The overuse of “off the record”

Tomorrow's Business

Ping. An email from an angry hack. That might be most of us. But he has a point.

He is in tortuous dialogue with a flak who is being evasive and elusive.

He writes:

“It was a query about job losses and how the company is behaving during consultation. Not that the specifics matter. I knew immediately how it would go… because it is a pattern and it needs stamping out - and that’s up to the hacks.

I’d asked a series of specific questions. The spokeswoman begins by saying “I thought it would be helpful to tell you where we are at off the record”.

I doubt it. I’m not interested unless the company will put its name to it.

“But I don’t want to be quoted,” she says.

“You’re a spokesperson aren’t you?”


It is like the start of the Monty Python lumberjack sketch… the barber with a phobia of cutting hair. PR is full of spokespeople scared of being a spokesperson.

“I’ll send you our statement,” she says.

“Will it answer the actual questions I asked?”

It appears that might take longer, says our hack.

Some flaks think them going off the record is doing us a favour. Too often, it is us doing them one. I think it is getting worse. Time for some proper push back.

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