When possible, avoid saying No Comment
One of the questions I’m frequently asked centers on the usage of “No Comment” during an interview. The question goes something like this: “If I’m asked about something I can’t talk about, or don’t want to talk about, isn’t it just easier to say ‘No Comment’?” Not really, and in some cases it can do more harm than good. Let me explain.
The term “No Comment” is pretty straight forward. However, to some journalists it can mean a number of things depending on the questions asked. It could mean yes, or it could mean you (the person being questioned) knows something, but I’ll need to keep pressing or ask the right questions. Rarely will it actually mean “No Comment”.
But the main point is this: “No Comment” is a comment, and when placed into print next to your name or shown on TV – assuming you’re on the record – it just looks bad and can lead to a lot of unnecessary speculation. More often than not, the usage of no comment will generate negative reactions, both from the public and the media.
Try to bridge the question instead
If you’re asked a question and your gut says to answer with “No Comment” ignore that instinct and attempt to bridge.
Bridging is a technique which enables you to control the answer. “I wouldn’t say that exactly, but if you’re asking (rephrase the reporter’s question), I can tell you…” is a pretty common method of avoiding “No Comment”. There are other bridge techniques as well, but you learn about them in media training and one-on-one practice sessions.
##If you can’t answer, just say so
Sometimes people say “No Comment” because they’re honestly not allowed to answer the question. If there is a legal or policy reason for not being able to answer (for example, your place of work forbids you discussing certain topics or people), simply say so. Situations like this are where speculation can run wild, and the person responsible for the “No Comment” is often left on the hook.
If you have a communications team or PR adviser, send questions to them
If you work for a company that has a communications team or PR agency, instead of saying “No Comment” to questions, send reporters to them and avoid the dilemma of “No Comment” completely.
They are trained professionals, and know all of the talking points for the company. It’s better for them to speak rather than you in most cases. If you don’t have a communications team or a PR agency, it’s wise to obtain some basic media training or at least read up on many of the techniques before speaking to the press. Google is your friend there.
Another way to avoid using “No Comment” is to try an anticipate questions before they’re asked and have answers ready to go. You can do this by knowing as much as you can about the story the journalist is working on. The big win here is that most journalists will always give you an idea about what the story is focused on. They won’t give you everything, but they’ll at least tell you what it’s about.
Maybe it isn’t you who should be talking
Finally, aside from sending the journalist to your communications team or PR agency, maybe your instinct to use “No Comment” comes from the fact that you’re not the right person to answer the question. Here, all you have to do is be honest, and point the reporter to a different expert on the matter. They’ll be grateful for your assistance, and you’ll get to avoid using that dreaded term.