In the age of Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle, it’s hard to imagine putting the brakes on even the smallest snippet of news. Journalists are paid to one-up each other. Breaking a story can make a career. So what’s a news embargo, and does it really work?
An embargoed press release is a way to give journalists time to understand a complicated and often deep body of material, such as a detailed study of incarceration statistics. Unless your work has an amazing summary or abstract, and clearly delineates how this is new material and the context in which it applies, embargoes can help a journalist get up to speed on the topic and write intelligently about it.
In theory, press embargoes reduce inaccuracy in the reporting of breaking stories by reducing the incentive for journalists to cut corners in hopes of scooping the competition. Usually, embargoes are only 24 hours in duration. That gives a journalist time to clear their deck of breaking news or other assignments and give your material the serious read it deserves.
Some news sources are better at it than others.
It’s true you run the risk of an outlet breaking the embargo and publishing early. But the greater risk is that your data won’t be properly understood before it is disseminated.
Your chief communications officer or public relations firm will have the best advice for how to manage an embargo. Don’t embargo a press release you are placing on Business Wire or PR Newswire. I advise clients to give embargoed information to the top reporters covering your industry. These journalists are consummate professionals, and will appreciate the extra time to do justice to their mission, and yours.
If an outlet breaks an embargo, don’t complain. Look at it this way: they thought your material was important enough that they wanted to have it out first. It may not be ideal, but it’s a validation of your work and research.
Susan Kostal is a legal marketing and media coach specializing in the Bay Area legal industry. Find more great content on Twitter @skostal.