involving my children. I have hundreds of videos and photos of my 'Tiny Testers' playing with toys, helping me in the kitchen or enjoying a day out, thanks to reviewing. These are priceless mementos that have documented our life, and are a real bonus!

It was a real thrill receiving things through the post everyday. At first it was very difficult to say no to anything...it seemed rude not to accept an offer of a product! Consequently at times I was inundated with things and felt very bogged down. I always try to post a review within 2 weeks of receiving a product, so I put myself under a lot of pressure. Thankfully though, I learned to say no and realised that I was offering a valuable service to PR companies and could be choosier regarding who I worked with. I also realised that I didn't need to make a video for every single product I reviewed and consequently took some of the pressure off myself. However I still make sure that I write my own copy and include photos, after all, these reviews are going on my blog. I don't want it to be inundated with regurgitated press releases. I also try to keep a balance of review posts and personal posts.
I am very proud of the work that I have done. I love receiving positive feedback from brands regarding my reviews. I also think that blog reviews are a valuable resource for people Googling products before they make purchases, especially with expensive products such as nursery equipment. A real parent's honest opinion can be very influential!

Personally, I don't tend to make cold-call style approaches to companies myself (I'm a bit shy for that and am not good at being pushy!). I wait for opportunities to come to me. I have been incredibly lucky and have received loads of products including toys, pushchairs, clothing, food, kitchen equipment, cosmetics, toiletries, electrical goods and even a sofa! I've had lots of great family days out to zoos, theme parks and museums. I've enjoyed hotel stays, cookery courses and exhibitions. It is a real honour to be involved, but I do work very hard to ensure that I do a good job. Whether I'm reviewing a £600 pushchair or a £2.99 Valentine's Day card, I put in a lot of effort and make sure I 'do it with integrity'!

Thank you Wendy, I have every respect for you as a reviewer. You really do appear to do it with love and interest in each and every product and that was why I recommended you in my first BritMums roundup earlier this month.

So what do you think new bloggers - are you interested in reviewing products, hosting competitions and writing sponsored posts?  Yes, then do remember like Wendy says that it is hard work, an average review takes me anywhere between 45 minutes and 3 hours depending on the product and whether I am making a video or such.  Reviewing is not an easy way to get free goodies!

If you think it is for you then let me point you in the direction of some great resources -

BritMums roundup of all their recent posts about how to improve your blog.  This contains links to posts about how to write a review, creating a media kit, advice about working with brands and loads more.
The Tots100 blog is also a fabulous resource and recently they have had a series on blogging basics.
Then lastly you can check out the NetMums blog and their start a blog series.

Tomorrow, here on New Bloggers Fortnight, what have I got for you?  Well we have Emma from Mummy, Mummy, Mum (Isn't that an appropriate blog name?) talking about social media and how she uses it as part of her blogging journey.

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