If only Jury Duty could hire a PR firm?

Today's guest post is by Peppercom Senior Director Maggie O'Neill

Jury11Last week another colleague and I had the “privilege” of serving jury duty in our respective counties in New Jersey. The implied air quotes around privilege surely need no explanation to anyone who has served or received the dreaded summons in the mail.  But that’s the picture they try to paint as each state pays $5 a day for our jury service.  Sorry, but there is a lot of rebranding and crisis comms Jury Duty needs first before I start to think of it like American Express where “Membership has its Privileges.”

So, I can’t imagine many folks disagreeing when I suggest that Jury Duty needs a PR Firm. Here are a few reasons why and how this marketer might approach the challenge:

Have you seen the negative press?  In just one week in March, Denver alone had two negative stories about jury duty.  One was about a nine-year-old boy called for jury duty…twice; and the second about a hair stylist arrested for a jury duty scheme.  And while there is positive press – such as the New Jersey governor actually completing his civil service – Hudson County should think twice about leaving up the article years later when said governor is under investigation for moving funds illegally.  Oh well, so what is said institution to do?

Get your house in order.  Managing customer complaints and expectations has become front and center in today’s world of 24 hour social and consumer driven media.  Jury Duty, as a brand, would need to do a better job of addressing issues and fixing what it can internally first.  Customers have a high tolerance for the unavoidable (say a recall), just not the avoidable (like poor back-end processes).

Messaging, messaging, and messaging. In the first 30 minutes of my service I heard from three different sources – including an outdated VHS video – that while this is a privilege, everyone knows we hate it and avoid it.  Seriously?  I am all for admitting fault during a crisis, but this was overkill.  Even the judge said he understood our frustrations with having to serve.  Not exactly an endorsement for the brand or a way to engage your audience (although captive).

Fixable?  Maybe.  Consider updating the delivery– think streaming video not VHS – and also the content.  The judge in question was from the early 1980’s when even I was not old enough to serve.   And the negative commentary just led to more complaints amongst the jury pool.  Why not show cases where a jury – fair or unfair – truly changed the course of our lives – pop culture or not.  Makes the opportunity at least a bit more intriguing.  What would I have done with O.J. or Casey Anthony?

Put yourself in our shoes.  Here at Peppercom we call this the Audience Experience; at jury duty it could resemble one of Dante’s levels of hell, but worth the exercise for sure.  The whole experience from the assaulting summons to the online check-in, and from the 1970’s jury holding room to the soda-only vending machines, needs a revamp.  As someone who crafts events from conception to execution, I can say that every element that touches your consumer has to be thought out.  Now, I don’t have the luxury of it being illegal not to come to my events, but if the folks who are part of the system looked around at the brand experience of Jury Duty, they would certainly make some significant changes.

After an immersive sixteen hours of the Jury Duty experience, I know this rebranding is just a pipe dream; that things will likely never change; and that Jury Duty would certainly not be a dream client.  Truthfully, I was hoping as their PR firm I would just get excused once and for all.  Oh, well…see you in three years, Jury Duty.

5 thoughts on “If only Jury Duty could hire a PR firm?

  1. Isaac, do us all a favor and unsubscribe. Your rants about alleged rants are a waste of time for one and all.

  2. congrats maggie! i finally came to this blog and read something that was interesting, topical, and wasnt a rant about advertising or the big bad pr firms. your points are dead-on, having had the “privilege” of serving last month and watching that same VHS video which was comical.
    i had one other idea- take those who are unemployed and offer them a job by allowing them to serve as often as they want and paying them a fair wage. that would eliminate the mass of folks who have zero interest in being there or who really cant be there.
    in terms of your idea of changing the system, maybe its not as far-fetched as you think. the principal of our kids school just made a change to an event that has been one way for 30 years and when asked why he did so after all the years of parents wanting this change he said “many may have wanted it yet one person came to me for thr first time and asked and when i saw it made sense, i did it”. so maybe your ideas can be pitched to one local county as a trial and once it works this best practice can spread like wildfire.
    again, congrats. would love to read a daily blog written by you!