PR people: 10 ways to screw up @techcrunch's embargo policy

TechCrunch is famous for not accepting PR people’s embargoes.

I’m always shocked that PR people care in any way about this, because there are so many ways to force TechCrunch (and anyone, really) to abide by embargoes. Here’s my favorite ways:

1. Copy Evan Williams (CEO/Co-founder of Twitter). Twitter didn’t launch in a tech blog. Or, if it did, it didn’t matter. I didn’t hear about it from any of the tech blogs. Ev, yesterday, even said that if he launched at Demo or TechCrunch that the judges would probably have panned it. So, how did they launch? They handed it out to friends and let their friends evangelize it. I remember first hearing about it from Eddie Codel. Face-to-face. No PR needed. No embargo needed. No “launch date” needed. I remember hearing about Qik from a friend of the company in an Apple store on a Saturday night. Same thing.

2. Brute force. Hire 10 PR people, call 10 journalists/bloggers at the same time and brief all of them at the same time. You really only need 10 people to launch a huge amount of coverage anyway.

3. Take Arrington’s own advice. He left this one in the comments on his post. Release it to everyone on your own corporate blog and then email everyone and say “take a look.”

4. Release the news in a press conference. This is how I learned of Google’s Open Social. I was in that press conference with Arrington. The embargo ended during the conference. We both had posts up in less than 20 minutes (and I was using Qik to live broadcast it).

5. Just give the exclusive to TechCrunch. Heck, that’s what most PR people do nowadays. It won’t bother us.

6. Promise bloggers a special feature that they will get to talk about first if they keep their mouths shut. Yelp did just something like this with me. They put a cool augmented reality easter egg into the product. So, after everyone else had talked about the app I was able to share with everyone something exclusive. It got covered in every single tech blog too, which gave Yelp a double dose of coverage.

7. Promise Arrington that if he keeps the embargo he’ll get an exclusive interview. This works especially well if you are Google or Facebook. But, if you are an interesting company, like, say, Gowalla, I’m sure there’s something you can offer TechCrunch that they’d be interested in over and above the news of your new iPhone app.

8. Donate $1,000 to a charity if Arrington keeps his mouth shut (will cost you maybe $5,000 to keep a few big bloggers in line). Make it public. That way he’ll look like a loser if one of his writers breaks wind first.

9. Sponsor a party at TechCrunch’s headquarters. That way if the news leaks it’ll look bad if TechCrunch doesn’t cover it. We did that with Building43, luckily the other writers stuck with their embargoes and everything worked out, but if it hadn’t you’d still have the launch party to get news.

10. Launch at a conference that all the tech writers from all the different blogs and publications like and will cover anyway, like LeWeb or Web 2.0 Summit/Expo.

What are some other ways you can mess with Arrington’s embargo policy? And how come so few PR people are writing about creative ways to deal with TechCrunch’s policy? (If you come up with some good ones, link to them in my comments).

UPDATE: since one of these really was just giving up, I’ll give you an 11th one. 11. go to a place a lot of Twitterers and bloggers hang out (like the Twitter Conference that ended today) and tell everyone you like the news and see how it leaks out. I did that with my news about leaving Microsoft and told probably 10 to 15 people. I told them on a Saturday and asked them to keep it quiet until Tuesday. Well, of course the news leaked, but not the way you’d think. A guy I didn’t even know leaked the news first and then we were off to the races. Within 72 hours Waggener Edstrom, Microsoft’s PR agency, told me I had gotten millions of media impressions with hundreds of articles and blogs.


  1. LOL this is really good. Tech Crunch is not just good at breaking embargos, they are also pretty sleazy in releasing private and confidential information.

    Add number 11 to this, buy someone out in TC's office and steal important info from them and then threaten them to make it public unless they don't honor the embargo. Tit for Tat :-P

  2. That works really well if you have some way of extorting a TC'er. But I don't recommend it, that kind of stuff always seems to blow up. Anyway, I just tell Arrington to print the worst stuff he has on me. It seems to work out in the end. :-)

  3. Hats off, Scoble! You shine a bright light on a few really good alternatives to dealing with TC when broad news coverage is the goal. Over at Sparkpr, we have tried numbers #2 and #3 with great results and these really work if the company (and news) is juicy enough. Also, those old fashioned press conferences are a great idea. I think we can call them “press meetups” now to keep it current! Again, only works if you have jumbo news.

    I am just wrapping up DEMO09 right now and the hardcore embargo on events like this is maddening/stressful, but there are plenty of journos who respect it. We do share tips on who honors and who doesn't with other PR pros to help them minimize breakage. Other bloggers, especially, totally expect breakage now and are poised to run or kill the story, depending, hours before it lifts.

    Thanks for doing your part to combat the craziness on this issue and offer some great ideas on other ways to do our jobs.

  4. “just give the exclusive to Techcrunch”!?! I dig Techcrunch but you know they won't be the most influential/popular tech blog forever…There are big changes coming :)

  5. all i can really say is, i absolutely assure you that TheNextWeb will be in the top 5 Tech blogs on the planet within a year. And although our quality of content will play a big part in that, there are other reasons too. One of them I will be able to announce on the 13 October, the other…you (and everyone reading this) will need to discover for yourself. It's significant though, very very significant. :)

  6. I once emailed Techcrunch about a new feature I was launching – they replied saying weren't going to cover it unless I emailed them first next time (mashable posted the news first). Which I probably will do

  7. Well, the reality is that this only covers consumer tech and Web 2.0 tech. I wrote that the embargo isn't dead at the WSJ (…) but that it was never really that alive there anyway.

    There are so many other avenues for PR that this won't have much affect. If you're B2B high-tech, this doesn't really matter. If you're CPG, this doesn't really matter. If you're focusing much more consumer consumer tech, this doesn't really matter. If you're Web 2.0/Internet focused, this might have some affect … but you'll just throw some people into one group.

    But, it's about the right audience. That's what's best to remember in PR.

  8. so… the primary way to screw up arrington's obnoxious no-nda-unless-you-give-me-an-exclusive policy is to kiss his ass? do I have that right?

    isn't the PR industry already lining up to do that?


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  12. I remember the event where your news leaked. It was at Vloggercon in San Francisco. That's where I first met Cali Lewis. And, on that trip, I met Pirillo in person (he was living there at the time).

  13. Re; #1: I learned about Twitter from Eddie Codel and Eric Rice at Podcast Hotel. I did not get it then, but I sure tried it, and I sure told people about it, so yes, good advice. Tell your friends. And, yes, there is no reason for an embargo these days anyway.


  14. I think the less is more approach is better, surely if you hit the key target blog(s) in your target sector with a coordinated campaign to raise buzz via Twitter, Facebook and a corporate blog, at the same time of publishing then you are going to create a huge buzz anyway?

    Embargos being broken by bloggers or media is not a new phenominon. But the blanket boming of an entire media list is old school PR, that should be abondond in the blogosphere.

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