When Is It OK to Respond “No Comment” to a Reporter?

No comment
To comment or not to comment

The conventional wisdom for media interviews is that you never say “no comment” when a reporter asks you a question you can’t or don’t want to answer.

You Must Answer the Question

Of course, you can’t give the journalist confidential organization information, or remark during the very period going before an initial public offering (IPO). Be that as it may, you cannot disregard the inquiry. You don’t want to use the words “no comment,” which is like waving a red flag. Yet, many interview subjects figure they can just stonewall the reporter and bridge back to their key messages.

That is a big mistake. The reporter will think you’re concealing something when you don’t address his question. So he will utilize various words to pose a similar inquiry until you answer. You are not obligated to answer every question. However, you are obliged to respond.

Here is an example of a candidate for office who wouldn’t address an inquiry regarding help to military families. When he’s ignored, the reporter keeps on hounding him with repeating the question in a variety of ways. It doesn’t help that the candidate appears to be more intrigued by a sports car than helping the military:

It would have diffused the situation if the candidate had simply stated, “That is a significant worry for our veterans and I’m investigating all the alternatives. I’ll have an announcement out shortly about what I think should be done.”

If you can’t answer, reply, “I am not at liberty to say.” State whether another person in your organization is allowed to discuss the subject and then offer to make the introduction.

Appeal to common sense with, “I’m sure you appreciate the sensitivity of what you are asking,”  or “That is proprietary business information, and it would be inappropriate for me to discuss it,” or, “What I can let you know is . . . ” and repeat your key message.

If you don’t have a clue about the appropriate response, say as much, and express the likelihood of providing a response. In the event that you can find the solution, make certain to catch up with the reporter, as promised.

Take Your Time

Frequently, when a journalist says you didn’t address the question, she really means that you didn’t answer the way she had hoped you would.

Beware of:

  • Responding too quickly. Think. Take some time before replying. Pause for a few seconds. It might appear to be a lifetime to you, however you’re permitted to thoroughly consider your answers.
  • Answering “squirmer” questions. These are the issues that make you wriggle since they’re hard to reply. Be prepared with the fitting reactions to the inquiries you can’t or don’t have any desire to answer.
  • Being brought into a snare. Beware of stops and theoretical inquiries. A regular strategy utilized by columnists is to ask “and… ?” They’re trusting you’ll occupy the clear space with delicious goodies. At the point when you’re done, quit talking. In the event that there’s a delay, use it to survey a past point, not to ramble.
  • Being afraid of not knowing the answer. Even when you’ve prepared for the interview, you can’t anticipate every question. It might be that the journalist’s editor cornered him before the interview and told him to ask you certain questions. Or on the other hand, some awful news related to your organization or industry may have been reported just before the interview. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to a question. Say you will get back to the reporter or state it’s something you won’t have the option to reply at all.
  • Lying. Never lie. The reporter will find out and that news outlet will blackball you.

So, in answer to our whether or not it’s alright to react “No remark.” Truly, you can, in so numerous other words.

What reactions do you use when you get an inquiry from a journalist that you would prefer not to answer?

  • B.C. contractual worker presented to asbestos blows whistle, says government made his life a ‘nightmare’ (news.nationalpost.com)
  • Republicans Boycott Video Meetings With Legislators in Hallways (motherjones.com)
  • Getting Your Key Messages into Media Interviews (introducing yourself.com)
Share this post:

One Comment

  1. Great and important advice. I’ve always thought that when someone says “No comment” it’s because answering the question truthfully would cast the person or their organization in an unfavorable light.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe for Free Tips

Enter your contact information below to subscribe to our blog and receive your free copy of our 46-page guide Presenting Yourself and More….

Connect with Newman Group


The Newman Group Is . . .


The Newman Group is a recognized leader in guiding business professionals, celebrities and authors to improve their communications skills in presentations and media interviews.

Our highly skilled and experienced professionals have the expertise in media and presentation training to meet any business situation — from helping an executive to prepare for the challenge of talking to a reporter during a business crisis to presenting a group of investors during an IPO or keeping a celebrity spokesperson on point.