the joke’s on who, exactly?

I’m all for companies who issue releases that provide a little humour for the entertainment value on April Fool’s Day – as long as it is obvious and all good and all in fun. In fact, some organizations have been pretty clever this year…

Yesterday, LinkedIn listed under “People You May Know” the likes of Albert Einstein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood. Google was having a little fun too. If you typed “Helvetica” in the Google search box, your font would change to Comic Sans. They went as far to announce a new technological advance in its popular Gmail application, motion-controlled email.

Some companies went a little further (and over the top in my humble opinion).  Virgin announced its company founder Richard Branson had bought Pluto in order to reinstate it as a planet. Ikea released its ‘newest product’ via YouTube video: The Hundstol, or dog high chair, which confused consumers who asked about availability.

There’s a belief that all publicity is good publicity… but is it really?

I believe that ‘news’ should be exactly that… news. If companies want to gain a little publicity, why not take out an ad in local and national newspapers – support the media! Don’t dupe them into running a story that has more hype than fact. What happens if it backfires?

Animal Planet sent out a joke press release announcing a deal for the famous escaped Bronx Zoo cobra, which one news outlet reported as fact.  Another prime example:  This story was picked up by CTV, The Ottawa Citizen, The Toronto Star among others, leaving editors and producers less than impressed.  CTV reported the following reactions from editors: “Maybe they thought it was funny, but it’s not my brand of humour… I’m appalled that any agency would use credible news services to play a hoax on the public,” said Donald McCurdy, the Record’s managing editor. Peter Simpson, entertainment editor at the Citizen was equally unimpressed, “I don’t think it is a particularly funny joke… and it takes for granted the trusting relationship between the media outlet and the source…

Personally, I think April Fool’s Day releases can do more harm than good. It can ruin your credibility and future chances of media coverage. In today’s world of viral news, I think we should all think long and hard before we hit the “send button” on April Fools Day, and every other day of the year.

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