The Gong Blog

#AskJon: What do “off the record” and “embargo” mean?

So, “off-the-record” and “embargo” are phrases that have been used historically in dealing with the media. Both of them are sort of losing their place in the 24-hour news cycle. Steve Bannon recently got into big trouble because he thought that he was off the record but never mentioned that to a reporter he was talking to, and what he thought was a personal conversation ended up being the headline of a news cycle.

So, off the record is when you’re talking to a reporter and you don’t want to be quoted, you go, “I want to be off the record,” and theoretically they won’t quote you. Make sure you agree to that on the front end before you have the conversation, not on the back end. Because, if you do, the reporter is gonna be inclined to say, “you know what, you didn’t tell me that was off the record, so I’m going to run with it.”

Embargo is very difficult to deal with in this day and age, given the 24-hour news cycle. It was great in the days of newspapers where they printed at 6 o’clock in the morning, and you knew you can embargo something for that period of time. But, it’s harder and harder to tell a reporter that they can’t run with something until a certain time, because they’re always publishing. So, I would stay away, in this day and age, from asking for or saying something is embargoed. When you want to release the news, just release it. If you have a preferred reporter or news outlet through which you want to release it, then release it to them and then give it to everybody else afterwards. But, the days of embargoing and really sticking by embargoes are just passed by and are very difficult to deal with in the day of the 24-hour news cycle.

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POSTED IN: Media Relations, Public Relations

Jon Newman

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