Despite some opposition, there are still ways for embargoes to work in this sector
From high-stakes product launches and alliances to research and M&A deals, the technology sector can be full of big news and well suited for embargo treatment.
“But, the rules of engagement have changed,” says Tony Sapienza, principal partner at Topaz Partners. “With so many reporters able to post immediately, the days of shepherding an embargo for weeks are long gone.”
Be open, honest, and very clear on expectations before releasing sensitive information, Sapienza says. “You need to know who you are dealing with. Then, you still need an e-mail chain to fall back on,” he adds. “Be very careful and pick your spots. This technique is not for every situation.”
Jenny White, director at Citigate Cunningham, says her team rarely encounters tech media that will not agree to an embargo. “Those that do are changing the way they want news,” White says. “For them to honor the embargo, they want you to give the news only to them.”
Such exclusive agreements can actually enhance coverage.
For example, in February, Citigate Cunningham client SynthaSite announced a Series B funding. “It's a straightforward announcement with easy-to-understand information, and we knew that once press got a hold of it, they wouldn't need much insight,” White says. “We decided our ultimate goal was to secure a standalone feature with briefs in non-competitive outlets.”
The exclusive was given to TechCrunch the day before the announcement, while the rest of the press was targeted the day of the announcement. The result: a standalone feature in TechCrunch and coverage in VentureBeat, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Business Times, and WebProNews.
Sometimes, though, more complex announcements need more lead time.
In early February, Rambus was announcing its new mobile memory initiative, a technically complex announcement with potentially far- reaching impact on the memory industry.
“To give reporters time to craft the story, the PR team decided to book embargoed pre-briefings a week prior to the announcement with a variety of outlets,” White says. “However, the team was still faced with seeding those features in specific, top-tier publications without the benefit of an exclusive.”
To entice those reporters, the team offered special access that other reporters were not getting. For example, a leading daily's technology guru was given exclusive access to the CEO and Computer Hall of Fame engineer, while the reporter for the top-tier trade outlet was the only one who was able to talk to the entire engineering team, White says.
“By strategically leveraging embargoes and matching our top targets' readers' interests with appropriate spokespeople, the PR team was able to generate a flurry of day-of stories in all of the target publications,” White says.
But, when dealing with embargoes, it's important to be true to your word, notes Ken Magill, editor-at-large of MultiChannel Merchant magazine and writer for Penton Media.
“The worst thing is to ask a reporter to abide by an embargo and then feed the piece to his competition before the agreed-upon date,” he says. “A reporter will never trust you again.”
Should a journalist disregard an embargo, Magill advises immediately contacting all other observant journalists to preemptively smooth ruffled quills.
“Never assume that just because you put the word embargo on a release that the reporter is under any obligation to abide by it if he or she has not agreed to do so in advance,” Magill says. “And, don't abuse it. What is huge news to a client isn't necessarily going to send chills down my spine.”
Offer different reporters exclusive access to different sources
Leave an e-mail trail to cover yourself
Contact observant reporters immediately if the embargo gets blown to let them know
Assume a reporter will honor an embargo without agreeing to it
Spring a complex announcement on a reporter without some lead time
Abuse the privilege. Only use for important announcements