A couple of weeks ago, I was called on to do jury duty for the first time in my life. Thanks to the large population and elaborate systems of the county I live in, I was only on call for two weeks – but I was still summoned to the courthouse one day to take part in a jury trial. It didn’t happen due to an out-of-court settlement just minutes before I was to start jury selection, but I still went through all the procedures of being a juror up to that point.
The entire experience was enlightening – and during the downtime I had I started to compare what I did and what I/we do in the world of PR. Here are some of the parallels I saw between the two:
- Be Prepared for Anything – The jury duty process is often one of “hurry up and wait.” You have to be ready to report to court just in case there’s a trial. You have to be okay with being at the courthouse all day. You might need to have a packed lunch with you in case you end up sequestered. The whole experience forced me to think ahead and plan for contingencies – which is exactly what we should be doing for our clients and organizations as PR people. We need to be developing plans and thinking ahead – and if processes aren’t in place to handle certain possibilities, we need to create them. Jury duty was good practice for me at thinking about things differently, which will make me better at my daily grind.
- Experiences are King – I’ve always been a big fan of seeing things from as many different perspectives as possible, because doing so helps you empathize better, brainstorm smarter, spark new passions, identify with various clients and causes, etc. Yet being on a real jury and seeing the justice process play out for yourself is one of the rarest experiences in our society. Quite simply, there’s nothing like it. For one day, I felt proud to be doing my civic duty – and that my presence in that courtroom really mattered. Someday, I’m sure I’ll be sitting in a client meeting and be really glad I had the experience I did. You just never know how it will happen, but it’s an experience that people should welcome with open arms.
- Innocent Until Proven Guilty – This is more than a saying; it’s part of the bedrock of what it means to be an American. That was never more obvious to me than sitting in that courthouse. It’s a juror’s job to listen attentively, apply the facts of a case to a law and determine whether someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To do that well, you must keep an open mind and check your own experiences and prejudices at the door. How often do we really do that as PR people today? We’re not paid to impose our beliefs, agendas and goals on our clients and organizations; we’re paid to apply the principles of good communications and ethics to help them advance theirs. I think it’s well worth reminding ourselves to check our baggage every once in a while – whether it’s our ego, our problems or whatever – and give the task at hand our complete and unbiased attention.
The laws here say it will be a minimum of four years before I’m called again to jury duty. Maybe next time I’ll take the experience to the next level and actually sit on a jury! Who knows.