The One Time When it’s OK to Say “No Comment”

Jeremy Clarkson is once again dominating the news agenda for all the wrong reasons, with everyone seeming to have an opinion on this most Marmite of TV presenters. That’s not what I want to talk about today, however, well not specifically anyway. What I want to address is the Newcastle restaurant owner who broke the first rule of PR yesterday – He blabbed.

Back in February, the TG team came to Newcastle for Top Gear Live and dined at the Sachins Indian restaurant, a few minutes’ walk from the Metro Radio Arena. While they were there, the owner asked if he could take some selfies with them and they agreed. It’s safe to presume that they also guessed he would use these to help promote the restaurant, which he did with an article in the Evening Chronicle paper. So far, so good.

Now we come to yesterday and the fallout from Clarkson’s suspension, when there was a short-lived rumour that the alleged punching incident might have occurred in Newcastle. I don’t know if the restaurant owner had come forward or if someone followed up on the earlier article, but what appeared on the Telegraph website was a full breakdown of the visit, including what stipulations were made about the booking, who left when and other seemingly inconsequential titbits.

On the face of it, this was all pretty harmless stuff, but I would think the owner may end up regretting his decision to talk in detail. You see, selfies are one thing, but sharing details about celebrity visitors to your establishment, be they positive or negative, is something you just don’t do. I may be wrong, but I’d be very surprised if any more performers make their way from the arena to Sachins in the near future.

A few years ago I did PR for a major casino chain. Every so often there would be rumours about well-known people winning money, losing money, getting drunk or worse, but we never ever responded to media enquiries and it was stipulated in staff contracts that they couldn’t either. One sniff of a story coming from within the casino and we could say goodbye to the celebrity clientèle, and I don’t just mean the person being blabbed about.

When a celebrity comes into your venue, be it a hotel, casino, restaurant, retail store or whatever, there is an unwritten rule that their privacy should be respected. A selfie may be ok, but you should always ask if it’s OK to use it for publicity and anything unauthorised is a big no-no. Once you have a reputation for sharing what happens while celebrities are on your premises, even small details that may seem inconsequential, word will get round, and it could takes years for your reputation to recover.

It’s not just celebrities we’re talking about either. The privacy of all customers should be respected and if it’s not, you should be prepared to face the consequences. So there you have it, the one and only time when it’s OK to say “No comment”.

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