Brian Edwards Media

Media Tip: The Fine Art of Saying ‘No’

The media is wooing you, but you don’t want to give an interview. NO!!

Just how do you say ‘No’? Well, the first thing not to do is to make dishonest excuses. ‘Look, I’d love to come but my husband’s got the ‘flu and I can’t find a babysitter.’ The truth is that you’d hate to come, there’s nothing wrong with your husband and your youngest child is 17. So what are you going to do when they ring back 10 minutes later to say that they’ve employed a state registered nurse to look after the family while you’re out? Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

This sort of difficulty arises because most of us feel we have to justify our actions by giving reasons. We don’t. Assertive people realise that the best reason for not doing something is not wanting to do it. And that should be your approach when turning the reporter down.

‘No comment’ is a cliché, and it has the ring of evasion to it. There is an assertiveness technique called ‘cracked record’ that we recommend for dealing with this situation. It consists of constantly repeating your message without giving reasons:

You:                 I’ve given the matter some thought and I’ve decided that I’d prefer not to appear on Probe.

Journo:          Why not?

Y:                     Well, I’ve thought it over and I prefer not to be interviewed.

J:                     Yes, but why not?

Y:                     Basically because I don’t want to.

J:                     Well, this is very difficult for us. We’ve made all the arrangements.

Y:                     I’m sorry to hear that.

J:                     Don’t you feel that you have an obligation to the public to clarify this?

Y:                     That’s one viewpoint, but it doesn’t alter my decision.

J:                     You realise that we’ll have to say on air that you refused to appear?

Y:                     Will you?

J:                     It won’t look good. People will think you have something to hide.

Y:                     I’ll just have to take that risk, because I’ve decided not to appear…

Your reason for not appearing is because you don’t want to. You are not going to be drawn into an argument about it. Eventually the journalist will go away.

 Why is it so important not to give reasons for your decision? Because as soon as you do so, you’re effectively giving an interview: ‘You must realise this is a very sticky situation for us, and all hell is breaking loose round here at the moment. We’ve never had anything like this happen before and heads are going to roll…’  Headline: “ALL HELL BREAKING LOOSE AT MONSTER ENTERPRISES – HEADS WILL ROLL”.

‘Cracked record’ is a fail-safe way to avoid this sort of trap.

Of course, your reason for not agreeing to be interviewed may be simple and straightforward:

  • The matter is sub judice.
  • The matter is commercially sensitive.
  • You’re not the right person to talk to.
  • Your contract doesn’t allow you to talk to the media.

If this is the case, say so. But if you don’t have a darn good, honest excuse, don’t say anything.

More media tips

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8 Comments:

  1. Have you a book?

  2. This works wonders in keeping pesky interviewers at bay: “In a different time and/or place, I would happily answer all your questions. But, this is neither the right time nor place. I’m most dreadfully sorry.” It’s a real bewdie.

    • Nice technique. It has both courtesy and class. But I have to ask, is it game playing? Trouble with game playing is that it only works once and then they suss you! And the media are past masters at recognising games – they’ve seen and heard them all.

  3. Ok, Ok. But this works equally well, for the real intrepid and persistent interviewer. I call it ‘inverting awkwardness’. “In light of our past clandestine relationship, I am not confident as to your impartiality or objectiveness”. The trick here, is to tilt your head slightly to the side, make the utterance with slight quivering lips, and have a pained melancholic look. Believe you me, the reaction is a studied look in “interviewer mortification”.

    • Now this is fun! At the very least it would get the rumour mill rotating at speed. I suspect it would have the same effect on journos as Rob Muldoon’s classic response to questions he didn’t like: ‘That’s just the sort of question I’d expect from you left-wing, Labour Party sympathisers.’ Closed it down every time!

  4. Everything that Judy has written about saying “NO” is absolutely, positively the Reall Truuuthh. And it doesn’t apply only to The Media, but to anybody else whatsoever. That is Your Choice.