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20 Ways For Lawyers To Say “No Comment”

A reader recently sent me a document called “101 Ways To Not Comment Without Using The Words ‘No Comment.’”

Here are a few examples: “Without commenting on any specific case, here’s the general rule.” “It would compromise our efforts if I publicly discussed the matter with you at this point.” “I cannot give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to that question right now. But if you have some time, I can read to you the 85-page opinion from the court.”

In this post, you’ll see 20 of the best one-liners from that document, along with my advice about how and when to use them.

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10 Media Ground Rules For Working With Reporters

One media training client told me that he refuses to speak with reporters unless they allow him to approve the story before it runs.

Another told me that her boss surreptitiously records media interviews in case the reporter “screws” him.

Such stories are more common than you might think. And while there’s a place for insisting upon certain interviewing ground rules, it’s also important to make sure your requests are truly in your best interest—and that they don’t violate newsroom protocols. In this post, you’ll learn 10 of the most important ground rules for working with reporters.

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How To Prepare Questions For Your Own Media Interview

A reader recently wrote in and asked: “I am slotted to go on a local television show, and the interviewer asked me to provide a list of questions for her to ask me. Any suggestions for questions, or tips?”

It’s common for time-pressed television or radio hosts to ask guests for a list of questions in advance. That’s not a guarantee that they’ll stick to your questions, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to shape the interview—and its outcome.

Here are five types of questions you might prepare.

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Why Good Media Interviews Are Like Threading A Needle

Media trainers often focus on what can go wrong during an interview. As a result, spokespersons can become fearful of the consequences of a badly worded thought.

Those risks are real, of course, but sometimes we don’t do a good enough job of reminding people that in many cases, the majority of interviews they ever give will not be adversarial in nature.

A spokesperson who thinks about what both they and the reporter want from the exchange can succeed at threading the needle between their goals and the reporter’s needs.

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When Throwaway Comments Become Your Lead Quote

Many years ago, a client told me a story that serves as a useful cautionary tale for everyone who interacts with reporters.

The man, who represented a government agency, was friendly with a local reporter. The two socialized after hours on a regular basis, but had an agreement that whenever the reporter called his buddy at the government agency in his professional role, the usual rules of media interviewing would apply.

One day, the reporter called his pal and asked for a comment. Unfortunately, his friend said something he shouldn’t have.

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Donald Trump’s “Off-The-Record” New York Times Interview

On January 5, 2016, Donald Trump visited the editorial board of The New York Times. Some 30 editors were reportedly present for the meeting, portions of which were agreed by both parties to be off the record.

Late last week, a columnist for the Times who attended that meeting wrote a piece suggesting that Trump was more flexible on his immigration views than he was letting on publicly.

This incident offers a cautionary tale about why going off the record is risky — and adds a new rule to my list of things to consider if you’re ever inclined to speak in that manner.

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If I Can’t Veto Your Questions, I’m Canceling This Interview

Lucy Allan, a Member of the British Parliament, has been getting a lot of negative press lately. Among other things, she has been accused of bullying her staff and inventing a death threat.

Last week, she was scheduled to appear on the BBC, but reportedly pulled out because she wasn’t allowed to veto certain questions in advance. That only likely magnified her image as someone who exhibits bullying behavior.

Requesting “pre-conditions” prior to an interview isn’t always a bad decision. Here’s where she went wrong.

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Oops! I Have That Thing You Just Denied Saying On Tape.

I recently heard a story about a company spokesperson who got himself into trouble during a media interview.

While speaking to the reporter, he called one of his group’s critics (and occasional partners) a negative term. When the article came out, his bosses were furious.

He denied everything, insisting that he hadn’t used that term and that the reporter had distorted his words. But there was one thing he didn’t count on.

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