Planning an April Fools’ Day Spoof Announcement? Think it Through …

03.23.2012 | Colleen Moffitt

Every year we see both witty and wacky April Fools’ Day joke announcements and fake news. And among those spoof announcements, there are those that go over well among consumers and others that go sideways.  Before committing to an April Fools’ Day PR stunt consider how it could backfire. It’s all fun and games until you’ve irritated customers, are facing legal action, or have lost your job.

Last year, I offered some guidance in my post, Public Relations, April Fools’ Day, and Fake News, as well as some fun examples from 2010. And in 2009, we shared guidance on The Joke Press Release – Is it Appropriate for April Fools’ Day?

In summary, we offer the following three tips to consider when organizing an April Fools’ Day joke announcement:

Techie Buzz reported on an April Fools’ Day joke that one company launched in 2010 “a good week ahead of the actual occasion and in the process infuriated several customers.” As I stated above, timing is critical.

Offer a disclosure. Make it easy for your audience (e.g. media, customers, employees, readers, listeners etc.) to catch on that it is a joke. Last year, Papago Brewing in Arizona launched a promotion that a somewhat rare beer from Russian River Brewing was to be made available at Papago’s pub on April 1. Customers saw the announcement and came in for that specific beer only to be served a Papago beer instead.

Needless to say, customers became disgruntled and vented their frustration on Facebook, and an apology was posted the next day. For the full story and some of the Facebook posts check out Phoenix New Times, “Papago Brewing’s ‘Pliny On Tap’ April Fool’s Day Prank Backfires.”

Similarly, YouTube’s 2011 April Fools’ Day joke involved celebrating its 100th birthday and offering a 1911 button that as Gawker explained, creates “an old-timey version of your video, complete with a piano-roll soundtrack. This joke is not appropriate for all videos.” Some viewers were offended to see videos of the Japanese Tsunami or other tragic events paired with light-hearted music. As stated by Gawker, “YouTube apparently neglected to anticipate the extent to which a mock silent-film treatment is not at all funny when applied to videos showing sad and horrible things.”

Of course in addition to the above, you’ll want to make sure any joke announcement or promotion your company pursues is consistent with your organization’s brand and supports its objectives.

One of my favorite joke announcements of 2011 was Think Geeks’ PLAYMOBIL(TM) Apple Store Playset. Described by ThinkGeek as “… a tiny representation of the store which sells us all the shiny Apple goodies we can’t resist. Then we noticed that the PLAYMOBIL™ iStore includes amazingly tiny iPhones, Macbooks, and iPads.”

Do you have a joke announcement, blog post or stunt planned for April Fools’ Day this year? Or have an experience you can share regarding past April Fools’ Day jokes? We’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment with your story.


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