PR Embargo: Dead or Alive? Or, Does it Matter?

Death to PR Embargo

In a recent post by Tech Crunch titled, “The Last has Fallen: The Embargo is Dead,” the tech publication announced that it is killing one of the most sacrosanct of journalism practices — the honoring of PR embargoes. And it’s not just Tech Crunch; it’s other high-profile publications like the Wall Street Journal. This comes after several publications have broken with the tradition of honoring the embargo and have published news prior to the set date/time.

According to Bay Newser, the reason why more publications are not upholding PR embargoes is PR agencies. As they face mounting pressures to show ROI, they’re spamming every news outlet on their target list to get as much coverage as they can. The problem is they’re doing this without a clear strategy.  Every PR professional should know by now that sending out a blind e-mail with the news announcement and the embargo date doesn’t really help earn you quality coverage or increase the volume of coverage.

 On the flip side, news publications are also facing pressure to publish the news first — especially when it comes to major announcements. As my colleague Stephanie Conner with Active Voice would say, the embargo was put in place to combat that so companies can get their news placements across more channels and keep reporters interested — you’re leveling the playing field.

My take is this: It’s really nobody’s fault. It’s just another sign of the times. Now companies are using other mediums, such as blogs and Twitter, to create momentum and buzz around their company or product announcement prior to releasing it via traditional news wires.

I’ve been in the technology space for quite some time and have witnessed firsthand how things have changed. Not only in terms of embargoes, but the types of news that capture a writer’s attention as well. In 2004 when I started at Lumension, then PatchLink, it was all about product news. Our news coverage relied on our products and their new capabilities and enhancements. Since 2007, I’ve seen a slow shift with fewer journalists covering product-specific news.

You also have to remember news is global, making embargoes seem a bit outdated. Don’t get me wrong – there are journalists who still honor the embargo – especially in the UK marketing. While they might honor this old tradition, the news will hit the U.S. first before it gets to the UK or other global markets.

Whether or not you like it, things are changing fast. I don’t believe embargoes are dead, but they are going by the wayside, slowly but surely. Whether you have an embargo in place or not, the quality of the content, strategy and, most importantly, the content, is what will get you maximum results. This is where I remind PR professionals that they need to adapt and evolve. A couple of things to keep in mind as you see more and more publications say NO to embargoes:

  • Determine your news and angle for the release
  • Identify your target audience, and prioritize your target list.
  • Communicate with journalists to gauge what their expectations of an embargo.
  • Never just pitch a product unless you’re Google or Apple. Whether you have an embargo or not, the chance of you getting coverage is greatly dependent on the angle of the news.
  • Get a customer or analyst to back up your story.
  • Get multi-media rich. Use video or written blogs, podcasts and whitepapers. This way, you have a multi-level message.
  • Drive a poll. Use a Twtpoll or LinkedIn poll to gauge the community’s take on the product/pain/challenges and create your own news hook prior to the launch.
  • Consider product slideshows. Do a five- to seven-slide PowerPoint slideshow with strong graphics that publications can run.

We recently launched our Lumension® Risk Manager. It’s a Compliance and IT Risk Management Solution to help simplify compliance complexities and help reduce overall total cost of ownership. The old-school thinking would have been to just write up a news release and send it out under an embargo to our target list. While we were focused on the product, I developed a strategy around creating content that showed how our product addresses issues that businesses face today. Here’s what we did:

  • Pre-buzz building exercise that included a blog series:
    • Blog Q&A with two leading industry analysts on key challenges and how the market demands were shifting
    • Blog Q&A with a customer who was testing the product.
    • Twtpoll – Run a poll on Twtpoll and LinkedIn and use the results as a news hook
    • Whitepaper – developed a whitepaper titled “5 Ways to Reduce Your Audit Tax Burden”
    • Video – interviewed our company experts on this topic about these issues

By having rich content available prior to the launch and an integrated approach with other marketing tactics, we created buzz around this product launch, and we included the multi-media links within the release. We earned 15 total pieces of standalone coverage and two pieces of product news coverage. A majority of our coverage centered on key issues and trends and how our product really helps solved those issues.

I leave you with this quote by Ted Levitt: “Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress.”

Make a difference. Don’t be a sitting duck. Leverage innovative thinking and spark a new approach to driving coverage.