Is the embargo dead?

In the days of 24-hour news cycles and voracious bloggers, it’s a lot harder than it used to be to hold journalists to embargoes.

Given this news climate, does the embargo—that useful PR tool for managing the timing of announcements—still work? Opinions from PR pros are decidedly divided, and often dependent on the industry in which they work. In health care, the embargo is alive and well, since regulatory requirements and SEC rules can dictate how news in announced. In high-tech, holding an embargo has become much tougher, since tech bloggers are hotly competitive and need to break news to win readers.

“To answer the question, ‘Is the PR embargo dead?’ I follow with, ‘Was it ever really living?'” says Daniel Collins, senior director of media relations at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “I’ve very rarely used embargoes for the very fact that they don’t really work. It’s not worth the risk. It falls in the same category of telling a media person that something is off the record.”

Says Diane Brandon, VP of communications and research for the Arlington (Texas) Convention & Visitors Bureau, “It absolutely makes no sense to try and embargo information. It rarely works. If the info is in the reporter’s hands, he or she will use it—you can’t trust them not to and you look like a doofus if you try.”

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