A news report hits the Internet that your company, Liquid Awesome Ice Cubes, has gone on record saying their CEO is resigning. You’re naturally perplexed by this, as you never sent any such press release out, considering the CEO has no plans to leave anytime soon…
Congratulations, you’re the victim of a PR hoax.
Are They Real?
Awhile back, General Mills announced that President Obama was investigating their supply chain. Naturally this wasn’t true, and steps were made to remove the falsity from news sites. Unfortunately, since this is the Internet, that’s notoriously hard to do. Once word is out, it’s out. It’s a well known fact that people generally don’t read follow-ups, no matter how swiftly they’re released.
Investigations are currently under way as to how the fake press release was sent out. The problem has become so widespread newswires like PR Newswire (who handles General Mills’ releases) were forced to take steps to prevent them.
What’s the Harm?
The General Mills hoax might’ve just been that, some clown’s idea of a joke. The reason being is most of the fake press releases have been released during the day while stock trading is taking place. This causes the victim’s stock to drop so the perpetrator can make some money off the sudden plummet.
Needless to say, the potential damage to your company can vary from negligible to catastrophic. In late 2000, a phony press release stating that infrastructure solution company Emulex’s CEO was stepping down and they were under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Traders freaked and the company’s stock plummeted over 60% in roughly fifteen minutes. The initial windfall caused them roughly $2.2 billion.
Prevention & Rebuttal
Since the General Mills scandal, security measures have been amped to help curtail the growing problem. This benefits you as a concerned PR professional – make sure you use a reputable newswire and that you double check news stories that seem to come out of nowhere.
If you notice that you’re a victim of a hoax, it benefits you to act quickly like General Mills. As mentioned earlier, a lot of people don’t follow up on news stories, so getting the truth out might take a little more effort than the initial false press release took. If the story hit the back pages of the news, consider taking steps to get the story on the front pages.
However, take into consideration the scope of the situation. If the fake press release didn’t get much notice, don’t drum up more news for the scoundrel by broadcasting it all over the news. Issue a rebuttal but don’t make it a huge deal and the chances are the clouds will just blow over.
Have you ever been the victim of a fake press release?