Why “no comment” can fuel the media fires

In the wake of allegations of a video showing Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack, instead of rising to defend himself, the controversial mayor instead took the “no comment” position. After years of media relations, you would think Mayor Ford would have known the importance of making a statement early in the story versus delaying an inevitable comment.

So what’s wrong with not commenting or saying “no comment?” Plenty. Too often, not commenting is seen as an admission of guilt or that the person is hiding something. After all, if they are innocent or have nothing to hide, why not just talk?

In issues management cases where you can’t comment for legitimate reasons, state those reasons versus saying “no comment.” For example – “at this point we cannot comment as the matter is before the courts.” Keeping with the golden rule of crisis communications – be open, honest and transparent, you are still making a comment to the media. And hey, they are well aware you can’t talk about the matter, but just need someone on record to say why you can’t talk.

When it comes to being the Mayor of Canada’s largest city, it is important to show leadership. Not commenting on an alleged incident that questions your ability to govern the city, only adds more fuel to the fire. So speak up early instead of hiding in the corner.