HERE in the “CityNews” newsroom it was a very exciting morning. Two media releases came in, both under embargo until midnight, that were going to make for red hot stories.
Strictly embargoed until 00.01 AEST 1 April 2014: In a unique and strictly limited offer, Groupon Australia is offering Australians the chance to meet the Royal Family during their forthcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Following a meeting between Groupon Australia CEO Alistair Venn and representatives of the Royal Family during a recent visit to London, Groupon Australia is offering six opportunities for members of the public to meet with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the nearest addition to the Royal Family, Prince George.
Fans of the Royal Family can enter a ballot at Groupon.com.au for their chance to meet the future King and Queen at particular points during their tour, subject to background and criminal history checks. The lucky ballot winners will be allowed a photo with the family, including little Prince George, as a keepsake of the experience.
It even came with a very convincing looking royal itinerary complete with Groupon greet and grips, including on the Canberra leg of the tour.
The royal family so hard up they’re pimping the heirs to the throne out to Groupon? In the newsroom our eyes popped. Important work was delayed as we spitballed how to play it. How much was a night with the Duchess going to be rented out for?
Still agog at this news a more local but no less seismic piece of news came in from Queanbeyan Council.
Also under embargo until midnight was the bombshell that David Campese Oval was to be renamed after his nephew Terry Campese.
David Campese tussles with Mark Webber to be the most well known product of Queanbeyan around the globe. Terry Campese, for all his talents, isn’t on the same plane as his uncle.
Yet the mayor was announcing Campo would have to turn out for the Queanbeyan Whites to reclaim his oval:
“Obviously, if David Campese is to come out and play a leading role in the Wallabies winning the World Cup, or better still help the Queanbeyan Whites to premiership glory, the name of this oval will again be up for debate. However, at the moment, Terry’s achievements far outweigh those of his uncle and I’m incredibly proud to be part of this significant community event.”
Around this time we were enquiring of Groupon’s award winning PR firm just how much money the Royal Family had been paid for their deal.
It’s not without precedent. The shelves of your local supermarket are full of products bearing the royal seal, declaring it to be “by royal appointment” and the use of that seal never comes cheap.
“Please call me” was the reply.
On calling your correspondent was chided for being a silly rabbit and told the whole thing was of course an April Fools stunt.
Now alerted that April Fools was starting early, and being conducted for cheap PR points rather than by news organisations as in the past, a call was made to Queanbeyan Council.
Yes, indeed, it was an April Fool. On March 31.
There are a number of reasons why media organisations have moved away from the practice of April Fools jokes in recent years.
No longer is the local paper servicing just their own locality with the newsprint wrapping fish and chips the next day.
Articles are published to websites where they sit forever as a potential trap to researchers in the future who deserve better than to have to check the date of the article to see if it’s garbage.
Articles published in Australia are a day early in the US. April Fools jokes from the other side of the dateline are a day late here.
Unless we want to have a whole week of garbage it’s something that, with some sadness, is seen as having had its day.
Into the breach bravely step the publicists.
A whole 72-hour window in which they can lie, and lie big, and write it off as a joke to anyone who sees through it.
Queanbeyan Council are just having a bit of fun, perhaps ill advisedly.
Groupon on the other hand are on to a winner any which way it plays.
If Kensington Palace kicks up a stink they win, if anyone falls for it they win, if the monarchists get their back up Groupon wins. The brand is grown any which way.
The world is awash with lies, and paid liars, and it’s hard to find the truth, especially because the most shocking stories are the most interesting ones.
We can hope the dark horde of public relations professionals will see reason and stop damaging trust in the wider community.
But it seems like a forlorn hope.
How many weeks of arrant nonsense can anyone take?