If you’ve ever been through media training you’ve probably heard about key words or phrases to avoid saying to any reporter. While you may have been told to “avoid” these phrases, you may not realize WHY they are potentially landmines. “You Don’t Say,” written by a former CNN national correspondent for Public Relations Tactics, describes why you should omit these phrases from your vernacular, or else potentially find yourself in hot water.
“No comment” – To a reporter this means I know something that you want and I’m not going to tell you. Think back to all the times you’ve seen someone say “no comment” to a reporter’s question. What was your reaction?
“Off the record” – The rules have changed today. You may not be speaking with a veteran newsman, instead, you’re speaking with a cub reporter or a citizen journalist who hasn’t studied journalism and doesn’t know the rules. If you don’t want to see it in print, online, on TV, etc., don’t say it. Even the quote isn’t attributed directly to you, people will know who said it.
“There really isn’t a story here” – This phrase reminds me of childhood when someone told you “there’s nothing to see here” — that only made you want to see it more. Telling a reporter there is no story could make him or her more eager to uncover the truth. Instead, be honest with the reporter and tell him or her that you haven’t heard any concerns about the issue or respectfully tell the reporter why it’s not a story. Ultimately, it’s up to the reporter, but you’ve made your case and hopefully earned some trust with the reporter.
For Mark Bernheimer’s full article, visit.