Competency Public Relations
One of the court leaders’ key roles is communication with a wide range of audiences to enhance the public’s understanding of the court process and the role of the courts in preserving the rule of law and protecting individual rights. As has been stressed in throughout the Core Competencies, the rule of law is the foundation of a civilized society and courts are the institutions charged with safeguarding this fundamental principle. Unfortunately, courts and court processes are often not well understood. Without the public’s understanding of the court and its processes, the public’s trust and confidence in the court can be but a distant goal and the primacy and authority of courts can be eroded. As such, court leaders must continually provide information to the public regarding the court’s functions and services.
The court leader will need to develop multiple methods to regularly deliver information about the court to the public. Critical to these methods is the development of on-going relationships with the media so they are familiar with the court process and are in a position to regularly provide positive media coverage of the court, its operations and its key initiatives. Such communications should occur both routinely and during times of crisis. Whether these communications are addressing routine court matters or special crises, it is very important that the court speak with one voice. To be effective at providing public information, court leaders need to communicate what courts do to the wide range of audiences with which it needs to connect, using a variety of communication methods tailored to the nature of the message being conveyed and audience targeted. The court leader’s overall goal for these communications should focus on promoting the public’s understanding of the role of the court to preserve the rule of law, and its critical role in safeguarding the fundamental constitutional and legal rights of all individuals.
Providing public information requires court leaders to demonstrate competency in a variety of skills and activities, taking into account the wide range of contexts in which court leaders work. Specifically, courts leaders should be able to:
- Develop a comprehensive media and information dissemination plan that includes different media such as print, broadcast, news and various forms of electronic, social media and public speaking engagements, as appropriate.
- Provide ongoing education of all court personnel regarding their obligations and limitations for providing information to the public in connection with the various transactions in which they may be involved.
- Connect with and respond to issues of importance in the community relating to the court process, including meaningful access to the judicial process and court services, services to unrepresented litigants, pretrial release options, onsite child care services, services for non-English speaking individuals and others.
- Establish productive working relationships with key community groups and constituencies that can promote the exchange of information in both routine and crisis situations.
- Open lines of communication regarding community perceptions of the court.
- Expand mechanisms for delivering information about the court through multiple formats and vehicles, such as printed documents and reports, telephone, websites, kiosks, social media, news shows and public education forums.
- Nurture strong relationships with the organized bar including bar leaders, local law schools and other relevant groups to promote the timely exchange of information and feedback critical to the court’s operational efficiency as well as its image in the community.