Wednesday is the day of fake press releases. Companies spend a depressingly large amount of time finding a cute way to get attention for their clients by writing prank releases, in the hope that A) we business journalists fall for it, or B) we somehow decide this is such a creative, innovative company that we just need to write about it.
Please just go away.
At Entrepreneur, this year I made a rule. If a PR rep or company tries to pitch a prank to us, you are banned for life. That could be the PR rep’s life, the CMO’s life or the company’s life – I don’t really care. But you are now persona non grata. Pitch some other editor with a higher tolerance for bullshit. Our reporters’ carpal tunnel won’t be influence by your stupid idea.
First, we cover a lot of innovative, entrepreneurial companies. I personally believe entrepreneurship is the life’s blood of this country. The risk my audience takes in quitting a job, taking a crazy idea and making it into a tenuous business deserves nothing but wonder and respect.
Ninety percent of companies in this country fail, but we learn and profit from every chance taken. From failure come lessons and growth. Apple couldn’t be what it is today without Newton. To a capitalist like me, that journey from stumble to success is sacred. Companies exist to solve problems, not create them through fake releases.
We want to cover this journey. And we have a responsibility to our audience to cover it faithfully and truthfully. Thinking that you can have fun with this is just juvenile. It isn’t cute. It isn’t fun.
Second, it is theft. Good public relations firms charge a minimum of $15,000 a month as a retainer, and bill the numerical equivalent of a shitload of hours against that fee. The contract between a client and a PR firm rests on the idea that a company will pay a lot of money to get a guy like me to be interested enough to write a story that your client can then use as third-party validation with potential partners.
April Fools’ pranks don’t rise to that level. You are charging companies to execute a dumb, useless idea. Not only should you be ashamed, but you should give back your retainer. All of it.
So, to recap (and this isn’t my own April Fools’ prank), if you think the work our fine staff of journalists does every day should be honored by sending us something false, please go peddle this nonsense to our competitors. I don’t care if your silly app somehow cures tongue cancer, the fact you spent your client’s money and squandered our journalists’ time means we will be deaf to anything any client of your firm or any product your company plans to pitch.
You have been warned. Now go do some real work. Our team here certainly is.
Ray Hennessey is editorial director of Entrepreneur Media in New York.