PR classics: The non-denial denial

During the Washington Post’s investigation of the Watergate break-in, members of the White House and CREEP would issue what the reporters and editors called non-denial denials. The officials would sometimes berate the Post for its articles but never deny any of the assertions in the article.

The non-denial denial is not as popular today, but it does arise from time to time. It was used to perfection by the PR department at Credit Agricole S.A. in a July 11 article about how the French bank was reining in executive expenses on meals, travel and so on.

The Journal quoted from an internal email that stipulated spending limits and prohibitions. Then, it asked the company for comment and summarized the response this way:

A Crédit Agricole spokeswoman said that, if such an email exists, it wasn’t handled by the bank’s communication team.

There it is: a non-denial denial. The email may exist and the story may be accurate. The PR person does not simply state, “The information is inaccurate” or “There is no email. There are no new policies.”

What’s the best PR policy? A straightforward response. A non-denial denial only confirms the accuracy of the reporting.

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