It is OK to tell a reporter, “I don’t know,” but make sure you follow up with, “but I’ll find out and get back to you. What is your deadline?” And then make sure you get back to the reporter BY THE DEADLINE. If you can’t get hold of the reporter, be sure to cover yourself by emailing or faxing in the answer. If you actually get back to a reporter by the time you said you would, it is extremely unlikely that you will be quoted as saying, “I don’t know.” However, if you promise to call them with the information and fail to do so, a reporter might quote you as saying, “I don’t know.”
The media master is never afraid to say, “I don’t know,” especially to a question to which the answer unknowable. This is because the media master always quickly pivots to another point about which he or she is confident that is closely related to both the question and one of his or her key message points.
When people are afraid to say, “I don’t know,” they tend to guess an answer. Unfortunately, if you guess wrongly to a reporter, you are not simply guilty of guessing wrongly. You are guilty of being an untrustworthy LIAR. So don’t guess.
Obviously, you don’t want to answer 10 questions in a row with, “I don’t know,” but demonstrating that you are not omniscient may actually enhance your reputation.
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