If the embargo is broken by reporting before then, the source retaliates by restricting access to further information to that journalist and publication, putting them at a disadvantage compared to other outlets.
Brian Solis has a very detailed post about the recent announcement by TechCrunch that it will no longer honor embargoes. In it, he states:
The problems are two-fold:
a) Unethical or opportunistic bloggers or reporters looking for an edge will break a story ahead of the agreed-upon embargo, even if only by one minute, in order to appear as if they got the scoop.
b) PR, continuing to use a broadcast methodology to pitch and place news, freely and foolishly wield embargoes as if they're simply "scheduled" times for a press release to cross a wire.
We talked about the importance of trust one short week ago. I would rather forgo links and the popularity contest to be deserving of your trust. That is my position.
Media on the RightIt would actually be nice if media got in touch with its feminine side.
Since I started publishing here, I have had the opportunity to honor a couple of news embargoes. I knew I could not possibly be the only site that would publish the news and respected the reasons why. In each case, I was given the opportunity to ask additional questions ahead of time, which allowed me to publish from a different point of view or angle. My consideration in formulating the questions is whether the information would be useful to my readers.
So here's a big tip to all those who send me press releases by email - your pitches are by and large not targeted to my audience. Sorry, but saying that what you've got would benefit my readers and then not backing up that statement with facts really does make you look unprofessional. And please do not tell me you're a long time reader of my blog or I will be tempted to test you and unmask you publicly.
If you want me to agree to holding a briefing with someone (maybe a CEO) without having background information in advance, you are dreaming. This is pure passion here at this blog. Nobody pays me to write and I invest that extra time I don't really have to provide value (readers will be judge of that).
To go back to the announcement by Arrington at TechCrunch, he is saying that "The PR firm gets upset but they don’t stop working with the offending publication or writer." Well, that takes the wind out of the accountability sails, doesn't it? Then he continues by saying that "We will honor embargoes from trusted companies and PR firms who give us the news exclusively."
I think exclusivity is not the point anymore. I think the point is reaching specific readers and listeners in specific ways. There is a time for every purpose in new media, including balancing immediacy with relevance, and a respectable PR strategist would know that.
PR on the Left
As in what's left to say that is news these days? For good public relations professionals plenty. To me it's an issue of quality over quantity. In case you are wondering, this will be the theme for the week at Conversation Agent.
In my day job part of my work is public relations and part of that is media relations. I am part of the source. My philosophy on embargoes is handle with care - make sure that they are truly valuable to the readers/listeners/customers of the journalist or reporter with whom we have built a relationship.
However, Steve Rubel wrote about it this summer, many who report the news like to uncover their stories unaided these days. That is the same expression we use in brand studies. Unaided awareness is your best form of recognition in the marketplace. It's pull in its purest form. Relationships matter again. This is not a trend, we're just remembering what we've always known.
The press release or announcement is the tip of the iceberg. It is merely the calling card to begin a conversation. Something new, hopefully. Something interesting - a story that has not been told.
Doug Firebough wrote about the 7 psychological A's of social media in a recent post - acknowledgment, attention, being approved of, being appreciated, being acclaimed, feeling assured and being a part of. There are many lessons in there for PR professionals. I suspect that many of the pros are that way because they handle the conversation in such manner.
What is left for PR professionals is their willingness and passion to lead. There is not shortage of opportunities to do so with new media.
When you come to a fork in the road, take it
We really don't have to pick a side.
Louis Gray says that the best solution for embargo angst is to write something else. I couldn't agree more. As well, Ruth Seeley points us to Todd Sieling's slow blog manifesto. In her comment to Brian's post, she writes "personally, as a consumer, the allegiances I feel are to those outlets that can consistently be trusted to answer all the questions I have and provide background and perspective."
We can all look and feel smarter when we take the time to be thoughtful.
On the long tail of Chris Anderson's known piece on blocking PR people, Gina Trapani has put together a wiki of PR companies that spam bloggers. I think the important part, the one that the term embargo does not cover but implies, is one of personal ethics and standards. It is from that place that, with respect and professionalism, we can begin to have a true conversation about the future of PR and media.
They are two sides of the same coin.