How Companies Collude With Reporters To Control When Stories Get Published: Embargoed Press Releases

Have you ever noticed how a new product comes out and a well-developed article with multiple quotes and sources appears in all the major papers? Are reporters just so Olympian in their competitiveness, performing at levels differing only by a few milliseconds? If only. Often, this shows an “embargoed” story, a technique corporations use to control the media and public perception. Here’s how it works.

A publicist releases information to journalists with the stipulation that it can’t be reported until a certain time and date. This allows the company to coordinate news coverage with their public announcement, new ads, and other marketing initiatives. For their part, the embargo allows journalists the time needed to publish a “breaking” story that’s well-developed, fact-checked, has multiple quotes, and comes in on deadline.

Sometimes the gentleman’s agreement is arranged in advance between the publicist and the journalist, or a working arrangement with the news organization at large. Sometimes, publicists simply send out releases already declared embargoed (such has been the case with every embargoed release we’ve ever received).

If an embargo is broken, the company might blacklist the reporter or news organization from future juicy tidbits, and the reporter’s ethics will be called into question.

Hardly headline news, but we thought you would be interested in hearing about this way in which corporations try to control the journalism process. — BEN POPKEN

(Photo: Getty)