The grassroots organization US Uncut sought to attract attention to its cause.
What did it do?
The group enlisted the help of the Yes Men and issued a fake press
release claiming GE planned to repay $3.2 billion in tax breaks to the U.S. government. The Associated Press took the bait and published a story, which it later retracted.
US Uncut, a small group that seeks to pressure corporations to avoid tax loopholes, scored major headlines for the dupe—presumably more than if it had issued a press release with real news.
Meanwhile, GE shares fell 1.6 percent
from their preopen high.
So, what’s the lesson (beside the obvious one for the AP)?
Fake press releases score coverage. Not saying you should try it—one commenter
on PR Daily
suggested the practice is “de-valuing the … press release”—but here are four more than did the trick.
• U.S. Chamber of Commerce reverses position on climate change. Numerous media organizations, including The New York Times, reported that headline. Except it wasn’t true. The satirical duo the Yes Men issued the fake press release and major media organizations bit.
• Pro-Israel lobbying group calls for settlement freeze. Big news when ABC News’s Jake Tapper and NPR reported last year that AIPAC called for a full settlement freeze. The news originated not from the lobbying group, but instead a left-wing activist group called Code Pink.
• “The most amazing press release ever written.” PR pro Mitch Delaplane issued a press release to let the world know he had written the greatest release ever. Very meta—and very Onion-esque. We loved it. So did David Pogue of The New York Times. TechCrunch, The Huffington Post, and CNBC covered it. Many people in the industry thought it was hackneyed.
• Chevron launches ad campaign insisting, “Oil companies should clean up their messes.” This was a particularly deft move by the Yes Men in 2010, because the group preempted an actual ad campaign. Chevron’s actual campaign featured slogans like, “Oil companies need to get real.” A press release attributed to Chevron—but really produced by the Yes Men—instead featured this ad. The phony ad press release and ad campaign drew coverage from The New York Times and others.