“No comment.”

There are very few times when we recommend you respond to a reporter’s question with “no comment.” But it’s especially poor form when you’re the President of the United States and your citizens are experiencing a total loss of life and livelihood.

Instead of “no comment,” here are a few compassionate ways to respond to a tragedy without getting ahead of the story:  

#1 — Demonstrate empathy. When people are suffering, it’s important to show that you care. If you’re a person of faith who wants to pray for the injured or those who have lost loved ones, offer your prayers. If you’re not a person of faith, you can always say you’re “heartbroken over the news and tragic loss of life.” Whatever your background is, the key is to demonstrate empathy in an authentic way.

#2 — Timing matters. Every tragedy is different, but choosing the right time to talk about solutions and how you’ll work to prevent it from happening again is important. If it’s a natural disaster and there is an ongoing recovery effort, make it clear that you will discuss future preventative measures once everyone who needs help has been helped. In other situations—like 9/11—it’s necessary to communicate that those responsible will be held accountable immediately.

#3 — Show up. The best way to show you care is by showing up. For President Biden, that means traveling to Hawaii to meet with state and local officials as well as the residents who lost loved ones, their homes, and/or their livelihoods. Showing you care always trumps saying you care.

B²: Scalia and SCOTUS

We lost a great man on Saturday.

In just 72 hours, much has been written about Justice Antonin Scalia’s life and legacy on the Court.

But headlines have quickly turned to the bench’s void and President Obama’s determination to nominate Scalia’s replacement “in due time.” On the other hand, Republicans insist (via Mitch McConnell and others) that “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

No doubt you will be asked to comment on this disagreement as it unfolds. But (unless you’re an expert on the nomination process) do you know how to address the tragedy as well as your talking points in a 30-second answer?

Good thing it’s Tuesday, B² day.

Here is this week’s likely media question and the B² (block and bridge) that sets the narrative straight:

Q: “Do you think Republicans are right to block Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court regardless of the blowback from Democrats?”

: “Justice Scalia’s death was untimely and tragic. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. No matter who fills that spot on the Court, whether Obama’s nominee or the next President’s, he or she will have to consider <insert talking point>.”

Wherever you take the conversation next, first acknowledge the loss suffered. You have to meet the emotion of the situation BEFORE you launch into talking points. This rule applies to every tragedy regardless of the politics involved or the inevitable headlines. You have a heart, so don’t be afraid to show it. But also make sure you can easily pivot to your talking points.