Why the embargoed press release no longer makes sense

May 28, 2024

When PR clients talk about timing for pitching journalists on a story idea, be it the launch of a new product or filing of a lawsuit, every so often someone will ask about whether we should issue an “embargoed” press release.

For those unfamiliar with media industry jargon, this means sharing a release with journalists before its official release date, but doing so asking that the information not be published until a specific date or even time.

As someone who has worked as journalist and public relations consultant, I feel confident saying that embargoed press releases are no longer relevant. Actually, they’re downright embarrassing anachronisms.  

Sure, before the Internet, embargoed releases could sometimes be useful. This is largely because you could ensure all journalists you wanted to reach received the release and had time to do a bit of research beforehand. Today you can simultaneously reach any number of journalists around the globe at light speed, and research is generally but a few keystrokes away. What’s more, that press releases typically arrive by email makes sharing/leaking them absurdly easy. Add to that tremendous pressure to break news – even if by a few seconds or minutes – and you can see why temptation to ignore embargo requests can be fairly irresistible.

Despite these shifts in journalistic culture, embargoed releases are still, if rarely, used. With my minor freelance writing side hustle (aka, barely monetized hobby), I sometimes receive embargoed press releases, though as you can see from the following partial list of topics pitched me in recent months, the subject matter hardly merits the requested restraints:

How processed foods increase memory risks

The rise of AI travel agents

New drink options coming to IHOP

The lesson I’ve learned in recent years is that if you don’t want journalists to publish or air stories about what you’re pitching, don’t do so until you’re ready. Or offer an exclusive to a journalist, who, if the pitch is good enough, will likely be happy to work with you on a date and time when he or she can run the story.