Everyone is familiar with the iconic images of people caught in some kind of scandal – dashing from one door to another, hounded by media and camera flashbulbs, their attorney brandishing the terse “no comment” like a shield. It’s dramatic, to be sure, but in the real world, “no comment” is never your best defense.
The problem with “no comment” is that it makes you sound like you’ve got something to hide, like you’re guilty of something. To a journalist, “no comment” is a flashing red light that suggests there’s more to the story, probably something bad. It’s far better to answer questions as honestly and openly as you can.
Just ask the reporter for a little time to provide a response if you aren’t prepared to answer a question, but be sure to promptly follow up with the reporter. Usually this means a few hours, not a few days. Ask if they have a deadline and do your best to respond within that timeframe. Don’t try to hide – “Mr. Brown failed to respond to repeated attempts to contact him,” is almost as bad as “no comment.”
Other times you might not be able to give an answer for legal reasons. In those cases, tell them what you are able to and explain why you cannot give anything further. Here are a few examples of statements that work better than the dreaded “no comment”:
“We are reviewing the situation and will offer an update as soon as we are able to gather the necessary information.”
“We are aware of the ongoing investigation, but we are not allowed to discuss our involvement at the request of law enforcement.”
“I have not had a chance to speak to the relevant people, but as soon as I can provide an update I will.”
“I was not aware of that. Let me check into it and get back to you.”
Even a broad response is better than no response.