The scene is familiar to anyone who has watched cable news: A reporter with a microphone catches a CEO outside of his office and asks about a recent company controversy; the CEO is surprised and annoyed; he shoves his hand in front of the camera and says, “No comment,” before scurrying away.
At Mack Communications, the phrase “no comment” makes us cringe. More often than not, the public assumes guilt when they hear it. “No comment” is now equated to, “Yes, we’re guilty, but we don’t want to admit it,” or “We have something to hide.”
In today’s interconnected world, it’s incredibly easy for companies to communicate with the public. A business can email, Tweet, or send a press release. It’s also very easy for the public to speculate and spread false information through these mediums, fast. Saying “no comment” provides no information, encouraging the media or public to create their own narratives.
Sometimes, a company legitimately cannot talk to the media; for example, when pending litigation legally prevents them from doing so. However, rather than defaulting to “no comment,” we encourage our clients to draft a short statement that makes them seem more accessible to the public, or willing to provide information, when they can. These short, one- to two-sentence statements don’t necessarily have to contain a great deal of details either; just enough to convey that the company acknowledges the media and will get them information when they can.
For example, “The Button Company is committed to providing customers with only the most durable, high-quality buttons. However, due to pending litigation we cannot comment further on this case,” is much better than “no comment.” This more thoughtful statement might encourage the media to reach out in the future and give your side of the story the fair representation that you couldn’t provide information for before.