Coal giant (and some media outlets) fall victim to fake PR campaign

A press release and slick website said Peabody Energy launched an effort called ‘Coal Care’ to, in part, rebrand asthma as cool. It was a spoof.

Or that it’s touting a new website called Coal Cares, complete with kids games, an FAQ page that includes famous asthmatics, and a section on why coal is really better than wind power due to the “Chaos Theory” and “Butterfly Effect.”

Yep, even the big boys get spoofed. And in this case, it was a prank done in high fashion.

The slick site was touted to the media today with an official looking press release, complete with a “quote” from the Peabody CEO. Some media picked it up, hook line and sinker, with nary a call to check it out.

“Too many young Americans face daily schoolyard taunting and bullying because of a condition over which they have no control,” Gregory H. Boyce, chairman and chief executive officer of Peabody Energy, is quoted as saying in the mock release. “By re-branding the inhaler as a cool, individualized, must-have accessory, Coal Cares will empower children to tell bullies: ‘suck it up.'”

The release directed media to the site, which is much more than simply a landing page. More than 3,000 people had recommended the fake website on Facebook.

To read the full story, log in.
Become a Ragan Insider member to read this article and all other archived content.
Sign up today

Already a member? Log in here.
Learn more about Ragan Insider.