If you’re in public relations, it’s inevitable that you will eventually feel the need to say, or advise your client to say, “No comment.” This has been the longstanding go-to statement when the truth is incriminating, uncomfortable or unpopular. However, just because everyone says it, it doesn’t mean that it’s right.
Public relations is all about the court of public opinion, and in the court of public opinion, “No comment” means “I plead guilty.” Whether or not that’s the truth is irrelevant. Saying anything, or even saying nothing, is better than “No comment.” When saying nothing, it’s impossible to be quoted in print.
This phrase is a complete waste of an opportunity. If someone is asking for a comment, they’re providing a platform. “No comment” throws the opportunity away, at best. At worst, it gives critics ammunition. If at all possible, take the offer of an open mic to voice your message, concerns or statement.
“No comment” often comes up because you were taken by surprise; therefore, always anticipate the questions you’ll be asked as best you can. If you are caught off guard, remember to stay calm, but react quickly with a decisive answer.
The phrase, what was once a reliable way of telling the public you would not be answering, has come to be seen as an admission of guilt. If you can’t think of anything to say quickly, say nothing at all, and be better prepared next time.