The Joke Press Release – Is it Appropriate for April Fools Day?

03.31.2009 | Colleen Moffitt

A few years ago one of our clients approached us about developing and distributing an April Fools Day “joke” press release. Clearly there are pros and cons to these types of announcements. A successful joke press release can garner significant attention and build dramatic awareness for a company. However, a joke release in poor taste can cause long-term damage to a brand or company image.

As we prepare for this year’s April Fools Day, we thought it might be worthwhile to share thoughts and perspectives we gathered from a few reporters on the appropriateness of the hoax announcement. Here is what we learned:

1. Reporters do have a sense of humor so they’re not totally opposed to the idea. However, they cautioned us that this type of release needs to be written in such away that there is no doubt that it is a joke. Clearly, if a reporter believes an announcement is legitimate news, and writes about it as such, his or her credibility could be damaged and this would be detrimental.

2. To ensure the announcement is not taken seriously, you might want the press release (or advisory) to include a statement (at the end) stating that it is a joke.

3. Timing is everything. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than this post on Engadget when a press release intended as an April Fools Day joke was distributed on April 3.

Finally, as with any announcement, a company should carefully consider the objectives of the “joke” announcement and the perceptions it will create. For instance, is it going to make light of an issue that deserves serious consideration? How will it make key partners feel? Will other target audiences find it funny or annoying?

Here are some April Fools Day announcements from years past.

Google’s “Gmail Custom Time” lets users send e-mails in the past. E-mail can be sent to appear as though it was sent 1 hour ago, 6 hours ago or another time in the past. E-mail show up in proper chronological order in the recipient’s inbox. Never miss important deadlines again.

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WestJet Introduces Sleeper Cabins, Airline is first to provide new service without need for cabin upgrades - The photos illustrates a WestJet guest snuggled in “new” sleeper cabin. Be careful when you open the overhead compartment, items my have shifted!

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Nestlé Announces Official Name Change for ButterfingerÆ Candy bar – We think the packaging says it all.

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Njection Hits Final Hurdle to Provide Real Time Tracking of Police Officers -Track police officers from your computer and by mobile phone. The press release clearly captures both the need and benefits of this compelling solution:

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“I feel a lot better with this announcement.” Jeffery Jarvis, 2nd time felon looking at his 3rd strike. “This information will be very helpful for me in my line of work. I am just upset that is has taken this long to get something like this started.”

Feel free to share your favorite hoax announcements with us by posting a comment.


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2 Comments

  1. Ken Woo says:

    Jennifer: In 20 years in mainstream media, my experience, April Fools Day or not, putting out a gag release is a very dangerous thing to do. There are too many deadlines, too many balls in the air and you never know who might misinterpret your joke.

    My advice, when in doubt, don’t. If you know a journalist real well, call them first and tell them to be on the lookout for the joke. Otherwise, there are more worthwhile pursuits.

  2. Ken – Thank you for sharing your perspective on this post. While I found some of the examples above entertaining, I agree there are high risks with the fake announcement.

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