Protecting an Embargoed Press Release

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There’s nothing better when a public relations rep sends a journalist a press release that is “under embargo.” This means the reporter can’t publish a word regarding the contents of the press release until the after a certain date and time. But in this day and age, journalists and public relations professionals alike may find that a press embargo isn’t as secure as they might think.

Case in point: A while back I wrote a story based on an embargoed press release. It was to be held under wraps until Monday. But the public relations firm that drafted the press release had set no specific time. Sometimes the public relations rep will tell me that the release will hit the news wires at 7:00 AM. With this press release, however, I wasn’t given a time. I wrote the story for Monday’s paper and called it a day.

Now, the paper I wrote for doesn’t put its daily version online until about 3:00 AM EST. And there won’t be a critical mass of print readers until probably around 7:30 AM at the earliest. So it wasn’t really fair when I saw the Reuters story, on the same subject, hit at 12:01 AM EST on Monday. Or when the New York Times‘ version hit at around 1:00 AM EST. But pity the L.A. Times, because it was three hours behind and couldn’t run anything until 3:00 AM EST, around the same time my story became available online.

The press release eventually went out on Monday morning, by which time the story was on the news wires and newspaper web sites had picked up one wire version or the other. But the embargo wasn’t really an embargo considering Reuters “beat” everyone to the story. And unless a press release is embargoed to only one media outlet, the age of the embargo is basically over. A public relations firm can’t hope to protect any special information unless it strictly enforces all of its embargoes.

Oh, and if you’re a public relations rep planning to issue an embargoed press release, make sure to tell the writers set to receive the release. If you don’t, well, let’s just say your calls won’t be getting returned anytime soon.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

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