Monday, May 15, 2006

Re-Thinking “No Comment”

Fans of television legal dramas understand “no comment” to be a cornerstone strategy when confronted by media.

No comment, in fact, is a phrase coined by lawyers to win in the court of law. The thinking goes, “If you don’t say the words, those words cannot be used against you.”

The court of public opinion, however, has little tolerance for lack of transparency and far fewer rules to follow in reaching a verdict.

Saying nothing creates an aurora of mystery, intrigue and deceit, which leaves media audiences craving an explanation. You can be certain the media will give them what they want—it’s their job, and a vital one for democracy.

So what, you might ask.

With or without your input, the story will be told. But, if you’re not telling your story, you leave the story telling to others. Someone else will specify how you, your company, your products are positioned with media and perceived by their agenda-affecting audiences.

No comment may win in the courtroom. But in the court of public opinion, the famed phrase has led to perceptions of distrust, uncertainty and instability. These perceptions can lead employees to quit, analysts to turn a cold shoulder, vendors to focus attention elsewhere, board members to resign and customers to stop buying.

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