The term is relatively new to the PR business but it’s ‘gaining traction’ to the extent it’s almost as cliché as “gaining traction.” I’m talking about “walking back.”
Here’s how it’s used. Some public figure, usually a politician sticks his foot in his own mouth and wishes he could delete it from the public domain, but it’s too late. The Tweets are out. The articles are all over the Internet or in newspapers. The nightly news readers are already quoting the misstep on the evening news or shows like Entertainment Tonight.
That’s when the PR counselor tells said public figure that there’s a new tool in the PR toolbox. It’s called the “walk-back.” All you have to do is “walk back” the comment by telling the public you really didn’t say what you said, or at least you didn’t mean what you said, or what you said wasn't really what you meant to say, though you really mean what you’re saying now. Unless, of course, you have to walk this back later.
In golf they call it a Mulligan. You can elect to erase a bad shot from your score card, but it’s not cheating because you’re openly telling your golf partners you’re doing it. By the way, the PGA doesn’t allow Tiger Woods to resort to Mulligans.
I did a quick Google search of the term, “walked back his comments,” and found 977,000 mentions. Here are a few: