You’re doing it wrong: Sending material and calling it embargoed before an agreement doesn’t make it so
See if you can guess what these quotations from three different emails have in common. They’re redacted to protect the guilty, although I’m not quite sure why. The formatting is from the originals:
Subject: EMBARGO: [redacted] launches [redacted] channel on Youtube
[redacted] will announce tomorrow that it has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with [redacted]. [redacted] will have sole responsibility for marketing and selling the [redacted] in [redacted].
As you read through the embargoed survey results and release, attached…
You can probably guess quite easily, but if not: These emails were all from PR people I didn’t know and contained material that was supposedly embargoed.
Except that I had never agreed to any such embargo.
If your inbox is anything like mine, it is full of embargoed releases. (So full, in fact, that I have to spend time most days cleaning it out so I don’t exceed my corporate email quota.) Most of them are from journals, societies, institutions, and companies with which I have had some relationship or agreement.
Then there are emails like the ones above.
Sorry, folks, but that’s not an embargo that deserves to stick. It happens that we wouldn’t cover any of the stories being pitched in those three emails, but what if we had wanted to? I would have felt no obligation to follow them.
That’s because embargoes are defined by getting materials because you’ve agreed not to publish anything about them until a certain date and time. When someone I don’t know sends me material in an email before I’ve agreed to any embargo, it’s not embargoed.
Even if EMBARGO appears in capital letters in the subject line.
Are we clear?
I Have Data For You (If You Agree to the Embargo)
See how clear that is? When I respond, it will be clear I now know about the embargo. And even then, if I don’t say “yes, I agree to the embargo,” which he details in the body of the email, then I don’t get the data.
PR folks, next time you have some embargoed news to share, make sure the journalist you’re talking to agrees to an embargo. Otherwise, you’re just asking to have that “embargo” broken.
Not to mention cheapening the idea of embargoes and the idea that they’re in place to benefit reporters.