The New York Times (I know, it’s a long ways from Austin, TX) has a special section called Times Insider, designed to “deliver behind-the-scenes insights into how news, features and opinion come together at The New York Times.” It’s a phenomenal concept in a day and age where Americans need to understand more about the free and open press and their role in commerce and democracy.
A few weeks back Melina Delkic, a senior staff editor with the paper, published an article entitled “Ready, Set, Embargo,” explaining a newsroom perspective on embargoes, an important tool in the public relations industry. The NYT defined an embargo as “an agreement between a source and a reporter, or the reporter’s publication, that the story will not be published before a given date and time.” Nailed it. The author does an excellent job of outlining how embargoes impact the newsroom and complicated decisions that influence when to break an embargo for transparency or public interest. The struggle is real.
An interesting angle that was missing in this fantastic piece was the perspective of the public relations professional requesting the embargo in the first place. From my chair, the embargo is a valuable tool for the client, the public relations industry and most importantly, the public. Here’s why:
Embargoes give a reporter time. Reporting the news can be complicated and the news media is charged with accuracy. When an embargo is in place, especially as it relates to a major news cycle, embargoes give news organizations an opportunity to be thorough. In the current world of fake news accusations, most often it is simply inaccurate news that could be cured with open communication in advance of publication.
Embargoes encourage detail, research and fact checking. We operate in a world of #BREAKING news and first to publish approaches are a disservice to the reader and viewer. The content lacks detail, is often led by an explosive headline (click bait) and the outcome is a reader or viewer with an incomplete perspective. Embargoes can solve these problems. Credible newsrooms are trained to tell excellent, in-depth, fact checked stories. Shouldn’t they have the appropriate amount of time to do so?
Embargoes stretch the finish line. When a major news cycle is pending release of information, sometimes all of the details aren’t in place. For example, an important deadline is in flux because the legal team’s due diligence isn’t complete. Reporters deserve a chance to get a running start on the story, even if details are not yet finalized on an announcement. It will position them better to tell a story completely, even if a few details are not finalized.
The news cycle has evolved. There was a time when breaking news would last a week, then a day, then an hour and now only as long as a tweet stays in your feed. Embargoes can help slow down a chaotic environment for the benefit of accuracy and the audience.
Strategic media relations are an important part of what we do each day at The Monument Group. We take great pride in being a resource for our reporting counterparts, not an impediment to their path. How our team interacts with the media also facilitates quality reporting, which can be especially important when hunting for a powerful news cycle that your story can call home.