ALP: I just received a call from a reporter. Will “no comment” be the most effective way for my business to respond?

November 2005

No.  Rarely will “no comment” be the most effective response.  A business is usually better served to issue some statement.  Open communication with the media as to the information sought, how you can work within the criteria, and when you will comment enables more effective use of media attention.  You can accomplish this with a planned response or by calling the media first.  Being proactive makes you appear interested in communicating with the public and capable of competently handling the issue.

In good or bad times, media attention can be beneficial to a business.  Established relationships with reporters enable more effective communication in either situation.  Know the reporters interested in your business.  Press releases keep reporters apprised of your ventures and accomplishments.  Educate reporters about your business, and about the particular situation in which it finds itself.  All of these things contribute to a more open relationship with a reporter seeking your story in the time of a crisis, and a more effective public response.

Every business should have a media relations contact or team of contacts responsible for communicating with the media and getting the company’s word to the public.  Prior to any crisis or litigation developing, set up a system that allows this team to respond in a quick and coordinated manner to any media inquiries.  A clear chain of communication among management, the media relations team, and any legal team should be established early and communicated to all employees.  A clearly delineated leader should be responsible for media communications.

These very simple steps will eliminate much of the anxiety related to media communication and could save your business a lost opportunity.