We’ve spent a lot of time here on the blog recently talking about what press releases are and how you can properly format press releases to appeal to members of the media. But what happens if you have news you want to share, but you don’t want media outlets to over that news immediately? Is a press release still appropriate?

Yes.

In this case, you can use what’s known as an “embargoed” press release. But what is an embargoed press release and when should you use one?

Let’s start by thinking about a typical press release.

Near the top of almost every press release you see, you’ll find the words “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.” (I’m not shouting at you by the way. “For immediate release” should be in all CAPS at the top of a press release.)

When a journalist receives these news releases, they know they can cover that story at any time. The news has officially been announced and can be shared publicly.

What is an Embargoed Press Release Then?

An embargoed press release is one where you want to tell journalists about your news right now, but you don’t want them sharing the story yet.

That’s really all there is to it. You’re giving them the news before you want to actually announce that news to the public.

How to Label an Embargoed Press Release

To make sure journalists or bloggers know when it’s okay to publish your news, you’ll change just one line in your release.

That “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” becomes something along the lines of “UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL: APRIL 1, 2018.”

If the news needs to be embargoed until a specific time on that day, include the time as well. Don’t forget to include the time zone to avoid confusion from one media outlet to the next.

What if Journalists or Bloggers Don’t Honor an Embargo?

This isn’t as common as you might think (if you distribute your news release responsibly). But it does happen.

Some bloggers and journalists have a no-embargo policy. They won’t honor any of them. Sometimes bloggers simply won’t notice or care because in their world speed of publication can be a priority.

What can you do if a journalist does violate your embargo and publishes your news early? Not much. Basically you could refuse to share later news, tips, or interview sources with that outlet. But that’s often not in your, or your client’s, best interest anyway.

It’s much wiser to be careful from the start.

Embargoed press releases are not meant to be distributed to massive numbers of media outlets at once, like you might get if you put out a release through a distribution service.

Instead, hand-pick journalists and / or bloggers to get the embargoed news release. Everyone else would get the announcement in a more widely-distributed release later.

After all, you can’t just slap an embargo date on a press release and expect people to honor it. They have to agree to that embargo first — before you send them the full story ideally. So stick to journalists and bloggers you know and trust.

When Should You Send an Embargoed Press Release?

The easy answer to this question for most businesses is “rarely.”

Some businesses will never have good cause to issue an embargoed press release. These aren’t meant to be used for routine news stories, and if you get in the habit of treating them like they are, you’re going to annoy key members of the media who you should be building relationships with instead.

That said, here are a few examples of times when it might make sense to send an embargoed press release to key journalists or bloggers:

Before a New Product Launch

Let’s say your company operates in the tech industry and you’re releasing a hotly-anticipated new gadget.

You might not be ready to make a public launch announcement yet. Maybe you haven’t even decided on an exact release date. But that product release is rapidly approaching, and you want to generate some quick buzz post-launch.

With a tech gadget (or software, or just about any product for that matter), you might want to let highly-relevant journalists know ahead of time so you can get your product in their hands. You want them to test things out. You want them to play with your products a bit. You want them not only well-informed on launch day, but you want to get them excited about your new product ahead of time.

Before Releasing Important Studies or Data

Now let’s say you work in medical research and you’re about to release results of an important study to the public.

You might use an embargoed press release to share the full study, key findings, and interview contacts with appropriate media outlets.

The reason you would do this is largely about accuracy.

An embargo lets journalists read the study fully, interview people associated with it, and get answers to their questions before they share the news.

This takes away any rush-to-publication that might come when media outlets are racing to break a story. They’re all held to the same time constraint.

When Legally Required for Public Companies

There are certain rules publicly-traded companies are held to that private companies are not (and which are beyond the scope of this post).

Suffice to say, in some situations, news about a public company needs to be made available publicly at a certain time (and not leaked before). That’s because news about public companies can directly impact stock prices of both that company and its competitors.

If you run a public company and aren’t sure how things like SEC rules influence when you can, and cannot, issue a news release (embargoed or otherwise), run it by your legal department.

That’s the gist of what embargoed press releases are, and how and why you might use one. Need help writing an embargoed press release (or any news release for that matter)? Get in touch, and let a PR pro and professional writer handle it for you.

Jennifer Mattern
Jennifer Mattern is a freelance blogger and business writer specializing in helping small businesses and independent and creative professionals. In addition to writing for others for 19 years and having 16 years experience in PR and online marketing, Jenn has been blogging for 14 years and runs several blogs of her own includingAll Freelance Writing, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

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