Mar 30, 2012

Why We Say “No” to April Fool’s Prank Press Releases

What PR pranksters look like to professional media. Don't wind up being the fool this April 1st.

Every year about this time, my son starts plotting and planning for April 1. It would give him immense pleasure to pull a fast one on Mom just one time.  But — as much as I’d love to see that little grin on his face gloating as he utters those words “April Fool’s!” — it never works. Why?  Because I can see it a mile away.  Like me, my colleagues at PR Newswire anticipate April Fool’s pranksters too.   Each year, numerous “prank” press releases are submitted. And each year, after enjoying a laugh while reading them (some are really funny!) we have to say no to sending them out over the wire.

The fact is, the repercussions of distributing a false news announcement are far reaching and lasting, and can ultimately tarnish a public relations pro’s relationships with journalists and bloggers, and negatively impact brand reputations.

News releases distributed over PR Newswire are a trusted source material that journalists rely upon to write their stories.  The media that receive PR Newswire know that we vet sources.  In many cases, they act on the press releases they receive from us immediately, not finding it necessary to call the company issuing the news to verify its authenticity.

Once a release is distributed, it triggers a series of steps taken by the press covering the company, organization, industry or subject that the release is about.  Time is of the essence as today’s journalists produce content for traditional and social media channels.  All it takes is one phony news release to throw a wrench into this process…and make the journalists who worked on the story look, well, foolish.

Fictitious announcements waste the precious time of reporters desperately trying to meet their deadlines. Working in a non-stop news cycle of print, 24-hour broadcast and social media platforms like Twitter, a journalist’s name is forever attached to a bogus story. And a duped journalist never forgets.  After all, their own professional reputations suffer too.

So this April 1st, keep these facts in mind.  Save the funny stuff for a more forgiving audience, such as the small children in your life, and keep those media relationships and brand reputations you’ve worked so hard to cultivate intact.

Author Brett Simon is a national manager of media relations for PR Newswire.

Image courtesy of Flickr user  Foxtongue.

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