Embargoed press releases have long been a topic of controversy within the journalism industry. Journalists often view embargoes as delicate and risky, as breaking the agreed-upon release date can damage their professional reputation. Additionally, embargoes are sometimes used for news that may not actually be newsworthy. However, brands that choose to share news under embargo also face their own set of challenges.
After all, journalists might opt not to cover an embargoed story at all rather than sit on the news until later on when other outlets are likely to be publishing the same news. If a journalist gets impatient and breaks the news before it’s time, you might end up having to deal with a leak and rushing your internal processes to keep up with the story. Additionally, if one journalist jumps the gun and publishes the story ahead of time, this could ruin your relationship with all the other media outlets who waited, because they might assume you allowed certain outlets to share the story early.
Both journalists and public relations professionals will agree that knowing when and how to disseminate embargoed releases is critical. In this article, we’ll share insights and best practices from seasoned pros, both PR professionals from agencies and internal PR experts.
What is an embargoed release?
First, let’s define what we’re talking about. An embargoed press release is distributed to journalists ahead of the fixed publication date. It is widely utilized by public relations experts to give their media connections ample time to write a story before the news breaks. This can be extremely useful for both journalists and PR professionals. This tool is used by public relations professionals to inform journalists that the information they are sending must be kept confidential until the agreed-upon date and time. The purpose of informing a journalist ahead of time is to allow them adequate time to prepare their piece, conduct research, and interview sources.
Embargoes can also be helpful when sharing information with other parties, such as in joint ventures or mergers. By using embargoes, each side may be sure that information is disseminated by multiple media outlets simultaneously. This is important if you have an important piece of news and you need all these stories to break at the same time. Embargoes are especially useful in situations where you need to keep your competition in the dark for a while before your news breaks. When the news breaks, the surprise factor can give you an edge over the competition.
The truth and quality of stories are easily jeopardized in today’s media landscape that is dominated by immediacy and 24-hour news cycles. Allowing the press time to study and produce a decent article before the news is released is a smart idea.
Why journalists do not like embargoed releases
The main issue with embargoes is that certain public relations experts send out embargoed news to practically everyone who writes about their industry. When journalists receive an embargo, they promise not to break it (i.e., publish the news) until a certain time has passed. Many brands make the mistake of applying an embargo no matter how big, small, or new their news is. So, what happens when such a large number of people are privy to a secret? It will undoubtedly leak ahead of time.
Embargoes are controversial because they appear to most journalists to be arbitrary. In essence, they are only applicable until the stated publication date. When news breaks at one outlet first, it prevents all other outlets from covering the same story. Naturally, the first site to report the story receives all the best traffic, SEO juice, and backlinks. Journalists are also hesitant to cover news that has been embargoed once it’s been published because no one likes to be second. No journalist wants to follow a story that has already been published by another media outlet, especially if they don’t have anything new to add to it.
More on why embargoes are hard to work with
Additionally, embargoes can be annoying. For every pitch you submit, a journalist receives 100 more pitches. The news you’ve embargoed is no doubt important to you, otherwise, you wouldn’t embargo it in the first place. However, the launch of a new sandwich, a random speaker at an event, or a round of fundraising may not be particularly fascinating to a journalist and their audiences. Moreover, if the embargo is set for too long (anything longer than a week is too long), journalists will likely forget about it.
Nevertheless, embargoes can be extremely effective if used in the right way. If you use an embargo wisely, allowing a journalist more time to put together a strong story can be advantageous to both readers and brands.
How to use embargoes correctly:
Use them wisely
We’re not the type to declare embargoes dead. They are still very much alive, current, and valuable. However, it would be best if you only used them when you absolutely need to; otherwise, you run the risk of rubbing a journalist the wrong way. Consider a journalist’s time when choosing an embargoed story. Before you remove the embargo, send them a quick reminder, so they don’t forget about your news.
Making their jobs easier is the first step in improving our relationship with journalists. You can start by avoiding sending them hollow pitches and unnewsworthy stories. Make sure your story is creative and appealing enough for a journalist who wants to write a memorable story. You’ll eventually make a name for yourself if you consistently deliver quality pitches.
Pressfarm is a PR agency and journalist database service that works with individuals and brands of different sizes to create newsworthy content that can be distributed to media professionals and published on their own channels. By creating email pitches to developing engaging press releases, guest posts, and media kits, their PR professionals will make sure that your brand is telling a compelling story.
You can choose to do all of this on your own, but sometimes you save time and effort to hire PR professionals. By hiring the services of experts at Pressfarm, you can rest assured that you will get quality content for your brand. Finally, the PR specialists at Pressfarm have strategies in place to boost your online visibility, including submitting your brand to relevant startup directories.
Offer exclusivity instead
If you’re pitching sensitive news or are concerned about not getting enough attention, we recommend the exclusive approach. Offer your news to only one publication at a time. This provides the journalist with more control over the story while also allowing you to be the first and last person to speak about the subject. You’ll still get attention by pitching your story to fewer media sites. What’s more, you’ll gain media credibility in the process.
How to manage an embargoed press release
1) Introduce the embargo
When you first reach out to a journalist, inform them that you have important news to share before you’ve sent the embargoed press release. In this situation, only share a sneak peek or a portion of the narrative that you’re comfortable making public. At this point, don’t reveal the publication date unless the client specifically requests it.
An exclusive should not be confused with a press release that is embargoed. An exclusive is similar to a leak in that it is usually delivered to one or two reporters who will cover the news right away. Make it clear that the information provided is part of an embargoed press release and that media outlets are not permitted to publish it yet.
2) Put it in writing
If journalists or media outlets provide a vague response via email or orally agree to your embargo rules, don’t assume that this is a binding agreement. Media outlets may refuse to conform to your requirements after offering a vague agreement that you can’t use as evidence. Instead, request a simple yes or no response and ensure the exchange is legally binding through a formal agreement.
It’s worth noting that this step is entirely optional. Keep in mind that media outlets are not required to abide by your agreement by law. Journalists might still break the agreement, despite the risk of gaining a bad reputation. Nonetheless, this is an effective way to build trust.
3) Avoid sending the release too early
Dates are frequently liable to change when a major announcement is made, so you need to get the timing right for your embargoed press release. Ensure the scheduled release date is set in stone before sending your press release. If you issue an embargoed press release too soon, you provide room for leaks. In the event of a delay, a journalist who is eager to write a story may turn to competitors for comments on your news while they investigate and create their stories. This implies that the information shared with third parties may leak the information ahead of time.
Send your embargoed release out at least two to five days before the official announcement. This gives media outlets adequate time to develop and publish their stories. Remember that just because a journalist agrees to cover your story does not mean it will appear on their editorial calendar. After all, a cooperative journalist won’t want to hint at the story before the publication date you’ve agreed on. A media source may only report the story after the official publication date, depending on the quality of the news.
4) Include supportive content
A backgrounder, which provides more information about the company, announcement, products, or services, is usually delivered as part of a press release or media advisory. The sole difference between an embargoed press release and a regular press release is the release date. This implies you’ll have to adhere to standard press release writing rules, including the requirement for a backgrounder.
It’s a good idea to include a backgrounder with an embargoed press release. This is especially important if the news is about a new product or a change in leadership. Journalists can then build their stories around the information provided by your company rather than information obtained from third parties. There is less room for the information to escape too early with implementation.
5) Be selective
We touched on this in a previous section, but experts advise exercising caution when dealing with embargoes. This is because they can strain relationships with media outlets and freelance reporters. While a press release should include the essentials, don’t expose everything simultaneously. Instead, start with a portion of the story. This provides opportunities to see how your media contact handles the information.
Avoid sending your press release to many news organizations. The more media outlets you send your press release to, the more likely it is that your information will make public before its time. We recommend sending it to no more than five reputable news organizations.
6) Set up a management plan for leaked information
Let’s assume one publication breaks the embargo. All media outlets are likely to follow suit in an effort to get ahead of the story. You should be ready to cope with the aftermath of such a situation. This might mean moving the official launch date forward and getting your internal teams ready to act on the news ahead of time.
You should provide additional information to the media outlets that adhered to your embargo agreement. This could be in the form of exclusive images and videos, access to company executives, and statistics. Expert interviews are also examples of content that a media outlet would appreciate. This kind of material enables these media outlets to create content that stands out.
In case your news is published ahead of time, you need to send a press release out as soon as possible. This press release should inform all media outlets of the infraction. Some journalists may believe that the information was handed to other publications for speedy publication while they were told to wait. This could put even more strain on relationships and destroy the trust you’ve built. In this instance, we propose sending a release stating that your company did not authorize the early release.
7) Use press release distribution services
Many press release distribution companies offer media monitoring or news clipping services, allowing users to keep track of various media platforms, including traditional and online news. When you sign up, you will receive an email that will alert you to potential embargo violations. This gives you enough time to act quickly and prevent the leak. This is an excellent way of dealing with infractions and the propagation of incorrect information.
Embargoed releases are controversial in a world where news is constantly breaking daily. Journalists and other media professionals may not appreciate having to wait when they could stay ahead of the game with fresh news. Nevertheless, when used correctly, embargoed releases can have many benefits for both the journalist and the company involved.