Embargoes: Thing of the Past – or Important Part of Today’s PR Strategies?


Embargoes – providing reporters/journalists/writers with news/information or insider access prior to it being shared publicly – are a tactic that have been deployed by communications professionals for at least a century. In fact, they used to be timed to newspaper print deadlines.

Today, embargoes can be used to provide journalists with more time to understand, gather additional information and develop their stories. This way, stories can be written and ready to go live concurrently with the embargo being lifted. In today’s 24/7 news cycle, this extra time can be appreciated by journalists, as they can put a piece to bed and move on to the next – but sometimes it isn’t. Conversely, embargoes that require a reporter to sit on a story sometimes don’t mesh with today’s outlets.

Embargoes give companies the opportunity to attempt to control and shape coverage about them – and, well, this can sometimes be viewed as being controlling. Some journalists view embargoes as a means for PR folks to manipulate the news and exert too much control.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Embargoes are a tacit agreement between the parties that the news will not be published before a pre-set date and time. The key word in this sentence is agreement. That being said, even if both parties agree to the terms of an embargo, they can – of course – still be broken. Humans being what they are, misunderstandings, confused time zones etc. – you should be prepared for any scenario. Rule of thumb: If the information/news you are putting under embargo simply cannot for any reason be published before it hits the wire and is made public – don’t offer it up under embargo.

Don’t be That Guy/Gal

Everyone knows the story of the boy that cried wolf. Don’t do that. Be strategic. Every news release should not be under embargo. And never (never) blast out an embargo to a large media list. An embargo is a tactic reserved for your top targets for that particular story. Situationally speaking, if you have important, hard news to announce, that may be a great time to use an embargo.

To Answer the Question…

So, the takeaway on whether to use embargoes or not is…it depends. The best use of embargoes is sparingly and with solid knowledge on the style and preferences of the journalist. Past interactions and relationships are important here.

Importantly, there are several other tactics that can be deployed to get extra attention on your news – without using embargoes. Stay tuned, as we’ll take a look at some of these strategies in an upcoming post.

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