Tactical Tailor

Ask SSD – “Should I Send Gear To This Blogger?”

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I regularly field questions from industry about being contacted by potential gear reviewers for product samples. Most often, they’re unsure of the validity of the site or person making the request. Often, the industry rep who contacts me for advice doesn’t have a lot of time or experience dealing with “media” and wants me give them a simple “yes” or “no” answer. Instead, I send them off with some homework in the form of several questions to ask of the potential reviewer and themselves. I thought it might be helpful to share them with you as well.

Some are bloggers, some are regulars on various forums and others are military/LE personnel. Some do this for a living, others post reviews due to an interest in weapons and gear while still others are just looking for a pile of “free stuff”. Most of the folks who contact you will think they have your best interest at heart, but let’s face it, it’s a jungle out there. The internet is awesome. It allowed me to create SSD without having to buy a print press and hire a huge staff of reporters, but it also allows for literally anyone to set up a website and start the hustle for free gear. The point of these questions isn’t to serve as a bar to entry for anyone. The next SSD might be out there somewhere and we want to encourage quality, not stifle it. Nor is the list all-inclusive, but it will certainly serve as a great baseline. Rather, this is a guide for those in industry who feel they are barraged by a stream of open hands and unsure of how to deal with them.

Who Are They?
You are assessing the whole person. Who they are, how they approach you, their deportment, online behavior, everything. It’s like a job interview. When they write about your products, by extension, they are representing you.

The very first thing any prospective reviewer should do, either via phone, email, or in person (at a trade show) is tell you who they are and where they publish. If not, they are probably full of it, or don’t have enough experience to be effective. Either way, steer clear.

If they do it in person, take a look at them. Are they wearing the Tactical Tuxedo? Covered in morale patches? In and of itself, that isn’t a disqualifier but it can certainly be entertaining (please send me a pic for a “tactical fashion police” post). Are they properly dressed for the occasion, clean, organized?

Ask them what qualifies them to write about your product. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you have to be satisfied with what they tell you. As a corollary, ensure they understand what your product is used for.

On a similar note, ask them about their day job. Some guys do this full time, so that one’s easy. If not, find out what else they are up to. Do they work for one of your competitors? Yes, those guys exist . Did they tell you about how they review gear and are also developing a few designs of their own? Or, better yet, working with other companies to test gear for them and develop products? All of those are flags to stay away. As gear reviewers and reporters we get access to a lot of behind the scenes info including trade secrets and developmental products. Only a hustler would put himself in a ethically questionable situation by asking to see your products while he serves as your competition.

What’s Their Demeanor?
Listen really hard to what they say and how they say it. Are they confident and professional or do they come off like a used car salesman?

Do they ask for money or ask you to purchase advertising in order to review your product? If so, RUN away from them and tell all of your friends to steer clear as well. Paid reviews are bad for business. Also, tell me so I can place them in my mental Rolodex of shame.

Did they offer to “test” your product? I am a retired Project Officer having served at the most exclusive of the five DoD Test and Evaluation Activities. I can tell you from experience, that testing requires use of the scientific method, a detailed test plan, and takes hundreds if not thousands of test samples and cycles. This equates to a great deal of time and money. Most of your products are already built to a spec so what good is a guy going to do by taking one of your products down to the local range and shooting a couple of magazines through it, or lighting a match to it, or dropping his barbell on it? Absolutely nothing. These “tests” are complete BS and generally make your product look bad since they are subjected to unrepeatable anomalous protocols and arbitrary standards that they weren’t built for. Leave testing to guys in lab coats. On the other hand, if a guy wants to do a demonstration or examine an aspect of your product, and you are comfortable with his plan, go for it. Just remember, you have to live with the results of what he does.

Instead, they should be talking about reviews which provide basic facts about the item’s physical properties as well as impressions on how it performs for that reviewer. You’ll notice we don’t do a lot of traditional reviews here in SSD because of the time they take. Instead, we concentrate on breaking news. But, we do provide impressions of items that we’ve had experience with.

Do they immediately start name dropping? While this isn’t necessarily bad, it is a trick often used to gain your confidence by associating themselves with others with better credentials.

Do they try to win your confidence by telling you all about what your competition is up to? If so, they’ll probably do the same to you once they are off to the next guy.

Do they speak like they understand that the product sample they are asking for isn’t really free and affects your bottom line?

Many small companies are owned by former military personnel. They aren’t used to the business world or dealing with professional BS artists. The more selectively manned the unit someone belonged to in the military, the more susceptible they are to being bamboozled in the business world. At their unit the only people who had access to them were vetted and deemed trustworthy. Out here, it’s a dog eat dog world and those of questionable morals work hard to insert themselves into circles of trust (remember that comment in name dropping).

Where And How Often Do They Publish?
What’s their reach? Notice I didn’t say “ask how many readers they have.” Reach is a bit bigger than that. High readership numbers don’t necessarily equate to the right readers. Sure, ask to see their webstats. But what’s important is who they are reaching. This info has to be bounced off of your product and goals. If you make specialized communication devices, those 2 million air softers they reach every month probably aren’t going to help you much if your goal is to increase sales. On the other hand, if a guy is influential on a precision shooting forum of a few hundred members that include personnel from very specialized military and LE teams then sending your new scope to him might give you some excellent exposure.

Find out how long they’ve been at it. I published an article a day on SSD for a whole year before a layoff forced me to commercialize the site. If they started last month, it’s probably best to give them some time to develop their voice.

Is it a corporate or private website? Is it owned by a large conglomerate? If so, do the owners share your beliefs? Many in the gun business don’t want to associate with companies that are anti-2A. Check out who owns the site. If it’s a private guy, read the site. Is it full of anti-government stuff? If so, ask yourself if your government customers will want to do business with a company that rubs elbows with a site that refers to them as “Jack booted thugs”?

Military/LE Personnel
Sometimes you’ll be contacted by Government personnel seeking a sample. If it’s for work:

Is (s)he a military guy? Insist in a letter from first O5 in chain of command stating that the requestor is authorized to evaluate you product for use by his unit. If he’s legit, this won’t be a problem.

LE guys, same deal, make sure they are reviewing your product for possible agency use or if it’s just for their own, personal use.

After you’ve spoken with them, follow through with the info they’ve given you to verify their claims.

If they are using their duty position to get free stuff to post on a forum or write about on a blog, ask them a couple of questions about the ethics of using their uniform for free stuff and then go back to all of the questions above.

Alternatives to “Free Stuff’
In some cases you may want to offer a temporary loan sample that comes back to you after the review. In this case, you may want to secure more expensive items with a credit card number that will be charged if the item is not returned by the date agreed upon. Other times, perhaps a discounted purchase is the best course.

Use Your Network
There’s nothing wrong with vetting a website or writer. Ask friends at other companies if they’ve ever dealt with them and how it went.

Do Your Research
Independently check out their website/articles. Determine if they can actually write and convey information in a usable format.

Take a look at how they present information. Once again, do they understand your product and its use? Will they diminish the value of your brand by associating it with your competitors or what you consider inferior items?

Additionally, make sure they don’t end up associating you with something you don’t stand for. You don’t want to end up having your product on a site that conveys a different belief than yours. For example, a jihadist site, a tinfoil hat site or one that works to deny basic rights of others. Remember, the internet mobs are always ready to pounce.

Summary
Your product is valuable in many ways. In addition to its innate value, it has value to the potential reviewer. By providing a product for review, you validate that person’s status. By sharing a product with a reviewer, you associate yourself with them but keep in mind, that’s a two way street. Sometimes, you are getting the better end of the deal. Additionally, the article or review that is produced is a commodity as well. Information is the product for those in my line of work.

The ball is in your court. Whether or not you provide product samples to reviewers is up to you. Ultimately, we have to all rely on industry to police the plethora of websites, forums and blogs. The cream will always rise to the top but if you don’t provide samples to the unworthy, eventually, many of them will go away and the good sites will be all the easier to identify.

I know this sounds like a lot but it’s worth it. Seeding product samples to writers and reviewers can be a very high pay off endeavor; so long as you send them to the right folks. Conversely, it can be very expensive if you don’t see a return on your investment. Ask a few simple questions and follow up with a perusal of their other work. If they check out, go for it. If not, don’t be discouraged. Trust me, they’ll be another guy right behind them. A review from a reputable source can be very rewarding.

60 Responses to “Ask SSD – “Should I Send Gear To This Blogger?””

  1. Great article :)

    Our CEO did an article on Due Diligence for Public Security magazine (UK) back in 2006. It might be useful: http://www.intelligent-holdings.co.uk/public-security-magazine-2006.html

  2. Great article Eric. Semper Fi Steve-O

  3. Stan says:

    I’ve been in the firearms (retail sales/marketing not design or manufacturing) business on and off for about 15 years or so and this article is sound advise for any business not just tactical gear companies. This is the quality of reporting I started reading SSD for…

    Much better than some of the “It is those damn Marines fault or the internet readership is a mindless mob” stuff we have been getting lately.

  4. Ben says:

    This is a truly great piece to have published! Thank you!

  5. Here Here Eric

    I’m glad to see a lot of companies securing loans with credit cards now. One company I bought the product for a discount from and the other was happy with what I did and said keep it. To many fluff artists creating a blog just to write super positive reviews to get free stuff they have no clue about.

    Reviewing an item takes a good amount of time as you certainly know. I never put ads on my site just because I dislike them and my day job pays enough. My occasional article in magazines gives me a bit if extra money for gear. Hell even the shemaghs and patches I had made are either given away or sold with all proceeds going to Wounded Warrior
    Canada.

    I started because I was tired of people writing reviews on things they never actually used/ were corporate shills. I bought too much crap that failed in the field. I wanted to go out and write about the gear I liked and used.

    I hope the industry embraces this post fully.

  6. MRC says:

    Thanks Eric! Excellent article!

    You mean the E3 that contacts us isn’t the representative for the entire BNs gear purchases? It happens more often than people think.

    Mayflower

    • SSD says:

      I haven’t received a form letter asking for free gear recently but I used to get them once a week or so. All too often they were from guys claiming to be Senior NCOs.

  7. Adam says:

    Great article Eric!

  8. Wilhelm says:

    Nice Terminator reference.

  9. Anthony says:

    Nice article and good job defining the real problem. I have received a few free items over the years, but I have always returned to the company to purchase other items or given that item to someone else in need.

    One good friend (from a carefully selected unit) lived your exact scenario and was bamboozled by one of these industry leeches.

    This was well timed with SHOT coming up.

  10. Poppadelta says:

    Excellent article.. Spot on and very valuable for weeding out the gear heads who are simply stuffing the garage full.

    Did I miss the mention of the ” Movie prop guys who can get your stuff in the latest and greatest movies”. The group of 18-20 Yr old dudes running around with video cameras and morale patches that will gladly show your gear off for 4-5 samples..

    Well done as usual.

    • Matthew Kime says:

      That’s an entirely different article… potentially MUCH longer.

      This article is very quantifiable and very specific regarding what to look for. Whereas a “what to look for in a film industry scammer” article would read like a guide to lying better and probably make the companies’ media relations departments jobs more difficult.

      My company is fairly in-tune to this phenomenon, and many of the companies we deal with give us a quick call when they need to verify who does/does not have the authority to represent a major motion picture. http://www.imdb.com/company/co0281732

      Great Article SSD!

  11. Evan says:

    One thing that always raises a reviewer in my eyes is when their reviews include potential negatives. Every product out there is the result of a series of trade off choices made by the designer based on their priorities. Not everyone will have the same priorities. A good reviewer can illustrate what might be downsides for some people while keeping it in perspective. Good article Eric. The reminder that who reviews your gear is part of your branding is a good one.

  12. Dan Kidder says:

    As a professional gear reviewer for the largest free outdoor publication in the country, this is great advice. It makes it very difficult for us who are legitimate gear reviewers to get samples to review when knuckleheads are running around pushing their ten subscriber blogs. It makes manufacturers and reps nervous when you reach out to them. The nature of the beast is that we are so saturated with medi that not everyone is going to have heard of you. Make no mistake, I don’t need anymore gear. In fact if the company doesn’t want it back we often run giveaways for the gear reviewed. Also, I get contacted by hundreds of manufacturers each week wanting me to review their products, but we select focused reviews based upon market segment, hunting, archery, saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, hiking, camping, survival, etc. the best advice I can give is to be proactive and reach out to the publications you want reviewing your gear. Be patient as the publication may not be doing reviews on your segment at that time, but once we have your contact information we may be in touch later.

  13. Toby says:

    Eric, Like everyone here I concur. I as you know am a very small start up business with supporters and haters alike. I too post for an online site and do reviews myself of carefully selected products. I am constantly hit up to have testers but luckily as an 18 series I can test in combat myself or hand off to a team mate for a more objective opinion. The problem I am seeing first hand(and I know this is seen by all) is the lack of checks that can be truly made on the individual because of the ambiguousness of the internet. It is similar to that of challenging ones integrity online. Things could be resolved so much better face to face. Thank you gentle men for you input on this as it can be a real problem. Any one can make a claim online and it can be hard to rebuttal a claim or argument without being there in person oh having witnesses on hand at the time. Call me old fashion but I am a face to face kind of guy. I have had to at times when asking to test products for the site I post on, I had to email from my AKO account in order to validate that I am in fact a service member let alone an 18 series MOS. I always give the conditions of testing, allow photos to the donating company(or video if possible), and use of my name as I am now in the public eye. I always follow up and try my best to keep in contact with the the donating company. As with any AAR, I give sustains and improvements. In a show of good faith please feel free to drop by and see us face to face at Shot in booth #6409. We will be located with our manufacturer Adams Industries promoting his product and manufacturing capabilities. Our products will be on display to show his abilities and the quality he is known for producing. GOD bless all of you this holiday season and a happy new year.

  14. Raven 494 says:

    Refering to the original vendor request, is this a restricted item under export control or rather how would you verify it is staying in US of A? Just a thought.

  15. Doug Ralph says:

    We recently launched our first products this year and quickly learned a painful and expensive lesson. We had some high-profile “big names” roger up to test, review, and possibly promote our gear, so we were naturally excited to send them samples. Unfortunately, we sent stuff to more than 30 “industry professionals” who raised their hand and we only heard back from one. No emails to say thank you, no progress reports, no replies to follow-up attempts, nothing.
    So it isn’t just the guy you never heard of who should be vetted. I guess we were wrong to assume that reputation equalled integrity or decency.

    • Toby says:

      Doug,
      What company do you represent brother? Let me know if there is any thing we at Bad Company can do to help out. I hate to hear that brother. My very best.

      • Danke says:

        Just mouse over his name and you’ll see the link to his company.

        You left a subspecies off your list too SSD; the person who calls in an unreasonable problem (personal mistake, chewed up by a dog etc.) from out of the blue and demands resolution in their favor because they are an influential “tester/blogger/reviewer” & when you check this they’re either in an unrelated field or have nothing at all. They just plan to slander you on Facebook.

    • jbgleason says:

      Before you write off that gear, realize that it takes time to write up and publish a proper review. I write for a print publication and it can take up to a year from the time I submit an article until it reaches the newsstand. Online stuff is different obviously but as far as print goes, patience is the order of the day. I completely lose control once my article goes to the Editor and I try to let companies know this. I have had companies that expect constant contact from me in the interim and it just doesn’t work that way. I have stuff to do and I generally don’t speak to a manufacturer again until the article comes out. So don’t automatically assume your items went into a black hole.

      • SSD says:

        I agree with this statement.

      • Doug Ralph says:

        That’s a great point, JB. However, these individuals were very eager to stick their hand out but have yet to reciprocate. I was merely complaining about a lack of professional courtesies… but thank you for the advice, all the same. I appreciate it.

        • That’s pretty greasy. You should always keep in touch with the person or persons you are writing a review on. I can never give an exact timeline for my reviews but I always try to send a follow up email. Before the article hits the internet or print I always give the manufacturer a chance to read my article over to see if I made a factual error, or mis interpreted their intention.

          • jbgleason says:

            Why don’t you slow down on declaring me “greasy” since you don’t know me? Reread my post and realize that I am speaking to the specific area of professional writers and print media with national newsstand distribution. I am not referring to your blog site. Reviewing it shows that you have multiple writers and have put out one article since the end of September on a single product. At that rate, I could also afford to be in constant contact. Looking at the white board in my office, I have five articles in process at the moment representing a total of 27 vendors. My work load is a bit different than yours apparently. I have been working in the industry for years and, frankly, the plethora of “writers” that have sprung up in the recent past make my job hard every day. To declare that I should be in constant contact with every vendor without knowing my workload or business practices is dumb. The issue here isn’t contact or lack thereof. It is getting a clear understanding of both parties expectations before any “writers samples” are sent out. I made a valid point to address Doug’s concerns and he responded. Frankly, that should be the end of it. I don’t engage in keyboard battles and I don’t want to muddy up Eric’s site any more with this. Just take my original comment for what it said, that all may not be lost and that the follks he was dealing with might very well have his articles coming out. A lack of constant contact is not always an indication that the writer has absconded.

  16. Terry says:

    Unfortunately, we have stopped building/sending products for T.E/review. I have been pretty good at weeding out those who simply wanted some gear for their next airsoft war from the legitimate reviewers. BUT, even those perceived as legitimate can become an expensive proposition.
    A few months ago we were contacted by two respected reviewers/bloggers and quickly produced and shipped (2) complete chest rigs and a ruck pack. We have confirmation via email from both parties that the items were thoroughly tested and we have been briefed on the results. But neither party has posted a review as was originally discussed/expected.
    These were not agencies looking to test for future orders, these were individuals offering their services as a reviewer/blogger.
    With this happening on a more regular basis, we are no longer offering this type of arrangement.

    • Toby says:

      I can completely relate. As an 18 series I like to offer my services as a professional to businesses. It helps them get the testing they need and a true endorsement from a professional. On the flip side with our small business we are strapped and have to work very carefully to keep our product moving foreword. We are at a critical stage. Like I said earlier to Doug, if there is anything I can do to help let me know. This is a tuff industry with a lot of “measuring” going on. Lol. I just want to do good, solid, honest business and support fellow business owners like myself.

  17. Bushman says:

    Speaking of scientifically correct testing, I think, even if it’s almost impossible to get something professionally tested with no proper budget and all those things, it does not mean, that “evaluation” could be conducted without available scientific approach.

    In general meaning, “scientific” refers to several simple things:
    – having at least some plan, based on hypothesis (like “this piece of gear intended to work that way in given circumstances and we are going to check, if that’s right”) instead of “just to do something”;
    – the procedure should be developed in accordance to the purpose of product, because extreme abuse or off-purpose tests usually tell nothing useful about it;
    – ability to reproduce results, including detailed description of results, environment and procedure (someone, reading the article, should clearly understand, what’s happened, and to be able to replicate the process);
    – results should be reviewed and some analysis should published, result can be expressed as some fact or value (like “this piece of gear really works this way” or “its ability to do that is limited by that range of parameters”).
    These simple aspects making any review much more valuable, while if someone can’t do that – he does not worth your attention.

    And I suppose, I should say a couple of words to defend “descriptive articles”.
    Many companies have very limited visual descriptions of their products, while many customers making the first judgment by appearance (and not everybody like the “buy & return” method to get closer look).
    So, if someone (with good relevant auditory and demonstrable photographer skills) going to make a hundred quality photos of every stitch and button – it’s OK, you just have to make some secured agreement to get your product back in “just unpacked” condition. And ask him not to call it “test”.

  18. Richard says:

    Thank you for this Eric / SSD,

    As always well thought out, presented and very informative, even though I am in some ways the ‘target’ of said piece. I have taken on board a few of your comments / observations and I am also pleased to see that I had already incorporated a fair few of them long before I started down this path.

    Thank You.

  19. Will says:

    Eric,
    Excelent write up!

  20. oneoops31 says:

    One other point is Military or and Gov employee’s technically should never ask for anything specifically. If you are giving it to them to “Evaluate” with out return it falls under the Gift From A Prohibitted Source rules i.e. item value can not exceed $20 and total from one source can not exceed $50 in a year, also Gov employee’s are prohibited from specifically asking for anything. This does cause a problem coming from an N8 Requirements backround some times it helps to have a product to play with while develope your KPP’s to support further sustained procurement. The only way for a Mil/Gov unit to stay within the bounds of legality is get items loanded for a set evaluation period and then returned this keeps everyone out of hot water.

  21. I know of a large outfit that reviews for their website and a magazine or two who are paid by the manufacturer to review their stuff. I find that a super shitty practice.

  22. Another +1!

    Great article man. We have always been pro-small start-up guy, and have a few dozen part-time reviewers who have been honest in our dealings and followed through with their best efforts. However, we noticed that in the last 6-8 months the freebee crowd has grown out of proportion to our normal rate and are getting more ridiculous with their requests on gear [i.e. I have 17 followers and want your entire suite of gear to prove it’s Good-To-Go].

    Couple that with majorly out-of-hand industry partners/peers [your next article?], and shit hits the CFO’s RADAR pretty quickly –as in, doubling our very generous annual media buy through “review” and “T&E” samples. It’s ridiculous… Industry guys need to have a free-flow of gear between them to form alliances and sort out like-minded kinships, I get that. It’s important. But there are a few really lecherous folks out there who DO NOT reciprocate, and actually re-sell their booty for profit. Fuck that shit.

    Something had to be said, and thank you for saying it. Leeches need to be exposed, and non-relevant gear hoarders cut off. As an industry, we need to post and share abusers. It will only make all of us stronger, and shore up honest gear reviewers, such as yourself.

    Carry on honest bloggers, we need and value your work, it’s a new field, and industry will support the honest, but you need to expose and control your out-of-bounds cohorts and shun the abusers.

    Sorry for the rant, but it’s a timely article. FWIW, your new backpack is on the way Eric… :^)

  23. Red says:

    Great information Eric. I could have used it 3 years ago when I fell for scams like this as an eager new business owner. It will help a lot in the future. Thanks.

  24. 22F says:

    Outstanding article and great discussion with some great insights from industry in the comments!

    It’s a reflection of my experiences on the other side of the coin, as a reviewer approaching (and being approached by) gear companies.

    It’s been a hell of a learning experience for me, since I was a grunt/tech guy. Customer service was something all the pony-tail wearing, latte sipping marketing types did 😉

    For me, offering the company to return the item after review, telling them what sort of activities I’m going to be conducting, and an offer to see my draft of the review for correction before publishing has been one of the biggest learning points for me.

    For me, as an Aussie, in a really small market trying to crack the big-time and get semi-pro. It’s hard to ask companies for a small financial contribution or a donation of the equipment to cover such things as web hosting and net access to ISP’s. I’m still trying to work out the best way to approach that. Learning is occurring, but that is the whole idea of what I’m doing – learning the business side of the house.

    Once again, great discussion!

  25. Matt says:

    Eric,
    Very well done! In addition to providing a very thorough checklist for manufacturers, your article contains much of the content for a proper business plan that a consultant or blogger should have prepared on their own…you could probably charge for this!

  26. Roger says:

    The funny part is everyone thinks SSD is referring to someone else – look in the mirror.

    • 22F says:

      I’m not sure about that mate.
      I *know* I’ve sounded like a dodgy fan-boy at least some of the time, in this process of learning.
      Thinking back on it makes me wince and shake my head in embarrassment.
      But that’s part of the learning process.

      Depends on whether one has insight, and able to conduct critical analysis or not.

      • 22F says:

        Dammit, hit “Send” before proof-reading my comment. Old fumble fingers strikes again.

        I also meant to add that if I’ve had those moments, then I’m pretty sure I’m not an island, and that a great many others do as well.

  27. Scathsealgaire says:

    TLDR 😛
    He sounds legit. I advise you sell him the PPR.

  28. Mandingo says:

    It’d be nice if the NSSF would enforce the policy that registered press are only allowed to take photographs and video at SHOT.

    A couple of purported “inside” product “highlights from the convention floor” are pieces of the veil of legitimacy, and the cost of a legit press badge should be respected.

    It’s been said before, but worth repeating, if SHOT is a vacation for you than you’re missing the point and probably in the way.

    • Jesse says:

      I get your point, but there isn’t much if any cost to a legit press badge. Many that receive one take it seriously, but I can see how it could be just another Vegas vacation for others and may even try to leverage it for free stuff.

      • SSD says:

        The Press badge is free. I’d love to see a threshold test of reach for internet based media. They do this at DSEI and CES that I know of.

        • TV-PressPass says:

          I’d fully support a more rigorous Shot Show media badge. I’m not bothering with the media day shoot this year, for fear of the blogger hordes.

          • Mandingo says:

            At the range day / press day that I attended, the guys that were the tourists were identifiable by being the ones afraid to step up to the line and actually talk to anyone.

            I was going off memory and recalled seeing a $350/450ish media registration/badge, and harsh verbiage against taking photos of any kind without one. Maybe that has changed, SSD would know.

            • Jesse says:

              Never heard of that. I took photos freely with acknowledgement for the past 3 years at Range Day and the Show. There was only two booths where they politely didn’t want their product photographed. Maybe someone was pulling your leg or just being dicks.

              I heard quite a bit of media didn’t last long or show up at all for Range Day last year due to the wind and cold weather. It had to be miserable for those who had to just stand at a booth and not move around. Some didn’t prepare thinking they were going to the warm Nevada desert.

              • Mandingo says:

                It was legit, one of the choices on the NSSF / SHOT website, but apparently not so much anymore.

                I did notice that media registration was closed for the 2014 Shot Show, and knowing the good folks a NSSF they probably exercised some scrutiny.

  29. Exploriment says:

    I had to try to explain to someone who posted on a forum why none of the companies he had contacted to send him gear so he could review it, had gotten back to him. “You have a grand total of three reviews – which basically consist of “they look great and the fit and finish is awesome” – with no photos. Why would I waste my time and resources as a company on you? Buy gear, lots of gear, on your own dime, post informative reviews, take lots of photos – and then people might take you seriously.” He just reeked of “I want companies to send me free stuff.” If you are hoping to become the next Military Morons, realize that he spent a LOT of his own money on stuff, spent a good amount of money on professional camera gear, doing the reviews, writing up articles, taking and editing the photos and then posting and maintaining a website/blog – takes up a LOT of time.

    I have posted reviews of stuff – but I bought all of it with my own money. If someone contacted me, and wanted me to review something – I might consider it. With the full understanding that I am not about to fawn over your company or products, and blow smoke up anyone’s ass. If there are things I see as shortcomings – I will say as much.

    I post reviews partly because it is fun for me, but I also hope that by doing so I can share information with others. I know that for me, if I want something, the reviews of a blogger and what they have to say, good or bad, is often more valuable for me in forming a consensus of what to spend money on, than the article by a paid reviewer in a magazine who seem to love everything by everyone. Doing a review of something is hopefully contributing to the greater body of knowledge.

    The other thing is that I don’t write a review until I’ve used it for at least a year. I think you are doing a disservice to anyone reading it if you don’t really put something through its paces. One night in a sleeping bag, or a 5 KM hike in a new pair of shoes isn’t enough to form an honest opinion about them. A lot of problems (ie durability) don’t show up until it has been used and abused for a good long while. Too many reviews I see are little more than unboxings.

    The other thing I will add as someone who is a purchaser/user of gear, but who also designs/makes, and has a background in advertising/marketing, a lot of companies do a frankly terrible job of marketing their products. When I am interested in something, all I can often find is the generic 300 by 300 ¾ view, with some fluffy copywriter hype. No image of the back, no views inside the product, etc. This is where independent bloggers/reviewers are often a godsend. They go to the trouble to post photos from all angles, comparison shots next to known items, etc. I can’t be the only person who pays very little attention to what a manufacturer/retailer has to say, and seeks out the independent review. It may not be perfect, but the wealth of info they share, versus the dearth of info from the maker/seller, is often what swings me in favour of a product.

    Some may be a waste of time, but if you are incapable/unwilling to put out more info on your products, find some copacetic people to help you sell your own damn product. Or at the very least offer a different viewpoint.

    And while I’m not so concerned with whether someone thinks what I had to say/show about a product is great or terrible, nor am I angling for freebies from anyone – the amount of traffic I get to my site about certain items shows that I must be helping to answer questions/sell product. And I mean this about other people who post reviews of their own free will. Those images that show up in a Google image search, those reviews that show up when your potential customers look up info on your product – potentially help to inform and/or persuade purchasing decisions. If someone has gone to the effort (and make no mistake – a review is not a snap your fingers and its done effort – at the very least reach out to that person and say thanks. Send them a sticker. Send them a shirt. If you like what they had to say – and they purchased your product to do the review – offer to send them an upcoming product to review. If you are wondering who you should send something to to review – the person who spent a good chunk of time working on it – that person might well be the one to help you publicize/sell your stuff.

    • JC says:

      Can’t agree more, especially on the comment about terrible marketing work from manufacturers. A dozen wel-framed pictures have always gone a lone way towards my final decision on buying any piece of gear.

      Too many companies have gotten so big through .gov and .mil contracts that they didnt see the need to make an effort. That is likely to change as the drawdown kicks into high gear and conventional ops draw to a close in OEF. The smart will adapt and survive, and getting marketing unscrewed is one of the first steps.

  30. Mike Nomad says:

    Late to the party… Another echo of previous comments: Great OP and outstanding discussion. One of the things that makes the OP so great is that much of the criteria can be used by readers of said blogs to help weed out the wankery from the useful.

    About “the next SSD out there,” I dunno. I think this site is indeed 1/1.

    p.s. Don’t forget to change the spread on your copyright years at the bottom of the page.

  31. John P says:

    A day late, but I just wanted thank the OP and the all the others here for the great information. I have started my own company in the “tactical” market. I will take this information to heart. I also have also done gear reviews on equipment that I use for the training company that I teach with. I agree that ti is not easy to write a review on a piece of equipment. Once again thank you all for great info.

  32. John says:

    Wow, going back through SSD at lunch shows what I missed on vacation when unplugging for a week. This has to be one of the best articles of 2013. Two things I feel I should add from the scientific testing side:

    1. Don’t have unreasonable expectations of what your product will do, especially if you send it out for evaluation. I say this because it a. Doesn’t always show all the features (especially in scientific evaluation, generally very specific scope), and b. sometimes people believe in their product more than science. I understand pouring your soul into a product. The evaluator (as long as they’re moral and honorable), and especially the science, isn’t lying to you, so if you can’t find a flaw in the scientific method, you don’t have ground to stand on.

    2. Don’t get overaggressive, pushy, bitter if the tests doesn’t turn out the way you thought they will. More established companies generally don’t have issues, but I have noticed some newer companies joining an industry (even big ones) get this way after testing. This doesn’t reflect well on you or your product. Pleading and accusations aren’t going to get you anywhere, except into the”difficult manufacturers” file in our heads. We are impartial with the data, but that doesn’t mean you have a friend in the industry. It also doesn’t mean we’ll take your business in the future or recommend you as a client. That’s really just good business sense, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to be common. If you stop and listen, more than likely you might hear ideas as to what went wrong or didn’t work well and maybe ideas on how to fix it. Badmouthing your reviewer will get you nowhere, fast. If you follow the advice above to select a good reviewer you have to accept what they say. That said, if you can find something that got screwed up, please articulate it clearly, concisely, and with factual data. Tests are never perfect at capturing everything, and mistakes happen.

  33. Mohican says:

    Pure golden words, Eric!

    I guess you can’t rely on anybody asking for sample to write a T&E review in his Blog.

    The only reason I ask for T&E samples for our Blog (tirotactico.net) is I can’t afford getting them by myself.

  34. Chris Graham says:

    Great points in here- there is also a flipside to this coin. I receive approximately 10-20 product press releases a day as editor of The Counter Terrorist magazine. They range from ridiculous crap that causes a chuckle to think suckers are buying it to highly useful great new gadgets. The number of times I have sifted through this pile of emails only to find the occasional gem, reply to the PR rep sending it, and find out they are unwilling to send the item for review or can speak intelligently about it with an operator is mindblowing — why send editors, writers, bloggers, youtubers etc a press release for your 50$ widget and then elect not to send them one to evaluate when they express interest?????

  35. Riley says:

    This is an amazing article! Thanks so much for the insight. We have had a lot of these types of requests in the past and as a start up we wanted to get the products out there but saw little return at the beginning but as we started to select the more “legit” people to review our products it started to get much better.