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When and How to Embargo News

By November 26, 2019 Industry Perspective

To embargo or not to embargo, that is the question. At least, that’s the question for your PR team.

If you’re working in the SaaS space, you’ve probably heard the term “embargoed news” thrown around at least a time or two. But, what does that actually mean and how can you leverage embargoes for the benefit of your business? Just like offering an exclusive, embargoes can have their pros and cons.

FAQ About Embargoes

What is an embargo?

An embargo is when media is asked to keep specific news under wraps until a certain date and time. Essentially, you’re offering early information on upcoming news in exchange for an agreement to keep it private until the agreed-upon date. Because of this, embargoes are often used around confidential information, such as an acquisition, funding or new product launch. An embargo isn’t an unsaid agreement, though. Your PR team should get explicit buy-in to the embargo from each media contact before sharing details.

When can I embargo my news?

You have the option of embargoing news if no information about the announcement is already publicly available. Because you’re essentially offering early information to a reporter in exchange for them not sharing it until the agreed-upon date, you can’t offer that information as “secret” if it can be found elsewhere. Is there a tweet out there or a conference presentation recording that mentions the news? Wipe “embargo” from your vocabulary.

What is the benefit of embargoing my news?

Embargoes provide two noteworthy benefits: 

  1. Embargoes give reporters more time: One of the biggest benefits to embargoing news is that your PR team can pitch media ahead of an announcement. This means you’re giving reporters extra time to develop their coverage by allowing wiggle room to ask follow-up questions and conduct interviews before the news goes live.
  2. Embargoes build relationships: Embargoes bring the benefit of fairness. When you give reporters the chance to share news at the same date and time, it means nobody is getting the “scoop,” therefore nobody is getting the short end of the stick. When reporters have a fair chance at getting their story out, it helps build your relationship with them further by eliminating the possibility of alienation when they see someone break the news ahead of them.

What is the drawback of embargoing my news?

Embargos present two potential downsides:

  1. Embargoes create the possibility of a news leak: There’s always the possibility an outlet will break your embargo, whether it be on purpose or on accident. That’s why it’s important to weigh the implications of news being leaked early. For example, you don’t want your employees finding out from a Google Alert that your company has been acquired. If a leak could have a catastrophic impact on your business or team, you may want to consider holding your proactive outreach until the day the news goes public.
  2. Embargoes open the door to annoying reporters if your news isn’t newsworthy: The biggest frustration media often voice when receiving an embargoed pitch is that their time is wasted with non-newsworthy embargoes. Embargoing news that isn’t newsworthy is like promising your friend a big juicy secret and then telling them what you packed for lunch. Sure, nobody else knows yet, but was it really worth the hype? Before you slap “EMBARGOED” on your outreach, consider whether the news is important enough to label as confidential.

If you’re working with a smart PR team, you should discuss embargoes with every announcement. You won’t always need to embargo your news, but it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of doing so. Want a real-life example of how embargoed news assisted a brand? Check out how it helped propel an acquisition by Google forward!

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About Lydia Beechler

As a director of accounts, Lydia leads strategic direction for her team and clients. With a knack for content creation and storytelling, she has secured coverage for her clients in outlets such as Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, HuffPost, CIO and more. When she's not at work, you'll likely find Lydia out for a morning run, or tearing up at anything involving a cute baby or grandparent.

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