Ferrari are this week’s Mis Communicator of the Week

Embargoes used to be sacrosanct. A mutually useful tool to allow journalists to get a good story, and PRs to control their message. Trust was at the heart of the agreement but because both parties benefitted, only errors got in the way of a happy relationship.

Something changed around the time of the global crash as pressure on PR firms by their clients increased at the same time as the disintegration of the traditional media landscape accelerated. This created a perfect storm: embargoes increasingly misused by PR firms or ignored by ambitious new media titles often using social media.The benefits to ignoring embargoes for titles are that influential sites like Google News prioritise them first as having broken the story. Traffic and links flow in to whoever breaks an embargo first.

There is no downside to breaking embargoes. PR firms get upset but they are so desperate for any coverage to justify their monthly retainer that they don’t stop working with the offending publication or writer. On the PR side, embargoes are misunderstood and too often used by junior staff who don't have the relationships with journalists they need to secure coverage with.

This is the background to Ferrari's announcement this week that they were setting a firm embargo on reporting of their new car backed up by a threat of a fine to those who broke the embargo of £42,000.

In a case like this an embargo is no longer being used to create fairness between newspapers and magazines with varying deadlines, but instead used as part of the wider marketing plan.

I expect one or two wealthy publications will break the embargo (which has been revised a number of times) and once they do, a free for all will ensue. If the embargo does hold then goodwill for Ferrari will be heavily diminished.

It is a retrograde step and shows a lack of creativity or understanding of how technology, social media and modern story telling techniques can release news to the world in a way that is as exciting as the amazing car Ferrari have created. This is why Ferrari are my Mis-Communicators of the Week.