Media trainers and PR types are prone to speculate that it implies the organisation or the person has something to hide. It is signal of evasion or negativity. But they don’t really know. Maybe listeners are so sceptical of some media outlets these days that they forgive people for not offering themselves up to be hammered.
For me it’s hard to ignore the correlation between negativity and evasiveness on the one hand versus positivity and openness on the other.
Richard Branson has built a remarkable global profile by being clever and open with the media. Not everyone needs to do stunts with models and dress up in crazy outfits but he does frame an interesting comparison to media shy Australian business figures.
Let’s say you are driving home from work on a normal Monday listening to the radio. When James Hardie is criticised for inadequate provisions in the compensation fund for asbestos victims and “no-one was available” to explain the challenges associated with maintaining such a fund, what do you make of that? (James Hardie plans to alter victim payouts, PM, 15/9/14)
You have dinner and settle in front of Four Corners with a cup of tea. When James Packer’s Crown is investigated in a media expose on the regulation of Australian casinos and no-one from Crown is “available for comment”, what impression does that leave on you? (High Rollers – High Risk; Four Corners 15/9/14)
Of course there are times when it does make sense to decline an interview. I’d decline if you do not have a talented spokesperson who can deal with the situation with which you are faced or where you’ve been given too little notice to confirm the context for the story or the interest of the journalist.
And yes there are always risks associated with doing interviews no matter what the context.
But you know what? There are sometimes even bigger risks associated with not doing them – and that is certainly worth reflecting on the next time you are faced with the dilemma.