The Hoax Press Release

The Hoax Press Release


Jessica Talmond

Press releases can be potent tools for businesses and non-profits to quickly get important messages to the public. Specialized press release services often handle this important job for busy clients, crafting and submitting expertly worded news stories for rapid syndication. A recent trend in the world of news media, however, is the hoax press release. Pranksters, frauds and saboteurs send news wires that are exaggerated, incorrect, inflammatory or outright ridiculous. Sometimes these hoaxers are attempting to generate publicity for their targets, while other times they are trying to tarnish their subjects public image.

One example of a successful fake press release was ironically titled The Most Amazing Press Release Ever Written. Public relations professional Mitch Delaplane issued this prank release; a comedic, 483-word treatise on why its own content was incredible. As writers usually do, he included a short description of his business along with his contact information at the end. Though many other PR experts reacted negatively to the joke, the general public loved it. Laypeople found it funny and businesspeople began contacting Delaplane in droves for his services.

However, most hoax press releases don t do much good for their target companies. For example, US Uncut – a grassroots movement against corporate tax evasion – issued a fake press release in General Electric s name. The release stated that GE would finally pay the roughly 3.8 billion dollars it reportedly owed in back taxes to the federal government. When executives from the company told media outlets that they had no such plans, the public outcry was enormous. The whole situation was a public relations disaster for GE.


Coca-cola has also been the target of phony press releases. In 2006, a prankster sent a mass email to news outlets which claimed that a boy in Brazil had died of a stomach explosion from ingesting the highly reactant combination of Diet Coke and Mentos. He even included pictures of people producing giant fizz bubbles with the products.

But when interviewed by news outlets, science teachers and other experts quickly dispelled the myth. In fact, to this day Coca Cola maintains a page on its website that explains why eating Mentos and drinking Diet Coke is not potentially fatal.

Certain companies have also been known to issue fraudulent releases for good PR. In 2000, Sony created the fictitious film critic David Manning to write good reviews of movies made by its subsidiary film company, Columbia Pictures. Manning wrote rave reviews for The Patriot, Vertical Limit, A Knight s Tale, The Animal, and The Hollow Man. When news of the hoax was made public, moviegoers were furious, and Sony s public image took a tremendous hit. The company spent 1.5 million dollars giving five dollar refunds to people who attended those movies after reading a Manning review.

Overall, the prevalence and potential damage of these pranks show why serious businesspeople should rely only on professional press release services to get their news to the media.

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