There’s nothing like gearing up for a major announcement only to find that one of your reporters broke embargo. Unfortunately, it can be quite common in the public relations (PR) industry. To prevent these unfortunate instances from happening, we often times have to ask ourselves certain questions: How secure is a press embargo? Can we trust this particular reporter not to break the embargo? Are there steps to help ensure security? It’s up to us as PR professionals to consider these types of variables when strategizing media efforts.
First Off, What is a Press Embargo?
A news embargo or press embargo is a gentleman’s agreement between a reporter and a source to hold a specific piece of news confidential until a pre-established date and time or until certain conditions have been met. Typically, reporters know that if you’ve set a press embargo, you’re likely pitching the story to multiple journalists. If your embargo and the wire time for the press release are the same, the reporter who’s reviewing your news in advance is in competition with the wire service to be first with the news.
How to Prevent Reporters from Breaking Your Embargo
Establishing the date and time of your embargo and including that on all correspondences with media is key. Heather, a member of Pure’s media team, strongly suggests confirming time zones and specifying A.M. versus P.M. What does “tomorrow” mean? To reporters, this could mean 12:01am – give them a time frame for when they can post if an exact time is not available. What may seem like minor details can actually make all the difference in the world, she says.
In addition, ask the reporter for his/her agreement to the embargo before sharing the news verbally or via email. If given a verbal confirmation, it never hurts to follow up with the reporter to have the confirmation in writing as well. A good PR person never assumes that a reporter or blogger will agree to or follow an embargo. Lastly, be consistent in the embargo details you share with reporters. If you decide to allow someone to break the embargo early, think through the consequences to ensure that you’re giving priority to the journalists who are cooperating with you.
A Reporter’s Favorite Kind of Embargo
Who doesn’t like a good ol’ unsolicited e-mail from a PR person sending embargoed news without asking first if the reporter agrees to the embargo? Every reporter does. The best line of defense? Always confirm a solidified date/time that the reporter agrees to prior to sharing any announcement details.
If you follow these vital steps to ensure security for your clients, embargoes can be a great tool for generating media coverage. For the reporter, agreeing to an embargo allows them more time than their competitors to prepare a well thought-out story. For the client, it’s beneficial to be able to count on a reporter to develop that thought-out story and deliver it to audiences for a different perspective on their announcement. Ultimately, embargoed information can help a reporter craft a great story, and a great story is what drives increased news coverage.