Embargoed Press Releases

Embargoed press releases (EPRs) are both widely used and highly controversial. PR professionals and journalists often have strong views on navigating embargoes. In this post, we’ll explain the meaning of an embargoed press release, provide some examples and explain all you need to know about this delicate PR practice.
published: August 28, 2022
updated: March 14, 2024

Meaning of embargoed press releases

The definition of an embargoed press release is a news release, announcement or media alert which is shared with the media prior to its publication.

There is a specific date and sometimes time set at which the information can be released to the public.

Generally these press releases will be sent to a journalist or media publication either by a PR firm or by an individual or companies’ PR representative.

EPR are often used for particularly complex, important or time sensitive news items. They ensure that journalists are provided with additional time to report on a story before it’s released to the public. EPR are also generally used for the best interest of the party sharing the news, or to protect public interest.

Rather than being a legally binding contract, EPR are essentially an agreement founded on trust between the individual or company who the news item covers and the journalist or media outlet publishing the story.

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Why we use the press embargo

Embargoed press releases are less common than they used to be, predominantly due to advances in technology and social media influencing the way news is spread and culminating in the rapidly advancing pace of the news cycle.

However, EPR are still a powerful tool that are regularly implemented in the world of public relations.

They allow journalists to take their time when crafting complex or sensitive news stories, as well as protecting the interests of the individual or business releasing the story.

EPR are not used with just any news release though. They’re not necessary when it comes to straightforward, everyday stories. Journalists don’t need as much time to write this kind of content and there’s less to consider with generic news items or updates when it comes to releasing them to the public. EPR are designed to be used for big announcements or news items that need to be handled either with particular care or in a time-sensitive manner.

Embargoes are best implemented when there’s a real benefit to using them. If you use embargoes on just any news story, or overuse them in your media pitches, there’s a big chance publications will start to ignore either your embargoes, or blacklist your requests altogether.

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Types of announcements

Embargoed press releases are best used when it comes to the following types of announcements:

  • The information being shared pertains to public health or safety concerns and therefore needs to be released carefully and at the right time so as not to cause public confusion or panic.
  • The information being shared would be a security risk to the individual or organization concerned. For example, news that would share the location of a high-profile individual in a way that may compromise their security.
  • A public announcement surrounding the status of a business- for example mergers, acquisitions, new collaborations or a change in management.
  • New government policies, laws or budget announcements. News items surrounding these are often embargoed until after official government announcements have been made.
  • Financial updates where information leaked early could impact the stock market or investor behavior.

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Pros and Cons

While embargoed news releases can be an efficient practice for all parties involved, due to their nature as an unofficial, uncontracted agreement, press releases under embargo can often be difficult to navigate.

It’s best to enter into EPR with an awareness that the agreement could at any time be broken by the journalist you’ve shared information with, as there’s nothing set in place to stop this. It’s therefore good practice to have a backup plan; a strategy of what should happen if your press release is published before the agreed date or time.

Due to their tenuous nature, and of course the sensitive topics generally involved, EPRs are a controversial topic among PR and media professionals alike.

Advantages of embargoed Press Releases

1. Time

Embargoes mean that journalists have additional time to report on stories in the most appropriate and effective way. Embargoes give them the time to research the story and to consider the intricacies of reporting on a potentially sensitive topic. This also gives any individuals or organizations involved the peace of mind that their story will be reported not only at the right time, but in the most impactful way.

Representatives or spokespeople for the individual or organization that the news pertains to also have additional time to prepare their speeches or other forms of public engagement.

2. Protection

EPRs are in place to prevent information being released to the public before the time is right. Not only can this protect the subjects of the press release, but in certain circumstances, it can protect public interest or safety, ensuring that the news or updates released are clear, coherent and come at the right time to be as thorough and as beneficial to media consumers as possible.

3. Strategy

Embargoes in press releases can be seamlessly aligned with additional PR strategies. For example, a press release about a company’s new investments or a funding announcement could go public at the same time a social media campaign about their new product is launched. As well as ensuring that the announcement is released once everything is in place and ready to be made public, aligning press releases in this way with other strategically released content can also maximize brands’ visibility and impact across multiple platforms.

Disadvantages of embargoed Press Releases

1. Broken embargoes

Due to the fact that EPR aren’t binding contracts, information could easily be released before the agreed-upon time. There’s a chance that journalists could, in the excitement of receiving the press release, not fully realize or acknowledge that it’s embargoed and accidentally make the news public immediately.

When working with journalists or publications you’ve not yet built a relationship with, there is also the chance that they could deliberately break your embargo agreement, publishing your news item before the agreed date to get ahead of competitors and be the first to break the story. While this of course could damage the journalist or publications’ reputations, and decrease the chance of future collaborations, this is not unheard of.

2. Information leaks

There’s also the risk that embargoed information is leaked to other sources, either within or outside of the news outlet your information was shared with. It’s always wise to have a backup plan in case this happens, so that your organization is ready to make a statement and share further details with the public if this occurs.

3. Impacted relationships

Both of the above mentioned risks mean that relationships with journalists and media outlets can be put at risk. If information is leaked or released before the specified time, the trust between the PR professionals and journalists involved is compromised. It’s ideal practice to ensure that when working with an embargo news release, your PR representative or firm is working with journalists or publications that they’ve built a trusted working relationship with, to minimize the risk of the embargo agreement being broken.

Embargoes - what's not to like?

While many PR professionals release embargoed press releases and many organizations use them, they are not overly popular in some circles. Journalists often find that the embargo they were entrusted with was also entrusted to several other outlets, who then break that embargo and thus make their story less relevant and possibly waste their time.

Embargoes are also only really newsworthy at the time of release, so the embargo is arbitrary for many journalists. Also, if the embargo is set for too long, they may forget about it or find something else more newsworthy. They can also be a source of irritation. Why? Well, just because your release is important to you doesn’t necessarily mean it is for the outlet you’re sending it to. They will need to work through this and the hundreds of other pitches they get.

How to use embargoed press releases

There’s a few key practices involved when it comes to using EPR. From how to keep your news under embargo, to what to do if the embargo is broken, here’s PRLab’s expert advice.


Be intentional

It won’t work to send your press release to hundreds of publications and hope that, firstly, they all honor your embargo or, secondly, that they want to publish your story at all. As with any press release, it’s a far better strategy to target a smaller number of carefully selected publications, preferably those with whom you already have an established, trusting relationship.

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Embargo introduction

It’s advisable to introduce your press release to the journalist or media outlet before including all of the details, establishing the fact that there’s an embargo on the release, and asking them to confirm that they will honor this. As previously established, there’s nothing officially stopping journalists from breaking embargoes, but it’s at least good practice to have the agreement in writing before your work together begins.


Be clear on timing

At the same time as introducing the embargo, it’s important to make your time frame clear. This is firstly to ensure that journalists are in agreement regarding the embargo, and secondly so that you’ve outlined the time and date for release as the first piece of information they see. This lessens the chance of an accidental early release, as well as hopefully solidifies the embargo in journalists’ minds, making them more likely to honor it.


Include the right information

When sending your full press release, it’s essential that the first line is “Not for immediate release”, followed by the release date, and time if relevant.

Other than this, EPR are generally like any other press release. It’s key to include all of the valuable information that journalists may need. This usually means you incorporate a backgrounder which includes some information on your business, product or service. Not only is this generally good practice, it also means that media outlets are more likely to angle their story based on this information rather than seeking out other sources, further reducing the likelihood of information leaks.


Have a backup plan

Since embargoes aren’t watertight, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan in case information leaks or things don’t go quite to plan. If the journalist you’re working with breaks your embargo, a good first port of call is simply to reach out to them and ask for a withdrawal. There’s a good chance that it could have been a mistake, and the content can be taken down immediately. Regardless of whether this is the case or not, it’s highly advisable to have a plan in place to ensure your company releases the right kind of statement or response in any given situation where your news is released before the agreed time.


If the embargo no longer applies

It's possible to lift the embargo if you no longer feel it requires one, your strategy changes, or if something in it materially changes. To do this, contact those who were sent your embargo and inform them they can either publish immediately or that the news has altered now so it isn't accurate.

Embargoed press release examples

The below are some examples of when embargoes have been used for impactful news items.

  • In a few countries, including Australia and Canada, embargoes are in place surrounding the release of government announcements. This means that journalists have access to government decisions ahead of the general public, meaning that they’re able to prepare their stories but not able to share the updates publicly until the official announcement by government members or representatives has taken place.
  • The UK’s Ministry of Defense shared the news that Prince Harry would be serving in Afghanistan with several news outlets prior to his deployment, on the condition that the story wasn’t released until his deployment ended. While the information was in fact later leaked, this embargo was put in place both for Harry and his fellow soldiers' safety.
  • There was an embargo surrounding George W Bush’s visit to Iraq in 2003.The journalists that accompanied him were embargoed until he had safely visited and left the country. The journalists were informed that Bush’s trip would need to be canceled altogether to protect his safety if the terms of the embargo were broken.
  • Some press briefings are regularly embargoed. The biweekly briefings from the International Monetary Fund are embargoed until the same time each fortnight. Due to the impact the information shared can have on global stock markets, updates are collated and released at a consistent time, rather than day by day.
  • Apple make user of embargoed press releases to maximize media attention around the world post-announcement of a new product

Embargoed press releases - PRLab’s view

PRLab highly values the strategy of pitching under embargo, particularly for securing exclusive coverage on high-impact stories like major funding announcements or sharing groundbreaking data from clients. This approach allows us to carefully select top-tier media outlets, such as TechCrunch, and offer them an exclusive first look at the news before it's released to the public. By doing so, we not only build stronger relationships with influential journalists but also ensure that our clients' stories are told with the depth and attention they deserve. This controlled dissemination of information enables a more impactful and focused narrative, ensuring the news makes a significant splash in the media landscape and reaches the right audience with the intended message and context.

One unique tip for using an embargoed press release effectively is to personalize your pitch to each journalist or media outlet you're targeting. This goes beyond just customizing the email or message you send; it involves carefully selecting information from the press release that specifically aligns with each journalist's beat, past articles, and interests. By doing so, you demonstrate that you're not just blasting out a generic press release, but rather offering them a story that fits seamlessly into their body of work.

In your personalized pitch, highlight why the embargoed information is particularly relevant for their audience and how it complements or builds upon their previous coverage. This approach not only increases the chances of your story being picked up but also helps in forging a stronger relationship with the journalist, as it shows respect for their work and audience. This level of personalization and relevance can turn an embargoed press release into a powerful tool for securing impactful coverage.


When implemented correctly, embargoed press releases are a powerful PR tool.

Embargoes give journalists the time they need to collate reports on important and sensitive matters and ensure that these reports are released at the best time and in the best way for both organizations’ and the publics’ interest.

While they are not without their potential issues or drawbacks, and information leaks and breaks of agreement can occur, embargoed press releases can be hugely advantageous for organizations and media professionals alike when properly handled.

How can we help you?

PRLab is an award-winning public relations agency based in Amsterdam, Munich and Stockholm.

Our diverse team has years of expertise in all things PR: from press releases to social media strategies, thought leadership articles to obtaining funding. Whatever your PR needs, we have them covered.

Alongside our team, our trusted network of industry contacts has expanded over the years. We have close working relationships with journalists at both the top media outlets and an array of more niche publications, so we’re best placed to get your story shared the right way while you focus on what you do best.

August 28, 2022
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Matias Rodsevich
Matias Rodsevich
CEO of PRLab
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