April Fools Day is almost upon us. You can be forgiven if you hadn’t even thought about it yet. For most people it’s just a mildly diverting day of spotting pranks in amongst news articles and listening carefully to what your friends tell you in case they’re trying to trick you. For us at The Next Web, it’s become a day of inbox tedium thanks to a kind of PR pitch that has grown in popularity in the past few years.
April Fools in the media used to simply be restricted to one article in every newspaper and the occasional TV news prank. Now thanks to the Internet there are far more online news outlets and each and every one of them wants to get in on the April Fool game. That’s not all – the rise of easy online publishing tools means that everyone is a potential media outlet. That includes businesses, and those businesses want to fool us too.
Of course, there’s not much point putting together a joke video about launching your product on Mars or writing a hilarious blog post about how you’ll now be serving a daily meal to each of your server hosting customers (it’s a pun on the word ‘serve’ – geddit? HA!) if no-one notices. That’s why the past few years have seen a rise in the following type of email hitting our inboxes at TNW during the final week of March:
Dear The Next Web,
Here at Nondescript Startup That You Wouldn’t Write About Normally Because We’re Boring (TM) we’re going to be running a hilarious April Fools video on our website.
If you’d like to write about it, we can give you advance access as long as you promise not to publish your post until noon on April 1st.
Is it just us, or does this kind of thing take the fun out of April Fools Day? We love hunting down whatever crazy pranks Google has up its sleeve (if recent years are anything to go by, it’ll have a lot – unless Larry Page has done a Spring Cleaning on fun), and who knows, when tomorrow rolls around (Easter Monday too, no less, so it will probably be a slow news day) we may well share funny April Fools pranks we find from all sorts of companies. But ‘find’ is the key word in that sentence.
An April Fools joke should be something for people to discover, find funny and share. If you’re pre-briefing the media so that they’re in on it, it just becomes a depressingly tedious publicity stunt.
Treat your audience with some respect. If they’re the kind of people who engage with you anyway, they’re find and share your joke. If you have to scream for attention about it, you’re just wasting your time.
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