In Copenhagen last week, The Yes Men gave Dow Chemical a respite and instead turned its attention on the Canucks.
Press releases purporting to be from the Canadian contingent had been sent to journalists across the world announcing the country’s commitment to drastic reductions in greenhouse emissions. The cuts were surprising because they outstripped any previous pledges by the government. The statement was followed by a video of a Ugandan delegate congratulating Canada on its statesmanship.
If it all seemed too good to be true that is because it was. The press releases and video messages were in fact a stunt by The Yes Men, a group of pranksters.
How do The Yes Men succeed at what they do?
The Financial Times reports:
One problem many companies have in dealing with satirical pranks is that senior management often hide behind spokespeople, says Phil Hall, chairman of Phil Hall Associates, a PR consultancy, and former editor of the UK’s News of the World newspaper.
“A spokesperson is unremarkable, so when [an imposter] steps in, the public may well believe them. But if your brand is very strongly associated with a face – like Virgin and Richard Branson – you minimise this risk.” However, he says, if a company does get pranked, it must respond in some way, if only to make a statement: “If you leave a vacuum it will be filled with gossip.”
Mr Hall advises companies to rebut whatever has been said in an honest and straightforward way: “Tell the truth, then move on.”