There are some reporters who love the embargoed press release. It allows them time to research, write and complete their story without rushing around and have it published during the exact time that the news breaks. Others hate it, finding it either too controlling or see it has holding them back from breaking a story.
I have worked with reporters on both sides of the fence and have had a few different ‘freaking out’ moments when an embargo was broken. Often times an embargo has been broken by mistake when the dates got mixed up, but once in a while an embargo will be broken on purpose.
I recently had the this type of experience when a client’s embargo was broken on purpose 3 days ahead of the announcement date. The client was launching their product and has spoken with about ten different outlets, including many in-person visits. Before we had met with one of these outlets (a regional weekly paper) we were informed they would be breaking out embargo so the news could be a part of their print edition. Our response was in two parts:
1. Instead of breaking the news in the print edition (which doesn’t have a great circulation) why not publish an online video with a story, which will be much more viable and be seen by more people since it is online.
2. If the embargo is broken this local company will not speak with them for any type of news or announcement going forward.
The outlet decided that it was more important to be the first one with the news then to have a longer, more informed and viable story and broke our embargo three days early. The story was short (the only information they had was what was in our pitch and on the company’s Web site) and had very low visibility. The other stories that were published on the announcement date saw massive intrigue (even making it to the front page of Digg.com). Additionally, this newspaper has lost the opportunity to speak with this company going forward which will have very cool and exciting news in the near future.
Wade Roush, Chief Correspondent for Xconomy saysthat embargoes do provide value: “Embargoes keep life sane, if applied fairly,” he said via Twitter. “In other words, don’t embargo everyone else and then give TechCrunch an exclusive!”
I think it’s important to understand what the embargo offers to both parties. For companies, it’s an opportunity to speak with more then one media outlet and speak about their news in detail. For journalists, it presents an opportunity to have a complete and detailed story published when the news breaks, without rushing around at the last minute. Additionally, the company (and/or PR person) has a responsibility to enforce that embargo (in fairness to the reporters that are briefed).
What do you think of the embargo?