Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's in an Embargo?

This was the topic of discussion today at our chapter's quarterly breakfast for senior practitioners. I absolutely love the chance to meet with my counterparts as it offers us a chance to take each other's pulse on professional matters.

Today's topic was no exception. And was provided by our breakfast ninja, Christie Goodman, APR. Christie got the idea from discussion featured on several PR blogs after Tech Crunch reported they would no longer honor PR practitioners' embargo stamps on press releases.

There's a fabulous explanation here in Shel Holtz's blog about the entire issue and what it means to the PR community.

For the uninitiated, an "Embargo" stamp on a press release is used to limit the reporter's first use of the information. Shel's post details their history, so I won't rehash it here.

Our discussion today turned to who's using it in San Antonio? Our group of 10 had widely diverging uses of the practice. One seasoned health care professional said that they were absolutely necessary when submitting research project results to the major medical journals. This need evolved from the desire to get complicated information into the pipeline and respect the long lead time of many magazines. A trade industry professional said the same thing, but that he hardly used them anymore. An agency PR director shared his former financial public relations experience in which large volumes of information for year-end reporting would need an embargo just for reporters to digest it all. One association professional had obsserved others using them just to get people to press conferences. The "breakfast gang" agreed that this was an abuse of the system. Others at the table had rarely used them.

The common thread in this discussion among all this morning focused on the importance of building trust and relationships with the reporters who cover your "beat" or industry and the clear need to define what the embargo was designed to achieve for your organization. All in all, it was a lively discussion, but we'd like to hear more. What's the practice in your PR world?