Timing is Everything: Embargo or Exclusive

This article by Craig McGuire in PRWeek (log-in required) has been circulating around the office and we think it includes some good advice that both PR pros and their technology clients can use.  One thing is clear: the rules of embargoes have changed.  In an age where bloggers and online outlets dominate the tech landscape (evidenced by the fact that many IT trade publications have moved toward an online-only model), we find ourselves asking, is the tech sector still full of news suited for embargo treatment?

Whether your news warrants an embargo or not, a few simple rules apply: it’s important to be open, honest and set clear expectations BEFORE you release sensitive information to bloggers and journalists.  It’s not enough to simply promise an early press release of "product 2.0" to secure outstanding coverage, nor should it be. 

Craig offers these tips to consider before you write “embargo” on the top of a release (parentheses ours): 

  • Do offer different reporters exclusive access to different sources (agreed, see below)
  • Do leave an e-mail trail to cover yourself (done right, this shouldn’t be necessary)
  • Do contact observant reporters immediately if the embargo get blown to let them know (contact all reporters expecting embargoed news, it’s common courtesy)
  • Don’t assume a reporter will honor an embargo without agreeing to it
  • Don’t spring a complex announcement on a reporter without some lead time
  • Don’t abuse the privilege. Only use it for important announcements

Tech Crunch disagrees with Craig’s advice and recently declared the death of the embargo.  They’ve been burned by PR pros and this is their way of taking control, in a sense fighting back. As PR blogger Nick Ragone rumored on his blog last week, the Wall Street Journal has also taken a stand against embargoed announcements – showing (if that rumor holds true) that both print and online journalists are fed up with the abuse of the tech news embargo.

From where we sit, we realize the importance of breaking news, especially for online news outlets that feed themselves (and their advertisers) on clicks and page views.  That said, we like to encourage and influence in-depth reporting.  We applaud journalists that take the time to research a story, report from multiple angles and build a compelling dialogue.  We’re here to help them do just that.  Therfore, while we understand time doesn’t always allow for multiple interviews and angles on a storyline, we’d rather offer our journalist counterparts exclusive access to valuable resources than canned “launch 2.0” press releases under embargo until midnight.  

Where do you stand, embargo or exclusive?

- Contributed by Emily Buehrens