Companies often find themselves in situations where they are not in a position to make public statements, and the challenge is always how do you say, "No comment," without saying, "No comment?" PR consultants, who focus on corporate and brand reputation, and lawyers, who focus on corporate legal exposure, often give conflicting advice. Lawyers like, "No comment." The non-commitment that comes from that statement makes their job so much easier. "No comment," however, does not make the story go away. Those two words actually say, "I know a lot; I'm just not going to tell you!"
"No comment" encourages the journalist to go around management to find an answer to the question from other sources. That answer from other sources is frequently inaccurate, and it can not only generate misinformation about the company, but it can also fuel further damaging speculation. In constructing a response when you are prohibited from providing substantive information, consider the following scenarios:
Any "No comment" response should show respect to the reporter asking the question. Sometimes you will just not be able to discuss a matter in public, but if you explain the reasons why that is so, you enhance your credibility with both the media and your company stakeholders. If management demonstrates a willingness to work with the media on providing timely and accurate information, journalists will more likely respond in a reasonable fashion.
Perry Hall was a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Perry's blogs here.
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