Arguments for arguments

Jan 16, 2018

Student | Ellie Dennis

The goal of public relations is to provide two-way communication between an organization and its publics. Public relations is a key set of skills that can be implemented whenever and wherever to improve the outcome of a situation and sway it in your favor. The ability to communicate effectively is important in general, but when you can utilize that tool in any environment to bolster the outcome, it becomes public relations. The principles of public relations that should be implemented in the courtroom to improve the trial process are analyzing the audience, knowing your purpose and desired result, being a patient storyteller, focusing on persuasion, and the power of social media influence.

Public relations plays a key role in creating a meaningful dialogue that influences the audience, or public, to think positively of the brand or organization. It requires listening to the constituencies on which an organization depends as well as analyzing the attitudes and behaviors of those audiences. Public relations "involves selling… and you should analyze your audience before you start. You have to understand why people will or will not be receptive to your message." Lawyers should take on the PR perspective and treat the jury as if they are the audience they want to sway the opinion of and of and treat the client as the brand or organization they are representing.

Another PR strategy is to know your purpose and desired result. If you relate everything back to your desired result, it will improve the jury's idea of your arguments. A helpful tip that is used in public relations is to always reiterate the main point of what you want the audience to know. Otherwise, rework your argument in order to convey your main point. In the courtroom, lawyers could heavily focus on strategizing their arguments to reiterate the main point of their argument and to emphasize their clients' main purpose.

An important part of public relations is being a patient storyteller. Tell the story in terms that the audience can resonate with. This could be very useful in the courtroom because it will help the jury understand the argument presented. Telling a story and creating a narrative will stick in the jury's minds and better your chances of winning your argument. After all, we are all human beings and as such, we can relate and connect with a story rather than facts.

In the courtroom, it can also benefit lawyers to remember "persuasion over manipulation." It can be vital in a case that the jury trusts the lawyer, even if they don't trust the client. Just as in public relations, formulating a relationship with the intended audience and persuading them to trust you will lead to them trusting your word and therefore, your argument. This can be key in deciding a case.

Then, there is the power of social proof. In the public relations world, it is critical to note that people rely on each other for social cues. They assess others and make decisions based on what they see, hear, and experience. This can be played in the courtroom and it will help the jury decide in your favor. By utilizing the influence of others' opinions, you will have an advantage over your opponents because you will be able to gain the trust of the jury.

With the knowledge of what public relations truly is, lawyers could readily apply the same set of skills and tactics in the courtroom to improve their arguments and better their chances of winning the case. You only have one argument to make. It is about why you are making that argument- why you want the jury to believe in you and your client when you provide the details that support your argument, how you argue your point and the way that you do it. these are the strategies that will improve the court systems and the likelihood of winning.


Ellie Dennis, a student in Jon Pfeiffer's Fall 2017 Media Law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response being asked how her major, Public Relations, could improve the trial process.

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