Ah, April Fool’s. I have to say I’m not a fan. In 9th grade, I was voted “most gullible” by my classmates, if that tells you anything about my April Fool’s history.
From a public relations perspective, pulling a prank on an audience – whether it’s your customers, the media or colleagues can be dangerous. The ones that work, in my opinion, are in good fun and have no victim.Year after year, organizations try jokes that just don’t work – they confuse, offend, humiliate or worse.
Today, the Eugene Emeralds, our local minor league baseball team, put out a release claiming that Jeremiah Masoli would be pitching for the Ems in the 2010 season.
I heard it this morning on the news as a real story and frankly, just didn’t give it much thought.
Throughout the day, though, I picked up through Twitter that the story was a hoax, a fake release.
I’m sure the PR folks who wrote the release thought it was funny. I’m sure that plenty of people thought it was funny… in concept. But the prank shows a lack of understanding of the media market in Eugene and the importance of relationships with editors and news directors.
The prank crossed the line into being questionable ethically when Ems management apparently lied when asked if it was an April Fool’s joke so that it would get “more play.” Yikes.
Broadcast news (and really any news media) is highly competitive. Each station is trying to get the best stories for their viewers/readers and hopefully it’s not the exact same story as the other outlets. Issuing a prank release with such high profile parties (such as the oft-in-the-news Masoli) preys on that need to get the story, get it fast and tell it right.
By preventing the station from doing its job, this kind of prank damages the sometimes fragile relationship with the news directors, assignment editors and reporters. And ultimately, that has the potential of preventing the PR manager from doing her job in the future.
Lying is never ok.
What do you think? Does local media just need to stop taking itself so seriously? Do I need to get a sense of humor?
See the coverage on the prank here:
Eugene Emeralds Lie About Masoli Playing for the Ems (KEZI)
Minor League Baseball Team Scams Local Media (KVAL)
Ems Admit Masoli Announcement Was an April Fool’s Joke (KMTR)
Emeralds Pull of April Fool’s Joke (Register-Guard, which of course was too smart to fall for it…)