Monday’s fake press release debacle redeems PR

A phony press release announcing a Google acquisition sparked a tech-reporting blitz. PR people and journalists alike can learn from the incident.

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On Monday morning, a press release appeared on PRWeb announcing Google’s $400 million acquisition of Rhode Island Wi-Fi hotspot provider ICOA. The announcement sparked two chain reactions: bloggers raced to “begin” reporting on the news with basic details from the release, and then, minutes later, they backpedaled.

Turns out, the press release was false.

Shortly after major media outlets such as the Associated Press and TechCrunch reported on the deal, employees questioned the story, while ICOA CEO George Strouthopoulos insisted to TechCrunch, “This is NOT TRUE!!”

At heart, it was a race to report the news first, followed by a perfect storm of finger pointing. And in a small way, it was redemption for PR people.

While we are usually the butt of jokes or scapegoats when businesses make news blunders, this time (or at least so far) it wasn’t a faulty agency or junior staffer that hit the wrong button or reached the wrong reporter. According to media reports, the blame falls on a stock promoter in Aruba.

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