April Fool’s Etiquette: Who Did it Right?

April 1st is always a day filled with laughter, and caution, because of the inevitable pranks that are bound to be played on innocent, or not so innocent, parties.  This year’s April Fools’ Day was no exception.  Brands and businesses around the globe joined in on the jokes.

The phrase “If it’s on the Internet, it must be true” definitely isn’t the case on April Fools.  The Integrate Public Relations team thoroughly enjoyed reading about the different, light-hearted jokes companies played on their customers.  Buzzfeed’s Definitive Guide to Every April Fools’ Day Prank even made its way around the office email chain, and we definitely had some favorites.

With selfies on the rise, Metro News in England played a huge practical joke on selfie lovers. An article titled  “Appetite for Selfie-Destruction” went live on Metro’s website at 6 a.m. on April 1st.  The article claimed that selfies would soon be banned in Britain, which left selfie fanatics across England in an uproar.

As to be expected, Google was on top of the pranking game.  Google Maps unveiled a Pokemon Challenge where users would need to find all hidden Pokemon characters in various locations on Google Maps in order to complete the challenge successfully.  Additionally, Google gave a nod to photobombs when Google+ added the Auto Awesome Photobombs feature for its users to take advantage of.  Always wanted David Hasselhoff to photobomb your picture?  Now he can.

Large, global corporations weren’t the only ones participating in the pranks.  Our client, Goode Company, couldn’t resist playing a good April Fools’ joke on its beloved customers.  Goode made its social media followers’ hearts drop when it announced that, due to the rising price of pecans, it would temporarily discontinue the renowned Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie.

A PR professional’s job is to know and understand a client’s audience and how they will react to everything and anything the client receives attention for or the campaigns we execute on their behalf as their public relations team.  This holds true when it comes to April Fools’ jokes, as well. 

Not all companies’ audiences will be receptive to pranks, so it’s imperative to understand who they are talking to and to fully consider what kind of reaction the prank may evoke. If a company should decide to do a prank, it is part of the responsibility of the public relations team to make sure the prank is age-appropriate, family-friendly and remains in line with the voice of the brand.  Pulling a practical joke can be unpredictable.  Discussing how this joke could possibly backfire and how to handle it if it does will be a top priority for the PR team. 

If an April Fools joke does go haywire, it can be tricky to know how to respond. Do you, as a PR pro, ruin the joke for the rest of the audience, or do you tackle the backlash on an individual basis? If a customer was to misunderstand the prank, it is important to handle that incidence delicately. Through private or direct message, explain to that user that the joke was all in good fun in honor of April Fools Day, and that the joke will soon be revealed and things returned to normal.

From a PR standpoint, a perfectly executed prank engages the audience, generates genuine curiosity and buzz, and keeps people laughing. Generally speaking, they are also harmless and can be identified as a joke after a good laugh and further investigation.

All in all, we’d say that this year’s April Fools’ Day jokes went smoothly for most brands and companies.  For more thoughts and opinions from our PR experts follow us on Facebook and Twitter.