The Consequence of “No Comment”

HBO’s Real Sports, a news magazine show focused on sports and sports-adjacent stories, recently turned its focus to Detroit with a report about the much-maligned District Detroit. District Detroit is the area surrounding Little Caesars Arena, home to the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons, and owned by the Ilitch family, founders of Little Caesars Pizza with an estimated worth of $6 billion.

Real Sports explored the lack of development in District Detroit and the implications of tax breaks for the stadium on Detroit residents. At one point the reporter uttered words that we, as PR counselors often bristle at, “no comment” – as in those responsible for the development had chosen not to participate in the story. In almost every instance, that phrase leaves the general public with potentially negative conclusions.

While it’s safe to assume Ilitch Holdings and its communications and legal counsels weighed the implications of responding to HBO’s request, by refusing to participate they potentially raised more questions while missing an opportunity to communicate their side of the story, including existing challenges and status of plans in motion and their future vision. That would have at least provided the opportunity to embark on some proactive offense by laying out a point of view, rather than be relegated to post story defense.

Clients often seek our counsel when they are faced with difficult situations. Situations that may be complex and difficult to talk about. In almost every scenario, our advice is consistent– say SOMETHING – offer a statement, when appropriate sit down with a reporter, but do not miss the opportunity to inject your perspective into the story. In an environment when perception is so often reality we offer advice and guidance on how to navigate the choppy waters of adversity and offer perspective to those who are open-minded enough to seek it.