“No Comment” – six alternatives and why, when, and how to use them

You may be one of the lucky ones who never find themselves in front of the media over a contentious issue or crisis.  Conflict is exactly what makes news ‘news’ and if you watch the news tonight you’ll notice the most common theme behind every story is conflict. Whether the story is about man versus the environment, politician versus politician, big corporate versus little guy, it’s almost certainly bound to focus on a disagreement or fight.

 

So if you find yourself dealing with a crisis or you have a contentious issue that needs addressing in the media, responding with the words “no comment” will only make matters worse. By responding with “no comment” you are effectively telling your audience you are to blame, wrong or hiding something.  “No comment” equals “guilty”.  Audiences will speculate and assume you have something to hide. What’s worse, is chances are, the media will run the story, with or without your help. If they can’t get a comment from you, they’ll get one from someone else and that ‘someone else’ could be the ‘other’ party, your competitor or previous employees.

 

So what do you do if you can’t actually address the issues at hand? The rule of thumb is to explain why you can’t respond and put things in perspective. Relevant key messages may also help you tell your story on your terms.

 

You may also want to think about the following six alternatives to the words “no comment”.

 

  •  “I think it would be clearer if I first explained….”,
  • “I don’t have all the facts to be able to answer the question accurately but I can  tell you that …” (continue with your key message),
  • “To answer, you must consider the following points…”
  • “Actually, that relates to a more important concern….”
  • “Your question points out a common misconception we hear too often.  The real issue here is …”
  • “For legal reasons I am unable to answer that question, however I can tell you this…”

 

Remember, in many instances, the reporter’s next question will be based on your previous answer. If you successfully bridge to your message, the reporter may stay on that topic.

 

Remember, never lie and any response (almost) is better than “no comment”.