When Pranks Go Wrong

Don't let one bad prankspoil your reputation.

Don’t let one bad prank
spoil your reputation.

A tale of two pranks — with very different outcomes.

April Fools’ Day pranks are often harmless and lighthearted. Sadly, sometimes well-intentioned companies get it wrong and end up hurting the very customers they live to serve.

Have you ever tried to set up a troika via email instead of immediately after a ProVisors meeting? How about asking for feedback in your client emails with five people CC’d?

Sound all too familiar? Gmail had a solution for your pain — Mic Drop.

Users could have the last word in a long string of emails. Everyone on the thread would receive a Despicable Me Minion donning a bejeweled crown and cape, dropping a microphone. End. Of. Story.

Cute idea, right?

But the result wasn’t. Some users got really upset after they inadvertently hit the new button and replied to clients, customers, potential new employers, and significant others. (We’re speculating on that last one, but there had to have been at least one couple that ended up in a fight over the silly GIF.)

Gmail apologized for this year’s prank, how it’d been resolved, and what they learned from it.

Gmail was fortunate because it has become such an integral part of most user’s lives that even if you got greatly upset, you most likely won’t switch your email provider (and all of the accounts that email is a username for.)

But not everyone is as fortunate.

A manager known for her pranks decided to prey on the firm’s new HR manager. She submitted the perfect resume for an opening at the firm. It was such an excellent resume that she got through several rounds of screening and was invited for an in-person interview.

Instead of ending the prank, the manager decided to kick it up a notch.

How would she hide her true identity? A Clark Kent approach wouldn’t cut it. Spiderman has good facial coverage, but it wasn’t Halloween. Despite not observing the religion, she decided a burqa was her best bet.

She went through the entire interview before taking off the burqa. Afterwards, they posed for happy photos, and everyone went back to business as usual. Until her computer got hacked. The photos were sent out to all of her contacts.

Customers dropped precipitously.

Next time you’re considering doing something you feel is clever or funny, stop to think: Will my actions seriously harm or offend others?

It could be the pause that saves your reputation.


“Because Reputation Is Your Most Valuable Asset”

Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.

You can reach Roger Gillott and Eden Gillott Bowe directly at 310-396-8696.

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For a deeper glimpse into our world, see our book on Amazon, “A Lawyer’s Guide to Crisis PR: Protecting Your Clients In & From the Media.”

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net


2 thoughts on “When Pranks Go Wrong

  1. I had never heard of Laker D’Angelo Russel until I read about him secretly taping and then publishing a teammate talking about cheating on his fiance. Anyone with any sense will never trust Russel, or anyone who acts like him, again. That was a supposed “prank.” Once you publicly betray friends, your reputation is shot. And in this digital age, you never get to “start over.” Your reputation follows you everywhere, always. Very nice article by you.

    • Thanks, George!

      Very much agree you. And you’re so quotable: “Once you publicly betray friends, your reputation is shot. And in this digital age, you never get to “start over.” Your reputation follows you everywhere, always.”

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