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Don't be a PR (April) fool

Spring has sprung and we are now in April with a quarter of the year already behind us!

Although you would be forgiven in thinking it is still January with this chilly weather, you can’t have possibly missed all of the April Fools’ pranks that took over the internet earlier this week.

We have put together some of our favourite April Fools’ Day PR pranks for you (just in case you did actually miss them!), but we also come bearing a precautionary message too.

Our pick of PR pranks 2013
Virgin
announced that they had created another world-first with the introduction of the technology required to produce the world’s first glass-bottomed plane (if only this was true).
BMW announced its new pushchair fit for royalty. With its four wheel drive capabilities, air conditioned interior and ‘flag poles as standard’ the limited edition BMW P.R.A.M could have been just what Kate and Wills need when the baby arrives.
Hotels.com announced it was taking bookings to stay in a Buckingham Palace suite.
Daily Mail excited Harry Potter fans as it announced that an animal sanctuary has trained its owls to deliver post — just like the birds of Hogwarts.

Our favourite PR prank of all time
The best April Fools’ prank to date has to be the 2008 BBC announcement that they had discovered flying penguins.

In traditional nature documentary style, the video revealed a flock of unique penguins that could fly. The video was a promotional outlet for the BBC’s IPlayer – the video has had over 3.5 million views and had people talking for ages.

You can watch the video here.

Now, don’t get us wrong, we love a good prank in the Oxygen office – it is a way to turn heads, for brands to be softened and humanized and it raises awareness of your brand/product. But don’t get carried away in the excitement of the moment. Take heed of some things to consider before undertaking any sort of prank style PR campaign.

  • Unless it is groundbreaking, your PR story may get lost with the media saturation that sees every other company competing to attract media attention.
  • Don’t get too excited – of course you need to think outside the box to give a story impact, but think within the parameters of your key messaging
  • Don’t sacrifice your credibility, although amusing, the wrong PR campaign could do more bad than good
  • Journalists have a responsibility to report factual information. Don’t risk annoying your media contacts for the sake of one campaign.
  • The practice of bogus press releases has become so widespread that PR newswire is refusing to distribute them if they suspect they may not be real.
  • Be careful what you say – be wary that some people might think that the truth that has been bent is in fact real, this could annoy your faithful customers.
  • Consider if the story could be negative in any way to your business – if the answer is maybe, or yes, then don’t do it.
Katie Sanders :Katie took a sales background into marketing, and holds chartered marketer status with the Chartered Institute of Marketing. A devotee of PR she heads up our publicity team.