03.25.2011 | Colleen Moffitt
With April Fools’ Day fast approaching, it is a good time to revisit the topic of fake news. While I look forward to Google’s annual tradition of announcing fake features and NPR’s trick segments, it is dangerous territory for PR professionals to disseminate fake news.
If not executed well, an April Fools’ Day stunt can ultimately damage your relationship with the media, your consumers and ultimately your brand. We recapped some April Fools’ Day announcements from years past in a 2009 post, “The Joke Press Release – Is it Appropriate for April Fools’ Day?” and offered some tips to consider if you are going to distribute fake news.
For a successful April Fools’ Day hoax note,
- Timing is critical: “April fool: AbleComm forgets what day it is, retracts Panasonic plasma cellphone release”
- Include some form of disclosure: As Rashmi Sinha, CEO, SlideShare recapped in her “Lessons learned from an April Fool’s prank,” it is important to ensure it is clear to readers/viewers that it is a joke.
- Be careful not to offend: April Fools Day joke goes awry with angry, confused readers
Here are some fun examples from 2010:
“Starbucks Listens to Customer Request for More Sizes” – Last year for April Fools’ Day Starbucks announced two new sizes – Plenta™ (128 fl oz) and Micra™ (2 fl oz) shown in the below photo.
“ProBlogger Acquired by Google” – Interestingly, the idea for this April Fools’ Day fake press release “started with a dream – a real dream where Google actually did buy ProBlogger for a new blogging platform for professional bloggers.” Blogger Darren Rowse recapped the ups and downs of the prank on a follow-up post. As you can see in Darren’s summary, some reporters thought the news was real.
“Today’s vowel outage” – On April 1, 2010, Gmail’s Engineering Director posted a notice for Gmail users stating that “all the vowels are missing. We realize this makes things difficult for all of you who rely on Gmail — whether at home or at work — and we’re incredibly sorry. We take morphological issues like this extremely seriously, so we want to let you all know what happened and what we’re doing about it.”
Later the following updates were posted to the Gmail blog:
“Update (7:30 am): We’ve determined that the letter ‘y’ is not impacted.
Update (3:02 pm): This issue has been resolved.
Update (12:01 am): Also, this issue never happened. Happy April 1st.”
“AceShot XR7000: The Smallest DSLR Camera Ever” – This April Fools’ Day fake product announcement duped at least one viewer for a short time as is stated in the comments, “Great April Fools Day joke. I thought this thing was a real product until you said it was 40lbs and doesn’t actually take pictures (just for those who like the action of taking photos). Hilarious. Guess I’m gonna have to stick with my large Nikon D90.”
What are some of your favorite April Fools’ Day hoaxes? Are you planning to distribute fake news this year?