What Makes a Good April Fools’ Day PR Stunt?


Weslie Oeftering
What Makes a Good April Fools’ Day PR...

Whether you love it or hate it, April Fools’ Day is upon us once again. If you’re like anyone else, your social media is filled to the brim with chatter about the different April Fools’ PR stunts that brands are trying out. All of them are vying to make every publication’s list of the “Best 2019 April Fools PR Stunts.” Why? Because April Fools Day is a great way to generate buzz about your company – as long as you do it correctly!

The general outline of an April Fools’ Day PR stunt is advertising an obviously fake, quirky (but not offensive) idea. Like Google Play for Pets, an app for your tablet that keeps your beloved pets occupied while you’re away. It’s a great prank because it touches on something relatable, and strikes the right tone so no one over 12 years old thinks it is a real product.

Coffee-mate April Fools' PR StuntShowing potential customers that you are willing to look a little silly is a great way to build credibility. For example, any other day of the year, Coffee-mate’s “Coffee Flavored Creamer”  would have its competitors cheering. Why? Because it makes no sense. No one wants to buy something from a company that looks like it’s about to lose its marbles. Especially if that something is as sacred as coffee creamer. However, because it was April Fools’ Day, everyone knew it was tongue-in-cheek, so Coffee-mate looked much cooler than they did on March 31.

Auntie Anne's April Fools' Day PR StuntThe same thing is true of Auntie Anne’s 2017 April Fools PR stunt, where they unveiled their new Gen Z logo featuring a flower crown instead of the usual halo. Any other day of the year, this would be an example of Auntie Anne’s trying too hard to get teenagers back into shopping malls; But on April Fools’ Day, all it does is generate good buzz about the company.

Small Business April Fools’ PR Stunts

What’s more, it’s not just big companies like Auntie Anne’s and Coffee-mate that can benefit from April Fools’ Day. Small, local businesses can get in on the fun, too.

The general theme of April Fools’ Day PR stunts is advertising quirky or obviously fake (but not offensive) ideas. Like Google

A local bakery might make an Instagram post featuring their new “Dirt Flavored” cupcakes. The tagline might say, “made with locally sourced, organic dirt!” Similarly, a local hardware store might make a Facebook post that shows off their new line of “Gnome-Be-Gone Fertilizer” to help their “valued customers’ get rid of their very real and very pesky lawn gnomes.”

April Fools’ PR Gone Awry

As is the case with all pranks, it’s easy for April Fools’ Day PR stunts to go awry. For example, in 2017, Reddit’s “Place” prank was a social experiment that allowed users to place colored pixels in 5 to 20-minute intervals on a huge canvas. On the whole, the experiment was a success. Users worked together to create depictions of the Mona Lisa, van Gogh’s Starry Night, and lots of country flags. However, there were also flags from hate groups like the KKK and Neo-Nazis.

Almost two years later, Reddit is still thriving despite giving these hate groups a public platform to spew their vitriol. This is because Reddit is a giant company that has room to make mistakes. However, a smaller business might not fare as well.

To avoid mistakes like this, it’s important to keep in mind that the best April Fools PR stunts are victimless. That is, they don’t poke fun at anyone or give anyone else the opportunity to do so. If they are making fun of anyone, it’s a group that has not been historically marginalized or oppressed, like the obsessive dog parents that Google Play for Parents targets.

About Weslie Oeftering: Weslie is a student at The University of Texas at Austin and Swyft’s resident PR and marketing intern. She supports clients with social media, blogging, and tech PR activities. Swyft is a tech PR agency in Houston, Austin, Denver, and Antwerp that provides PR services and trade show PR support for tech companies around the world. Some of their services include media relations, content and inbound marketing, CPC campaigns, and marketing automation consulting.

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