When we’re running media and crisis training, we always advise our clients to avoid saying “no comment”. Here, the experienced tech journalist and media consultant Nick Huber explains why.
When your company says “no comment” to the media it can be more revealing than you think – and not in a good way.
Based on my 25 years in journalism and media consultancy, there’s often a subtext, including:
1. The company may have something to hide about the subject. For some journalists, particularly those who follow your company or specialise in your industry, a no comment, combined with other tip offs, may pique their curiosity. And they start investigating.
2. The company prefers to keep media comment to a minimum and views most journalists with suspicion
3. The in-house press office or PR agency are inexperienced
4. The PRs/press office may be experienced but their shrewd advice to the company board is being ignored
5. There’s a disconnect between what a company has said publicly on a subject and what it says privately
6. A company’s sales/strategy/progress on sustainability etc. don’t live up to it’s PR platitudes. It’s struggling. Doesn’t have evidence to back up it claims. But hasn’t worked out how to row back on previous public statements.
7. It wants to wait to see what others in the industry are saying to the media before commenting
Of course, sometimes no comment makes sense.
Perhaps your spokespeople haven’t had media training…The interview subject is irrelevant to your business…You don’t have anything meaningful to say on the subject.
But if the occasional “no comment” becomes your standard response, you might want to review your approach to comms.
PS: There is a middle ground between giving a media interview and no comment. Experienced PRs and press officers take a more nuanced approach.
The PR will give the journalist some background information, strictly not for attribution to the company, on why the company isn’t commenting and it’s unofficial views on the subject.
This kind of briefing involves trust between the PR and journalist. I prefer on-the-record comments but background briefings, which put “no comments” in context, can be useful.
Without attributing anything to the company a journalist can weave some of the information and sentiment from the background chat into their article. It can give the article more authority and give a clearer picture of what’s really happening.