“No comment” pretty much means you’re guilty

23219283 Most people believe a company is guilty of the accusation when a company official says "no comment." Robin Cohn’s book, The PR Crisis Bible tells a story that really illustrates this point.

One day a CEO heard someone behind him say, "Excuse me." Turning around, he recognized a well-known business reporter who said, "I just have one question."

The CEO panicked.  "No comment," he replied and hurried away from the reporter.

Since Watergate, those two words have come to mean that the speaker has something to hide. 

The reporter, who was just trying to figure out how to find someone that he had an appointment with, began to wonder what was going on at the company and started working the phones.  He found a disgruntled employee and looked for dirt on the Web.  He ended up writing an expose of problems at the company and stock price plunged.

What should you say instead of no comment?   Try the truth.  Even if part of the truth is "we don’t have all the answers yet," or "our attorneys have asked us not to discuss that part of the lawsuit."

Be candid.  Share what you can.  And be frank about what you aren’t at liberty to say.  But stonewalling doesn’t cut it today.

Whether it’s true or not, the public and the media believe they have a right to know just about everything.  And a "no comment" brands you as guilty long before you’ve had a chance to prove otherwise.

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