Why ‘no comment’ is always the worst option

Some time passed since my last post, but I plan to make them more regular.

After 12 fantastic years at Mower, the best independent advertising and PR agency in the East, I decided to go out on my own. Solo. No partners. I’m in my second week. Time to re-kindle the blog.

There are so many crises these days, I could have chosen one to comment on: What Bob Woodward’s book Fear created in the White House; what the Times’ anonymous op-ed writer caused on top of that; the ongoing — and horribly handled — crisis in the Roman Catholic Church; or, the continuing saga of men in power who abused women, with CBS’s Les Moonves the latest titan to fall.

Instead, I want to go back to a basic tenet of crisis and reputation management that still gets trampled in the crush of a pressured mess. That is: No comment is not an option.

Image result for no comment

This simple rule contains significant logic. If you don’t stick up for yourself, if you don’t say something, reporters are going to fill that time and space with more from your critics. If you don’t offer a plausible, or even space-holding, comment, the public at large will presume you are guilty. Commenting is an opportunity. If you skip it, you’ve dug a deeper hole for yourself.

Why do people avoid commenting? Mainly because their attorneys are justifiably worried about liability. And that’s fair. But there is always room to comment and not compromise your lawyer’s restrictions.

To wit: “This case is headed to litigation, but I want to say that I intend to defend myself against these unfair and trumped-up allegations and I’m confident I will be vindicated.”

Right? Something like that doesn’t make you more vulnerable, and it stops the barbarian hordes in their tracks from trampling you, your reputation and your future. This makes people think, “OK, let’s not rush to judgment. He/she sounds pretty sure.’

This is even more the case these days, when you can email a comment to a reporter, or even do a phone interview and stop short of something in-person, or on-camera.

Even if you are up against it, flat-out guilty as charged, there are comments you can make beyond zip. “That’s all I can say at this point.” Or, “that’s all I have for you at this time.” Those are neutral, weight-bearing supports that are better than nothing.

Don’t be afraid to comment. Be afraid of the damage a “no comment,” causes.



About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. Until recently, he was Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Crisis and Reputation Management at Mower, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with nine offices in the Northeast and Southeast. He is now managing partner of Steve Bell Communications LLC.
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1 Response to Why ‘no comment’ is always the worst option

  1. Nancy DeTine says:

    Congratulations on your new solo practice! I wish you great success.

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