Embargoed Press Releases

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Sometimes 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 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.

How Does an Embargo on a Press Release Work?

An embargoed press release is a journalistic courtesy where a news announcement is sent to the media in advance so they will have time to prepare a story before the news is released to the public on a specific date. The PR professional is counting on the media receiving it not to release that news until the date and time they specify, with that date and time being known as the embargo date.

This worked well in the past, when newspapers and the nightly news reports all ran at about the same time.

But the rise of 24/7 media reporting has made press release embargos significantly more complicated.


Embargoed Press Release Example: Why This is so Complicated

A while back I wrote a story for a west-coast newspaper 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 an embargo date, but no specific 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.

Lesson learned:

Always Set an Embargo Date and Time (Including The Time Zone)  When You Embargo a Press Release

Hint: if you’re a public relations rep planning to issue an embargoed press release, make sure to tell the writers what time the news can be released. If you don’t, well, let’s just say your calls won’t be getting returned anytime soon.

How to Embargo a Press Release

You may be wondering how you would embargo a press release. It’s simple. 

Above the headline, write Not For Immediate Release, then add a line just below it with the words Publication Date: followed by the date, time, and timezone for release, like this:

Not For Immediate Release
Publication Date: October 1, 2022, 12:01am EDT

(Hint: check the daylight savings time versus standard time status for the publication date so you don’t make an embarrassing mistake.)

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

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