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Why “No comment” is no good

Having just read an interesting LinkedIn discussion in which one communications pro surprisingly advocated for use of the words “No comment” in response to certain probing questions from the media, I felt compelled to chime in.

I spent more than a decade as a television news correspondent and the past 16 years counseling Fortune 500 and other companies on how to manage difficult issues in the public eye. “No comment” is absolutely the wrong answer in any exchange with media.

The fact is that we the public tend to associate “no comment” with having something to hide – if not outright guilt. There are plenty of other ways to credibly address questions for which you cannot or should not provide the detailed responses sought by reporters. You need only explain WHY you’re not at liberty to provide such details and then “bridge,” or segue, to other information, e.g., “Surely you understand that I’m not at liberty to discuss the details of this case as it works its way through the legal system, but what I can tell you is…” Or, “You’ve asked me about a confidential personnel issue and our policy is not to speak publicly about such matters…” This isn’t “BS,” as claimed by the misguided communications pro I mentioned above. It’s a straightforward, more collaborative way of communicating – one that keeps even communications-averse lawyers happy. It’s a simple explanation of the truth that helps to ward off follow-up questions as well.