Eight PR Terms You Should Know But Only Vaguely Understand

Journalists, and the public relations people who work to sway them, deal in a jargon of their own. Before you wade into the world of the press, either via a chat with a reporter or the hiring of PR help, it would probably help to get a feel for this vocabulary.

Below, we’ve gathered eight terms that you’ve probably heard before but only vaguely understand.


An embargo is an agreement between a source and a media outlet that information—often contained in a press release—will not be published until a predetermined time. Venture funding announcements are often disclosed to journalists “under embargo.”

For example, a company that’s just raised $40 million in venture capital may reach out to several reporters, asking each if they’ll agree to review the details of the announcement under embargo. The embargo contains a time and date, i.e. Wednesday, March 25th at 9a.m. ET.

If journalists agree to the embargo, they agree not to publish any of the information held in the press release, or in related interviews, until Wednesday, March 25th at 9a.m. ET.

PR professionals often use embargos to ensure that their clients or companies receive press from multiple outlets at one time. In theory, an embargo ensures that no single reporter gets to “break” the news, but that each gets equal access. The practice also helps amplify the news on a single day, helping the company reach a broader swath of its target audience.

The predictability of such announcements is an added bonus. (For companies, at least.)

Of course, embargoes don’t always work in practice. Sometimes news outlets intentionally break them in order to get a leg up on their competition. And sometimes they break them, “by accident.”

In theory, breaking an embargo results in some kind of consequence for the offending journalist and media outlet. But, like anything else, this consequence depends on the power dynamics at play.

The only recourse for a publicist burned by a reporter who breaks an embargo is, maybe, an angry email and phone call, along with a promise to withhold future information.

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