Press Embargoes: A Fast Way to a Long Headache

I admit that press embargoes aren’t my favorite thing — but they seem to be an ever-more important part of writing articles. Back in the day, businesses didn’t make as much of a press embargo, because no one could get an article out to readers fast enough to spoil a business’ surprise. But with circulation only a click away, companies are relying more and more on press embargoes to time when the media writes about them.

A company wanting the media to review their product before it actually launches will often ask reviewers to agree to a press embargo: nothing can be posted or printed about the product before the actual launch date. In order to get the story, writers have to go along with a press release — otherwise they don’t get any information until after the official announcement.

They irk me because I like to be in charge of my own schedule. I can see the benefit of press embargoes for both sides — they can get companies more coverage than exclusives and writers can get impressive access to sources during the embargo — I just get cranky.

If you’re writing about an embargoed topic, a few pieces of advice:

  • Take full advantage of it. The PR rep in charge of the embargo wants great stories about their product, timed perfectly. That means you can get all sorts of access that can turn a story into something impressive.
  • Follow up. Embargoed stories often turn up several places all at once. If you want to stand out of the crowd, one option is continuing your coverage and writing a follow up piece down the road — heck, you’ve already got contact information for someone who can get you another interview.
  • Look for a special slant. Another option to make your coverage stand out is to find a unique angle that no one else is using.

If you’re trying to get writers to cover an embargoed topic, a few more pieces of advice:

  • Be absolutely clear about the terms of the embargo. Nothing makes a writer less willing to follow up on a press release, embargoed or not, than confusing information.
  • Go to bat for writers. To get writers to agree to an embargo, you may have to provide more access to members of the company than you might otherwise. If someone protests back-to-back interviews, though, it’s up to you to explain the importance of providing writers with the information they request.
  • Follow up after the articles go live. Odds are pretty good that you’ll have a new product, another event or something else you want writers to cover, so keep in touch with them. Start by following up on the article and checking on how it has done.

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