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Embargoes Going, Going, Gone

July 15, 2011

Traditionally the relationship between journalists and PRs has been one of professional respect. Granted, there has always been tension with journalists taking the moral high-ground and often referring to PR as ‘the dark side’ but by-and-large both have considered each other as a necessary evil and played the game required to keep the peace.

This practice has changed dramatically in the last few years. There are numerous cases of journalists openly attacking the PR industry in general and sometimes specific PR practitioners.

The shift in the media landscape has not only changed the way media is delivered, it has also changed the way media respects embargo notices.

Embargoes were a fantastic way for journalists to formulate stories and prepare pages for a news item that, for whatever reason, could not be made public until a certain time. In the automotive industry embargoes were common place with manufacturers giving magazines all the information they required on a new model sometimes weeks before it’s official launch comfortable in the knowledge that the publication would hit the newsstands after the embargo had lifted.

The same ideology applied in the finance sector with AGM reports and even for the Government with various announcements. The embargo was a valuable tool for both journalists and PRs alike. It gave journalists the time they needed to digest the information and it provided PRs with the ability build relationships and to have the information published in a timely way.

Sadly, the concept of an embargo when it comes to media releases has gone. It’s Finished. Finite.

The emergence of bloggers (who don’t have to answer to editors/publishers/shareholders) and the 24 hour news cycle have changed the rules when it comes to embargoes to the point where it no longer exists. Some bloggers act like it’s a badge of honour to break embargoes, others like to flex their muscles to prove who really wields the power in the media world.

Social media has also played a significant role in the demise of this once revered PR practice.

A great example of this comes from “Pitchit2me Blog”.

It’s a great story
about how a tourism company offered an exclusive scoop, under public embargo, for publication in the Fairfax publications “The Sydney Morning Herald” and “The Age”.

The (unnamed) tourism company alerted their partners of the news and someone blogged it the day before it was due to run – effectively blowing the public embargo and, as a consequence, their cover story in the Fairfax flagship publications.

Vale embargoes. Professionalism in the media space will mourn your loss.

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