How do you handle the situation where you’re dealing with a client whose attorney doesn’t want to issue a statement other than, “No Comment”?
[By Stephanie York, JD, Hennes Communications] As an attorney, I understand the knee-jerk instinct to say “We don’t comment on pending litigation.” When we are faced with attorneys who counsel their clients not to return media calls or to only say “no comment,” we explain that in the “Court of Public Opinion,” silence is never appropriate — especially when your opponent is telling their side of the story without being challenged. When your clients are accused of something and they don’t respond, that silence will inevitably be interpreted as negative, as in “They must be hiding something.” Or worse, “They must be GUILTY!”
While we understand there are some things you can’t say because they are legally impermissible or morally or ethically not appropriate, there is always something you can and should say. Given that not communicating is never OK, try something like, “While we can’t discuss the specifics of that situation because it’s a matter of litigation, we can tell you that when we learn of an allegation of sexual harassment, this is how we handle it.” Then, expound on the steps your company takes when it is faced with such an allegation, or share your company’s written harassment policies. A stronger option for response might be: “That simply isn’t true. We didn’t engage in inappropriate behavior and are appalled by the allegations. We look forward to presenting the facts in the upcoming case and believe the court will agree with us.”
Remember, there is always something you can say. If you need help in crafting that statement, we often work with attorneys and their clients to make sure the right and true message is delivered, and we’d welcome the chance to help you. Call us any time at 216-321-7774.