With information on social media able to travel around the globe at near speed of light, media ‘rules’ such as news embargoes are a little retro in what is now a disrupted information space.
Traditionally, a press release or information regarding a newsworthy event might be embargoed, meaning that while the information has been shared with a specific audience, it is prohibited from being released to the public or widely disseminated in any way until the specified date.
Hear something juicy by word of mouth these days and its almost guarantee that everyone and their Auntie Dorothy has already shared it across at least one media channel. Rapid information sharing has never been so easy by so many people, which raises the stakes for embargoed news.
When old news is good news
An example of embargoed news might be as follows; imagine John Lennon was still alive and after much negotiation with the promoters, a large venue had secured a booking for the musician to perform a concert.
Once the deal had been confirmed, both the promoter and the venue would share the news to a group of contractors, suppliers and local media in order to co-ordinate plans in preparation for the public announcement of the imminent event.
Marketing materials would have to be written, approved, signed off and printed according to strict marketing protocols. Box offices would need to prepare their ticket booking calendars and have the listing uploaded. Hotel accommodation would need to be booked. Advertising space across a variety of daily, weekly and monthly publications would need to be secured and key media informed so they could schedule the news into their publishing calendars and have adequate time to gather additional background news about the artist to prepare accurate or in-depth news features and interviews.
This would be when a press release would be sent with an embargo informing the recipients of the event but stating upfront that they would only be able to share the news on a specified date.
An embargo is usually agreed between both parties – the side announcing the news and the side receiving it. Should the embargo be breached – perhaps by a gossip columnist looking for a scoop or an editorial intern unaware of the meaning of an embargo, it can have serious repercussions for all involved but especially regarding the legal agreements between the promoter and the venue, as well as the reputation of the publication or media title.
Additional industries such as government communications, the health industry and scientific news sources may also make use of embargoed news.
Quoting ‘Off the Record’ does not guarantee anonymity
Just as there is a source to every river that flows to the sea, shared information has a way of finding itself back to the creator and it pays to only ever share information that is accurate, factual and which represents integrity of knowledge.
It still amazes me how often I hear client revealing information about their company or personal life with a throw-away line about ‘this part being off the record’ when being interviewed by the press.
You are never off the record whether you are speaking to an editor or journalist – or your best friend – and should only share information with the knowledge that it immediately becomes public knowledge the minute it leaves your mouth.
In the same way, unless a publicist has a firm business agreement in place with the media outlet, sending out a media release with an embargoed date does not ensure your request will be followed.