Twice in the past two days, people have sent us press releases, with big capital letters at the outset: "UNDER EMBARGO" until such-and-such a time. This is new. And if there are PR professionals out there, reading this, a word -- embargoes are negotiated with the media, not dictated. If you want us to sit on information, and thus not do our jobs, a polite request and explanation for why we would do so would be nice. Personally, unless I say yes to an embargo, I have no reason to go along with one.
And that brings me to another point -- that negotiation thing. Really good negotiators are able to say why it's in your interest, not their own, to come to some agreement. Years ago, when I was writing a book about an MP (who had somewhat extraordinary success getting what she wanted in her riding) I was struck by how many cabinet ministers were able to say her simple recipe: she walked into the minister's office and said, "here's why this thing I want would be good for YOU."
On some days in Ottawa, it's kind of amazing to watch how many people can forget this simple truth. Flacks call and explain why they need publicity; aides call and complain that we aren't making their ministers look good; lobbyists (bad ones) rant that we aren't doing stories that serve their clients. And we do it too -- we tell folks we need to be on front page or we need stuff that makes our bosses happy. Why that should be relevant to a politician or anyone else, I have no idea. Unless you assume that the other person is totally focused on giving you what you want and not at all concerned about him/herself.
Which brings me again (and for now, enough about this) to that revealing little document that ministerial staff prepare before a "message event." See previous couple of posts. Notice that there isn't a word in there about the public interest. "Message events" are all about polishing the image of the politician and making him/her look good.
That's the egregious part of the whole, painstaking preparation -- not one question or blank space for the part where the public benefits. I'd venture to say that it's one of the reasons the public has simply checked out. The self-interest is obvious and apart from being kind of offensive, it's impractical too. No one actually wants to spend a whole lot of time listening to what you want or what makes you look good.