April Fools’ Day: rethinking your “joke” news release

It’s that time of year when CNW channels its inner curmudgeon and cautions its customers against issuing prank news releases on April Fools’ Day. We do this for a few important reasons:

1. CNW isn’t funny  

Cision’s State of the Media Report found that news releases were the 3rd most valuable channel for journalists. CNW has a 57-year history of being a credible source of newsworthy content to news media. They trust that what we’re sending them is the official company record supplied by individuals verified to do so. We take this very seriously.

Depending on the nature of your business and the subtlety of your hoax, if the news release comes from us, some hardworking journalist could be fooled into covering it as truth. That journalist’s credibility will take a hit – and so will yours – and so will ours.  

Journalists are not interested in taking a credibility hit right now. Cision’s 2017 State of the Media Report also showed 91% of journalists believe that public trust in media has tanked year-over-year amidst a rising problem with fake news sites, claims of false reporting, and “alternative facts”.

From a reader’s perspective, spotting falsehoods isn’t always as easy as you might think. A Pew Research Center study conducted last month found that “made up” news has created “a great deal of confusion about basic facts of current events” for 64% of respondents.


2. Lots of other brands aren’t funny either  

We know that some brands are notorious for their cheekiness. We understand that this is their brand essence and that the journalists who cover them know this and look forward to the hijinks. Admittedly, some brands (and their ad agencies) are kind of hilarious.

It’s those other brands that we’re concerned about: those typically more serious or perhaps lesser known, or those whose offering is complex at the best of times, or those who lack strong relationships with journalists. It’s those brands who might pull off the hoax a little too well and receive coverage from a reporter who mistakes their news as truth.  


3. The Internet is forever

News releases issued by CNW are archived on our website, pushed out to other websites via our media partners, and are easily and often shared on social media. This means news releases issued on April 1 are loose on the internet and can be discovered on any given date in future by anyone searching online. Perhaps it will be discovered by a potential customer who doesn’t know anything about your corporate culture, or perhaps by a journalist investigating during a crisis or another unfunny time. 


Our compromise

To satisfy clients who insist on issuing pranks on the newswire while also endeavoring to protect journalistic integrity, CNW will issue joke news releases on April 1, with fair warning inserted at the beginning of the headline, as follows:


English — April 1 Alert: [news release headline]

French — Alerte - 1er avril: [news release headline]


The placement ensures that anyone scanning headlines on newsroom editorial feeds won’t waste time reviewing news they can’t use. CNW will remind newsrooms of this policy by Media Advisory in the days leading up to April 1.


Please be clear with our News Centre team if you plan to issue a prank news release. Remember, we’re not that funny.

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