A few weeks ago, I was briefed on a new RAID storage system. While discussing the (embargoed) announcement, I was puzzled that there didn’t seem to be any new content in the release. Everything we discussed was already listed on their web site, even though it wasn’t supposed to “go live” for a week. The company was embarrassed – they had broken their own embargo!
A similar error happened this morning, with NetApp’s Israeli site reportedly scooping the company’s own embargo regarding some product enhancements. This time, I hadn’t even had my briefing when the news hit Storage Newsletter and The Register. This sparked a discussion on Twitter regarding embargoes, and I thought it was time to lay down my own opinion on the matter.
Embargoes Are Useful
Embargoes help us all. I love that I can get inside information ahead of announcements, giving me time to consider the implications of new technology releases. I’m not scoop driven (though I’ve sometimes gotten the scoop) so I’m less interested in timeliness than I am in the depth of insight I can get from a briefing.
So I usually welcome embargoed briefings from companies I cover. I’m always ready to listen to interesting content, and usually ask tough questions during these calls. I want to know why a product decision has been made and what it’s good for, not just that it exists.
But I won’t write about everything. I am not a professional reporter, and I don’t get a bonus for being first or most-read. I use my blog to talk to the world, as well as a mechanism for me to record my own thoughts on topics interesting to me. I’m not trying to maximize pageviews or ad impressions.
So I will often refuse a briefing if I’m not interested in a company’s announcement, and will even cut off a call midway through if it seems like a waste of both my and the company’s time. (I hope they understand the sincerity in that move) I will also sometimes decide not to write about a relevant topic if I can’t find something I want to say about it. I’m not going to parrot everyone else’s coverage just to have said something!
I’d like to lay out my opinion on embargoes very clearly:
- I honor embargoes I agree to – Contact me and if I say I won’t publish until a set date and time, you can bet I won’t.
- Set a date and time – It’s frustrating when companies haven’t decided when an announcement “goes live” or don’t include a time zone.
- Don’t break your own embargo – This happens all the time. Please don’t hold me to a higher standard than you follow yourself!
- Embargoes are not NDAs – As spelled out in my other post, don’t confuse these terms. Embargoes are not NDAs and vice versa.
- Try to be relevant – I write about enterprise and consumer technology, especially data storage. Don’t pitch me on unrelated topics.
- Don’t pester me – If I overlook your briefing request, go ahead and contact me a second time. But don’t pester me for weeks especially on irrelevant topics. I get about a dozen requests a week and can’t attend to all of them!
- Give me time and information – Don’t expect me to react positively to a press release or tardy 15 minute briefing. I need time to ask questions and digest your announcement or I’ll just skip it.
- I will be skeptical – I’m not going to write a summary of your press release. I will interrupt your slides. I will question your numbers. Send me a sample to test and I’ll really test it.
I really respect and enjoy working with many PR professionals, and I have a serious distaste for the “un-professionals” out there. Reach out to me in a positive way and I’ll happily work within your embargo!