The occasion was this post on his Embargo Watch blog about a new journal that chose a no-embargoes policy for releasing its studies, itself a good case study if you are thinking about going embargo-free. But what caught my eye was this paragraph pulling together 2012 data from actual coverage through the end of October:
[S]ince I run a little health news service at Reuters that reaches millions of people, I can quantify just how much embargoes drive our coverage. By the end of October, we will have covered 122 studies from journals for our consumer service. Of those, 45 were embargoed — but we didn’t hit the embargo on 12 of them, because we had better things to do, like cover more interesting studies that weren’t embargoed. And sometimes when we did cover such studies, it was knowing they weren’t terribly compelling, but we wanted to get better reporting out there than I suspected some of our competitors will do. (I like to think of that as using the power of bigfooting for good.)
One limitation of my “study” is obvious: I’m the one making the decisions. But I know we’re not alone in seeking out studies that were neither press-released nor embargoed, because I see big news outlets covering those kinds of papers every day.Let's recap: Of the journal studies that got coverage from Reuters Health in the first 10 months of 2012, fewer than half were based on embargoed press releases. And they let embargoes dictate when they'd cover stories just 27 percent of the time.
I hope that's enough data to spark a discussion as you consider your own media relations policies. Embargoes and their management are often cited as "time-savers for everybody," but in fact, they take an enormous amount of effort for communicators to manage. Are all those hours being spent for naught? The only way for you to find out is to check in with the reporters who cover you on a regular basis, and keep track of their coverage. Don't just ask whether they prefer embargoes. Instead, ask what proportion of their coverage comes from embargoed material, and whether the embargo actually mattered in the coverage. You might be surprised. Need help considering or reconsidering an embargo policy? Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.
UPDATE: Want to share this as a tutorial in your office? Here's the post in SlideShare form:
If you found this post useful, please subscribe or make a one-time donation to help support the thousands of hours that go into researching and curating this content for you: