April Fools' Day: rethinking your "joke" news release

Editor's Note: this blog has been updated from March 2018.

It’s that time of year when Cision cautions its customers against issuing prank news releases on April Fools’ Day. Why?

1. Cision isn’t funny  

Cision’s Canadian Social Journalism Study found that news releases were the 3rdmost preferred channel for journalists. Cision distribution by Canada Newswire has a 58-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 joke, if the news release comes from us, a 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.

From a reader’s perspective, spotting falsehoods isn’t always as easy as you might think.  An RTDNA and Ipsos Global Public Affairs study conducted last year found that although 81 per cent of Canadians felt confident in their ability to identify legitimate and “fake news,” only 37 per cent could do so when put to the test.

2. Lots of other brands aren’t funny either   Some brands are funny. It is part of their brand essence and the journalists who cover them know this and are wise to the jokes.

It’s the 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. It’s those brands who might pull off the joke so well that a reporter mistakes their April 1 news as truth.

3. The Internet is forever

News releases issued by Cision 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 live far and wide on the internet and can be discovered on any time in future by anyone searching online -- perhaps by a potential customer who doesn’t know anything about your corporate culture, or by a journalist investigating during a crisis, or another unfunny time.

Our compromise

To satisfy clients who insist on issuing April 1 jokes on the newswire while also endeavoring to protect journalistic integrity, Cision will add fair warning to 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.

Please be upfront with our News Centre team if you plan to issue an April Fools’ Day news release

About Erienne Muldoon

Tim Griffin is Vice President, Products and Client Experience at Cision.

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