Most of the press releases you will see say, “For immediate release.” This means the business has got, for example, all of their important web pages and other promotional materials organized for a product launch or live event, so it is fine to spread the word about it.
However, in other cases, a press release will be embargoed. That means that it should only be released on or after a certain date and sometimes time of day.
Why embargo a press release?
An embargoed press release will often be issued because the company knows the news is important and wants to get pickups, but are aware that often, journalists are under deadline and might not have gaps in their editorial calendar if they have just published their weekly column. By giving them the information a week or two prior to the event, journalists can make space for it, meaning more media pickups. They will also have more time to prepare their column, rather than rushing to get it all done.
Embargoing also helps synchronize publicity. In relation to a product launch, for example, the marketer will want everything lined up as much as possible by a certain date. The more material that is published, the more “buzz” gets created about the launch. This, in turn, can mean even more pickups, likes, and shares. Your target audience seeing news of your product in many different locations creates the perception that everyone is talking about it, so it must be worth paying attention to.
Another key reason has to do with avoiding legal issues. For example, corporations with publicly-traded shares are required to report on their financial performance each fiscal quarter. The numbers can be very detailed. The company will want to put them in the best possible light. It can take time to prepare all of this and ensure it is error-free. The numbers are therefore known in-house first, with a “blackout”, during which time the information should be kept as secure as possible. When the blackout is lifted, the data can be published. Sending an embargoed release means journalists have all the information they need to run with the story, and perhaps even get a “scoop,” as long as they follow the rules.
Problems with embargoes
The main issue is whether or not a journalist can be trusted to stick to the embargo. Sometimes it is human nature. They don’t see the date or get so excited that they push it through for publication early. They might be on deadline and your press release seems the perfect story they need for their column. Journalists who break embargoes might get the scoop, but they will also develop a reputation for not playing by the rules.
Be sure the date is stated right at the top of your press release so they can’t miss it. Give a specific time if needed:
April 21, 2018, 3:00am EST
Treat everyone the same. If you are going to send out an embargoed press release, be sure everyone gets it, not just your favorite media reps.