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Refusing to Communicate. Feisty or Foolish?

Whether you’re a Piers Morgan (or GMB) fan or not, it’s probably not escaped your attention that the government has been sticking to a blanket refusal to appear on the programme.

The action (or inaction), follows a few rather squirmish interviews, in which ministers were hauled over the coals by Morgan, and were left to look rather weak in their delivery.

It is, you might feel, a pretty brazen approach by Number 10.

In the midst of something as major as this country has ever seen in peacetime, here is the cabinet deciding it will not allow an appearance from one of its team, on a mainstream news programme.

But is it the right course of action?

What does it achieve?

Will it gather the consensus of the nation to adopt this approach?

Certainly it increasingly feels at odds with what the pleas of the population have been in recent weeks. Simply put, most people say they are after ‘clarity’. They’re seeking clear communication about what’s happening, what’s expected of them….oh, and whether we can get a Christmas around the table with Mad Uncle Jim as well as Great Granny Maisie.

Clients often ask the question about whether they should or could refuse to comment in the face of difficult situations. They’ll query whether it’s acceptable to say things like ‘no comment’, or to stay silent instead of issuing a tricky press release when something of negative reputational value has emerged.

In the vast (read, pretty much always), majority of cases, it’s by far better to be responsive and authentic with the media.

Unless we’re talking about a monstrously unfathomable mistruth which will be rapidly proven false before the ink could even go dry on a story, it’s so much better to maintain those adult and responsible lines of communication with the very people on whom you rely to articulate your messaging when you want them to.

Let’s remember that the media is NOT out to get you, your business, or the government. Truly, it isn’t.

The media is there to disseminate your messaging, help your audience understand what you’re doing or intending, but yes, in doing so, it will want you to be accountable and credible.

At times, that naturally means you’re going to be questioned, critiqued and called to account.

By doing so, the journalist gives you even more opportunity to reinforce your messaging, to prove how robust your objectives are, and to emphasise how valued your customer / community is.

So, when it comes to the ministers, is it time they did front up and get themselves some airtime with the GMB team? Yes, I believe it is. The length of time this has gone on begins to feel more like a ‘stamping my foot’ act of defiance which wins nobody any fresh fans.

All any of us want is open, honest and authentic debate. Getting that across all our mainstream broadcast channels would be by far a better outcome for the whole country.

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