Embargoes, Exclusives, and Scoops … Oh My!

Knowing the difference is one thing. What works is another matter entirely.

Don’t worry…your pitch is in there somewhere.

Public relations creates a torrential current that flows with fervor — it can drown many and cause others to hang ten, dude. That said, it’s perfectly logical that the key to success in PR (and the proverbial “staying above water”) lies in navigation. 

Tactics come and go, but strategies to develop news last forever in this business. Speaking of forever, some of the tools we use to spark some interest in the newsroom feel like they have been around for almost that long.

Among them are a couple of “old faithfuls” that many thought leaders in the industry have questioned for years — embargoes, exclusives, and scoops. Let’s discuss all three and determine whether they should float on…or just get dunked.


secrets-of-strengthI’m about to make some friends and a few enemies here. Journalism and PR should have one salient thing in common: storytelling. Regardless of what you use (e.g., stunts, releases, social platforms, pitching), the end game is to develop a story and present it to the public.

In summary, media embargoes are the making of PR sausage.

As professionals in the story sharing business, we owe it to our clients to do whatever it takes to get that story in the headlines. Too many things can go wrong with the “gentleman’s agreement” approach.

However, if your story is so juicy that timing is what makes it appealing, what happens if there is a change of heart? Both the timing and your relationship gets botched.

In short, stick with an exclusive and save the battery power on your fancy knock-off timepiece.

  • PROS: For some journalists, embargoes can be an interesting option — but they tend to treat them more like exclusives. Listen to the questions following your shrewd recommendation and you’ll see.
  • CONS: Too many to count. Reporters secretly (and some openly) hate them. Your Pandora’s Box goes against the heart of journalism — finding facts. Granted, many #PRFails come when an embargo is involved and a reporter chooses to leak the story. BTW, if you are offering a reporter great information…your use of the word embargo doesn’t mean it is protected.
  • ADVANTAGE: Dunk. The embargo isn’t going anywhere soon, but they still suck out loud.


exclusive-interviewThese are considered to be very special stories — tales that a viewer, reader, or listener will not find anywhere else. That’s because a shrewd agreement was made between PR pro and journo that would give a great piece to a single source.

These days; however, we see national news networks mention an “exclusive” with a guy during the morning show. Great news — only the show that is next on the roster within the same network doesn’t want to be outdone, so they get “an exclusive” as well. A little redundant, folks.

What used to show singularity and a conscripted selection for coverage now means an interview in which no other outlet’s camera happened to be in the room at the time. That used to be called an interview, but maybe an exclusive (interview) is “double-secret probation” with more flash.

  • PROS: If you have one or two trusted contacts with “big news,” a real exclusive can be much more effective than any interview or press release. It’s all about relationships in PR and this fact proves it.
  • CONS: The next time you have announcement and you target media source A, good. The second you hit ‘send’ for media source B, your chance of an “exclusive” leaves with that email.
  • ADVANTAGE: Float, providing someone in PR and media decides to stick to its original definition.


cool-storyTo some people in PR, this word is synonymous with exclusive. But if you think about it, one could lead to the other. When a PR type has a new story or — most likely — a new angle to a current story, offering that insight and a source to a trusted friend in the media can be a good thing. If your insight and source is appealing enough, you will have just delivered a scoop.