Embargoes are generally more controversial than the stories they were designed to tell. They’re broken daily. Through errors by humans and machines, a post agreed to publish at 6:02 am but goes at 5:58 am.
But these errors, I can’t help but wonder if they’re the result of poor execution of if the embargo is inherently flawed. As PR practitioners, we want to have a way to get our news out to as many people as possible and having journalists who agree to them is a great way to do that. Plus they piss off journalists.
The challenges with embargoes are that some people like to break them, sometimes PR people screw them up and sometimes they’re not worth the effort. But what are they inherently flawed or are we as PR practitioners simply failing to do our jobs well?
In defense of the embargo
Timing can be everything in the public relations world. Our clients want to see the most results possible and depending on the scope and impact of the news item an embargo is a good way to go. The clients get to spend quality time with the reporter and go in depth into the news item.
When the embargo lifts, you can monitor the outreach easily and pull the coverage in a more efficient manner. But I think the great thing about embargoes is that they help keep the time line of an announcement intact. If news breaks before a Web site is ready or before an executive is ready to talk about it, the perception can quickly turn negative.
I think the best thing to do is go to your list of outlets and just ask them what they want. A simple concept that rarely gets acted upon. Talk to your influencer and know what he or she wants. That conversation, regardless of the outcome, will help you down the road.
So, how do you properly execute an embargo?
Plan. A proper plan makes all the difference in the world. Are you seeding exclusives? Are you looking for video? Radio? Print? How will you optimize for inbound interview requests? So many criteria can make or break an embargoed announcement.
Research. Executing a successful embargo partly depends on who is receiving the news. Have you worked with a particular reporter before? Does he/she have a reputation for breaking them? Making a tiered list of outlets that you wish to offer pre-briefs and embaroed news to is almost as important as the news you are sharing.
Have news. Not all press releases are created equally. Make sure the news you are trying to have released under embargo is actually newsworthy.
Communicate. Work with the writer. Make sure they have all of the information and materials they need in order to write the best post possible for their audience. That’s the key, making sure their audience is happy.
Monitor. Sometimes mistakes happen. Be ready for those mistakes. Post published early? Have the release ready for the wire and be ready to react.
As I said before, the embargo can be a valuable PR tool if utilized properly. What do you think? Let me know in the comments!