PR agency teams are always strategizing about how to tell stories that elevate a brand’s presence through earned media. An organization may have a new product or milestone announcement, relevant research data, or a leadership change to announce. As PR advisors we want to maximize its news value.
That’s where the right media strategy comes in. In fact, earned media may seem simple when a company has news, but it’s not always so straightforward, particularly for B2B PR. We may handle news announcements in any number of ways.
Exclusive outreach – An exclusive means you’re offering the news first to only one specific media outlet. Depending on the nature of the announcement, an exclusive may be offered to tier-one press such as WSJ, Bloomberg, Reuters, or Forbes, etc. Once the exclusive runs at an agreed upon date and time, the story can be pitched widely to the broader media targets.
Embargoed outreach – Don’t confuse an embargo with an exclusive. An embargoed announcement means the information is shared with a handful of media in advance, but specifying that the news can only be published on a specific date at a certain time. Upon receiving the offer, reporters will inform the PR person if they can honor the embargo time and date, or they may opt to pass the story.
Day-of outreach – This approach is used to drive wider visibility. Immediately after the exclusive or embargo breaks, the news is shared with mainstream, business and vertical media. This approach is commonly used for a big story and/or a well-known brand. When the PR team is confident of the story’s broad appeal, it will typically not choose to go with an exclusive or embargoed strategy. For example, news around Apple launching a new iPhone or Tesla bringing on a new CEO will typically drive widespread coverage across all types of media.
While each approach has its pros and cons, one question a PR team may debate is that of the media embargo. If you think embargoes are dead, think again. As many as 71% of media still prefer to receive press releases under embargo. That’s one reason why embargo pitching is still relevant in today’s accelerated news environment. There are plenty of advantages for journalists as well as PR people.
Embargoes let reporters plan ahead
Pitching under embargo gives reporters more lead time to review the news, conduct necessary research or interviews to substantiate the story, bring in additional assets and get the story published on time with full confidence they won’t be scooped. The additional time lets them pose or clarify follow-up questions related to the announcement and generally leads to a better and well-thought out story. If all things go per plan, it’s a win-win.
Agreements deepen media relationships
In the PR world, it all comes down to building and maintaining relationships. By reaching out to the journalists we’ve deemed best qualified to cover a piece of news, we’re fostering trust and paving the way for future announcements. Reporters may also be more likely to reach out when they’re looking for sources for commentary in industry feature stories.
They earn coverage in multiple outlets
Selective embargo pitching makes it more likely a story will generate coverage in more than one media outlet. News announcements like product launches, partnerships, and new data all make for interesting embargo topics. The embargo process requires a discipline that reinforces good media targeting — essentially identifying the right contact at the right publication, rather than pitching blindly into a crowd.
Embargoes allow a unique POV
Media are always looking for distinct point of view and colorful commentary to add interest to their stories. Pitching under embargo allows for fresh insight versus a mere wire service release picked up by everyone. By receiving the news under embargo as one of only a handful, media have the opportunity to gain additional information through a briefing with a company exec or email Q&A.
So, yes, embargoes are still relevant. But don’t forget these key considerations when sharing the news under embargo.
Do your research. While choosing an embargo date, avoid competing with other big industry news for that day where possible.
Plan in advance. When pitching under embargo at least pitch a week in advance and give reporters sufficient time to consider the news. Pitching an announcement two days prior to the embargo lift time is unrealistic and may annoy the media. Needless to say, the coverage will also be limited.
Use ‘Embargo’ in your subject line to catch the reporter’s attention.
Make it clear and succinct. As with any pitch, get to the point without divulging too many details. The rest can be shared once they agree to the embargo.
Manage stakeholder expectations. Make sure everyone knows that even if the reporter agrees to the embargo, it doesn’t guarantee coverage.
Assume the announcement date could change, so allow room for some flexibility. In such scenarios, don’t panic. Immediately inform those who’ve accepted the embargo and be transparent about changes.
Follow up the day before the announcement. Make sure they have all the information they need and issue a gentle reminder about the exact embargo lift time.
Follow up with a thank-you once reporters publish, and celebrate the wins!
In summary, most journalists are working several stories at once and they need to navigate the ever-faster news cycle. Most appreciate having time to work on the story, and an embargoed approach, if planned well and executed, will yield quality coverage. So, it’s worth all the planning and effort!