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How I learned to stop worrying and love the embargo

by Leo Schwartz

Unlike a trade embargo, a press embargo doesn’t prevent you from sending cigars to your favorite journalists (that’s a different type of ethical violation.) When you pitch a story under embargo, you’re asking journalists to hold off on publishing any articles until an agreed upon date. This means that journalists have some breathing room to do research and write a story, and that no one will get the scoop before them.

What are the benefits? Journalists appreciate having time to work on the story, and they also appreciate the guarantee that no one will be able to write before them. It creates demand by setting a time peg for when journalists know your story will become news.

*When should I pitch under embargo? *Embargoes make sense when you have hard news to pitch — funding news, a product release, a major partnership, etc. For this type of story, once one journalist writes, other journalists are disincentivized from also writing, because it’s no longer “news.” An embargo ensures an equal playing field, along with ensuring that you can have time to follow up and answer questions after you pitch.

*Can journalists break embargoes? *Yes, some journalists notoriously will not honor embargoes. There’s an easy solution though — only include information in the pitch email that you would be ok with a journalist publishing. Once they agree to the embargo, you can share the rest of the story.

At Upbeat, we help you figure out whether an embargo is the right strategy. We help craft the pitch email to make sure there’s no possibility of someone breaking the embargo with sensitive information, and manage the outreach process to handle the intricacies of tracking which journalists agreed to the embargo and who to send additional info to. Finally, we’ve built our media briefs to reflect the embargo date in real time, just in case any journalists missed it.

Campaign of the Month

Easton LaChappelle is a 21-year-old engineer who has devoted his life to designing affordable, fully-functioning, 3D-printed prosthetic arms. He was prominently featured in the press in 2013 when President Obama shook his first prototype at the White House Science Fair, and has been working tirelessly since then.

Microsoft got word of his project and decided to support him in his quest to create a prosthetic arm for Momo, a 9-year-old girl missing her right arm from the elbow down. Microsoft commissioned the Seattle-based Belief Agency to capture his work through video. The result was an incredibly moving three-part short documentary, which you can watch on Youtube. Belief Agency thought that Easton and Momo’s story deserved to be told to a larger audience though, and enlisted Upbeat for media outreach.

We were able to place the story in Mashable, Digital Trends, 3DPrint.com, NowThis, HuffPost, and more. It even got picked up internationally in China and Brazil. The Mashable video already has 1.2m views and over 20k shares on Facebook.

*Why was the campaign successful? *Yes, it’s an incredibly inspirational story, and the short documentary will doubtlessly make even the most hardened curmudgeon tear up. Still, the campaign hit on each of our three necessary elements:

*Credibility *We highlighted the fact that Easton was backed by Microsoft and that the videos were created by the award-winning Belief Agency. Furthermore, we leveraged Easton’s past media coverage to demonstrate that this was the next chapter in an already demonstrably popular story.

*Timeliness *Ideally, we would have been able to pitch the story before the videos were made public. Even so, we made sure to highlight that they were recently released. We also made sure to reach out to journalists writing about 3D printing, which is a very hot subject right now.

Uniqueness This was the easiest element to demonstrate, but we still had to assure journalists that what Easton is doing is truly groundbreaking and newsworthy (i.e. the story hasn’t already been told a thousand times.)

What We’re Working On

Journalist tracking and media opportunities: On your Upbeat dashboard, you’ll be able to track engaged journalists across all of your campaigns, and view their profile to see previous coverage. Furthermore, we actively track inbound journalists requests, and will match any relevant ones with your company. When we’ve detected a media opportunity, we’ll notify you. You can respond to the journalist directly through your dashboard.

*Why? *Upbeat campaigns are great for telling an individual story happening at your company. Journalists are always looking for sources though on all types of stories, and you’re an expert. We want to maximize your knowledge by helping you connect with journalists who may need your help. In return, you’ll get featured in stories that don’t just focus on your company and start establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field.