6 reasons to hold back prank press releases

Happy Wednesday! Great article written and published by Mary York Cox, account director at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations.  — Pete E Cento, Wild Cats Marketing, Inc.


With April Fools’ Day nearly here, many PR pros are secretly preparing clever tricks, but if you’re thinking about distributing a prank press release, you may want to reconsider.

Though these hoaxes are intended to be harmless, fooling reporters with an untrue press release can be extremely damaging to your reputation and create a host of problems.

Consider these factors:

  1. Journalists.

When you send a fake press release to a reporter, you’re putting his or her credibility on the line. Consider the flak Brian Williams received for exaggerating a story, resulting in a six-month suspension from “NBC Nightly News.” By providing reporters with completely false news, you jeopardize their careers and tarnish their reputation for reporting solid, credible stories. While a joke may seem totally obvious to you, it isn’t always readily apparent, particularly for someone who is stressed out and on deadline.

  1. Your reputation.

If the media reports your fake news as a legitimate story, your own reputation as a trusted source and your relationship with reporters could be damaged. Good luck getting a story placed again anytime soon.

  1. Wire distribution services.

Don’t forget about your reputation with wire distribution services. Many news outlets rely on these services, so companies like PRNewswire and Business Wire will not distribute press releases they believe to be fake because of the potential impact on their own reputation.

  1. Legal problems.

For publicly-traded companies, fake press releases are especially dangerous. Regulation Fair Disclosure rules mandate that all publicly-traded companies disclose “material” information to all investors at the same time because of its impact on markets. If those companies distribute fake news, they could be subject to criminal investigation on the grounds of misleading investors and failing to remain compliant.

  1. Customers.

Customers may also fail to see humor in a fake press release, which could be harmful to your brand. You could even lose customers permanently.

  1. Social media.

Your tiny hoax may quickly gain negative attention on Twitter and spread like wildfire. It could show up in Google search results for longer than you wanted, creating long-term problems. Remember, today’s stories live forever. Do you really want your April Fools’ prank living forever, especially if it goes awry?

If you’re getting an itch to prank someone Wednesday, it may be best to keep it to just friends and family.

At the very least, be careful with your April Fools’ hoaxes. Otherwise, you could be firing up your crisis communication team this week, too.

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Mary York Cox is an account director at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. Follow the agency on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog.