Few PR related topics get more “love” than the ever-controversial, ever-confusing, ever-take-it-or-maybe-leave-it embargo.
That’s right, the word whose original meaning was a “partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country” was [for some reason] adopted by the PR industry as a tactical approach to breaking a news story. God forbid we choose words like “plant” or “sprinkle” as in: “I’m going to ‘plant’ this news around to a few journalists and then ask them to ‘sprinkle’ it out on ‘X’ date.”
Ahhh, so nice. Friendly, really.
But noooooo. In order to have the most impact the industry really went for the jugular.
Much like the hostility a government-mandated embargo elicits from oh say, a country like Cuba, some journalists likewise have this reaction.
As goes the PR industry…others don’t have this reaction. In fact, in a completely unofficial poll conducted by yours truly, roughly 8.3 journalists (ranging from top-tier media to niche industry publications) were split 50/50 on the topic.
This week, as a follow-on to last week’s “5 don’ts of PR”, Tech Reporter X is back. And let me just preface this by saying he hates with a capital “H” embargoes. I have to admit that some of his points were confusing to me, so I turned to my former colleague (she and I started a tech PR firm together years ago) Kristen Tischhauser, to provide her feedback on his responses.
After all, true journalism requires an equally balanced opinion.
His responses to my question “ok, well, what are PR folks to do INSTEAD of embargoes” were as follows. Kristen’s responses to his responses are below each bullet. This is like “PR Inception” so get ready:
Tech Reporter X: Because I genuinely care about this, I’m going to give you my relatively well thought out answers. Yes, I’ve though a sh*tload about this over the years. The most basic options to embargoes are:
#1 – Just put out the press release and inform reporters a few hours or a day or whatever in advance that you’ll be putting out news without telling them what it is. That way people who really care about the company will pay attention and the rest will ignore it. Yes, you might get less coverage. But you don’t have to worry about embargoes getting broken, which they almost always do, and so what if you don’t get picked up by TechCrunch AND Venturebeat AND AND Pando…AND AND…
Kristen Tischhauser: This approach will appear lazy to clients and most reporters I’ve worked with. Often times they have enough knowledge to ask us to embargo the news…so it’s always a balancing act. I could never say to a client “hey, we might get less coverage, who cares.” They may freak out. And this advice wouldn’t be relevant to an unknown startup that is just getting its feet wet with the media, because most journalists don’t know who they are yet. Early on it’s about getting clients in front of the right media and sometimes embargoes are the best way to do this.
TRX: #2 – Give someone an exclusive. This takes work, but get to know reporters and know who would most want an exclusive on the particular story and who would put in the most amount of care. Yes, you will piss other reporters off, but then go to a different reporter with the next exclusive. Spread the wealth. Or you’ll find out that nobody cared, which is often the reaction. Remember that good tech reporters are never sitting on their hands waiting for sh*t, they’re always working on multiple stories, so understand that your story may not register.
KT: I agree with this. What journalist wouldn’t want an exclusive if the news is compelling, disruptive, groundbreaking, etc.? There are also creative ways to go about garnering multiple placements after pushing out the exclusive. For example, switch it up – after the exclusive goes live, contact other media outlets in other relevant verticals and offer them a different “exclusive tidbit” that wasn’t offered to the outlet that initially broke the story. This way everyone’s happy – they’re getting a different angle and different information to include in their story and the news won’t be stale. (more…)