Every communicator on earth knows the value of the phrase, “No comment.” When we do media training, we coach everyone that the value of “no comment” is pretty much nill—and so is trying to have a conversation off the record. You can always assume that what you say will end up being reported, no matter what was agreed to during the conversation.
When we were kids, my dad always told us we should never, ever put into writing anything we didn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper. That’s the same philosophy I take to media relations—everything you say or write can, and will, end up in print.
That’s why I’m always surprised when a communicator is upset that something they gave on background is attributed to them. Or, as we discussed a few weeks ago when a reporter won’t run a story if the communicator won’t approve of being named as a spokesperson.
It’s a tricky balance we all try to keep—in some cases, there is information we should be able to give on background if only to provide extra context, but it doesn’t add value to the story so shouldn’t need to be printed, let alone attributed. I also understand that journalists have to be able to name their sources, both in the name of ethics and in reporting on the news without bias.
And that, my friends, is what we’re going to discuss on this week’s episode of the Spin Sucks podcast.