A friend of mine recently had a run-in with her Executive Director because she would not say the words “no comment” in response to a media inquiry. This was more a battle of power than anything else, but it struck me as such a non-issue… to me.
If you don’t want to give info to a reporter, you either don’t give an interview or you give a non-answer. You don’t say “no comment.” The fact that her executive director was upset that my friend wouldn’t say the words tells me that she doesn’t understand how bad it would have looked if they’d done that.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I consider it a rule never to actually say the words “no comment.” I will say a variety of other things instead:
- “I don’t have that information.”
- “I’ll have to check into that.”
- “We’re still investigating what happened.”
- “I don’t know.”
I know that we all have our professional tricks — the things we do to help us succeed at our jobs. And there are those unwritten rules, the ones we all know (on which many of us agree) that are a standard, but which the non-experts, the non-flacks, may not know.
- You never say “no comment.”
- “Off the record” doesn’t exist.
- Don’t lie — refuse to answer, provide a non-answer, deflect, misdirect, ramble… but don’t lie.
I know what was causing the real conflict between my friend and her (new) boss. She’s been at that organization for five years, been in media related work for more than 20 years. She was hired on because she has expertise. If her expertise is going to be ignored, then how is she supposed to protect her organization?
I do not envy her the upcoming months, as she tries to work out things with her boss.