Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Do Embargoes Work?

It is common in the PR world for News Releases (especially speeches) to be embargoed. To add "weight" embargoes are usually accompanied by signed non-disclosure agreements (NDA).

While news organisations will generally abide by the embargoes, they are very often under pressure to "scoop" the story from under other news organisations. Herein lies the challenge.

In a recent national level event, a few reporters were given "exclusive access" to information which was embargoed with a NDA. However, the reporter went on to do his own research and found embargoed information via open sources. He eventually used this information and ran the story.

Upon analysis, it became clear that while the reporter was careful to stay within the NDA, his "exclusive access" to the bigger picture undoubtedly helped him piece the story together. Thus, while he abided with the "letter" of the embargo, he broke the "sprit" of it.

To me, the lesson is clear. Embargoes are useful but are not foolproof PR tools. Embargoes should only be used as a last resort and, if used, organisations must be prepared to accept that they will be broken.

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