Embargoed Press Release: Best Practices Guide

There are times when your company has news that’s almost ready to share with the public…but now is a bit too soon. Thankfully, there’s a press release for that.

In this blog, you will learn:
  • The Benefits and Drawbacks of Embargoed Press Releases
  • Embargoed Press Releases Strategies
  • How to Place an Embargo on a Press Release
  • What a Sample Embargoed Press Release Looks Like

What Is an Embargoed Press Release?

An embargoed press release is a news release, media alert, or announcement that is shared with journalists and media outlets prior to its publication, via press release distribution; your company supplies the date, time, and time zone when the press release can be released to the public.

In an article entitled “Ready, Set, Embargo,” The New York Times defines a news embargo thusly: “They [Embargoes] entail an agreement between a source and a reporter, or the reporter’s publication, that the story will not be published before a given date and time.”

The “source” of the embargo, for our purposes in this blog, are corporate executives, public relations or marketing professionals, and/or corporate communicators. The “given date and time” is of the source’s choosing – typically 24 to 48 hours before an official announcement or confirmation is provided by the source.

It is not an uncommon practice for embargoed news releases to be shared with journalists and/or news outlets with which you have a trusted relationship with; in fact, there are likely reporters or news organizations that you have a relationship with that are likely to give your news attention as soon as the embargo is lifted.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Embargoed Press Releases: What You Should Know Before Sending


The instinct for PR professionals to release their company’s news is usually to get the story into the hands of journalists and media outlets as soon as possible.

There are times, however, when that instinct should be ignored.

There are plenty of examples of when an embargoed press release might be a good idea. For example, a company that is about to announce a major merger or acquisition may want to consider an embargoed press release.

Another scenario where an embargo would be useful is if a company announces a scientific breakthrough, or a discovery that could have an impact on a country or the world-at-large.

The main purpose of an embargoed press release distribution is to give journalists and/or media outlets enough time to prepare their story on the sensitive subject or time-sensitive information your company is announcing. Journalists may contact the media relations person listed on the embargoed press release, to get follow-up questions answered, or to get exclusive quotes from a company’s leadership team.

If journalists or media outlets reach out to your or anyone in your company, do your best to facilitate their requests.

By selecting trusted news outlets or journalists rather than sending out a general embargo on your press release, you likely stand less of a chance of your news being released earlier than the date or time your embargoed news has attached to it.


Do press releases go public before the embargo is lifted? Sometimes.

As mentioned, embargoed press releases exist primarily to give journalists and media outlets enough time to prepare their stories for their readers, listeners, or viewers. However, there are other reasons why putting an embargo on a company’s news announcement is a good idea.

For instance, there are occasions when not releasing news right away can better serve the public’s interest or safety. Waiting to release information can allow companies, organizations, or even governments, an opportunity to release messages that are precise, clear, and inclusive of the most recent information possible.

There are no laws protecting your company against a broken press release embargo. When you embargo your news, you and your company are entering into a kind of “gentleman’s agreement.” Given the competitiveness of journalists and their news outlets, though, there are times when an outlet goes ahead and releases your news.

There are times that embargoed news releases which go public before the date and time you have selected happen by accident. Immediately contacting the journalist or media outlet that has broken the embargo is your best bet to have the release recalled and removed online.

That said, if it’s a radio or TV news outlet or newspaper that reports on your announcement ahead of time, your attempt to recall the release may be futile.

If this happens, you have the choice of doing nothing, or releasing your announcement sooner than planned.If your embargoed announcement gets leaked early and involves another company, as news of a merger or acquisition would, you and your company’s leadership should perform due diligence and reach out to the other party to let them know what has happened. That way, no one will be caught off-guard, and the two entities can decide what to do together.
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Embargoed Press Releases Strategies

As most seasoned communications practitioners can attest, the use of an embargo can help your company achieve goals that align with your overall PR and/or marketing strategy.

Take, for example, a situation where a delayed press release coincides with the availability of a new product, or an activation of a never-before-used service offering. Setting the table by using an embargoed press release can help to spread awareness and build excitement around what is being announced.

This tactic has been frequently used by artists in the music entertainment industry. There are world-renowned singers, such as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, whose PR and marketing teams have sent an embargoed release to certain industry insiders about something big that will happen on a certain date.

At the exact day and time the embargoed announcement expires, these two entertainers have made a previously unknown album or single public (commonly referred to as a song/album being “dropped”).

The outcome of the surprise is that fans react by immediately purchasing the single or album. The excitement of the fans serves to create quite a buzz about the entertainer and the surprise recording, to the point where virtually every news outlet covers the story.

Brilliant, eh?

Apple is an example of a company that has also used embargoed press releases to garner a lot of post-announcement media attention around the availability of a surprise product; several other tech companies have also used embargoed news releases to help promote a product or service, as well.

Generally, this tactic is best accomplished when the embargo only goes to a few trusted journalists or news outlets, rather than an embargo that goes to the at-large press. In return for their complete silence about the upcoming announcement, the journalists and outlets are offered exclusive announcement rights, and sometimes interviews with the executive team.

When done correctly, embargoed press releases can certainly help a franchise, company, or celebrity hit a home run, when it comes to attracting attention.

One last bit of advice, though, is to have a back-up plan in place, in case your embargoed press release doesn’t go as smoothly as you had hoped. Think about all the other potential outcomes and then figure out what to do if any of those play out, to avoid being caught flat-footed.

How to Place an Embargo on a Press Release

Whether you are embargoing a story or announcement to a few, or a multitude of, journalists or media outlets, there is a fairly standard way to embargo a press release.

All you have to do is use verbiage at or near the top of your document indicating your news is not for immediate release or is embargoed. Whether your company follows the Associated Press style, the Chicago Manual style, or any other major news outlet’s format, the only way in which an embargoed press release differs from one that can be shared immediately is the delay notification.

The embargo notification can look different, depending on what platform or how you are distributing your press release. Some of the most common embargo notifications are:
  • EMBARGO Until [date] at [time & time zone].
  • EMBARGOED: Release no earlier than [date] at [time & time zone].
When sending out an embargoed press release, make sure that the dateline in the body of the release is the same as the date listed in your embargo notification above it.

What a Sample Embargoed Press Release Looks Like:

Embargoed PR Sample
(Note: Depending on the platform you use when sending press releases, your headers and dateline may look slightly different; the above is only a representation of a press release, and not necessarily exactly how one should look.)

Some companies choose to place embargo notifications at the top of the press release and somewhere in the body of the release, including a sentence like the following:

This press release can be distributed when the embargo is lifted on [date] at [time & time zone].

When You Are Ready To Embargo...

Every time you send a press release, whether the information contained in it is for immediate release or embargoed until a future date/time, you are providing journalists and media outlets a piece of your company’s story.

The safest and most secure way to deliver your company’s news to those who might wish to share the story with viewers, readers, followers, or listeners, is to choose a press release distribution partner to help you disseminate your news.

ACCESSWIRE offers clients an easy-to-navigate platform that keeps your press releases safe and secure and can be operated either by you and your team, or in conjunction with our expert support staff.

What’s more, we have the ability to embargo your news release easily, by offering you the option to select between an immediate release, or an embargoed one.

If you would like a no-strings-attached complimentary demo of the ACCESSWIRE press release distribution platform, we are happy to schedule one at your convenience. Simply click here and let us know how we can help you!