The U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent term ended with decisions on affirmative action, business free speech, and student loans dominating headlines and impacting public laws, private policies, and people’s private lives.
The Court’s critics used these decisions to declare the Court illegitimate, “MAGA” and “authoritarian.” One state Attorney General said she will ignore the decision allowing business owners’ religious beliefs to influence how they serve customers. It’s part of a successful year-long strategy to undermine public trust in the Court and drive voters to the polls in 2024.
That’s why several recent polls showing public support for the aforementioned decisions are so surprising – and, along with a recent analysis showing that the Court has become center-right – hand Court defenders unexpected data that should become the foundation of a counter-narrative campaign.
They just have to execute the same type of top-notch PR campaign that Court critics have used to dominate the narrative and impact public opinion.
Court critics’ playbook
The Supreme Court’s public reputation has been questioned for years because partisans on both sides have disliked many of its decisions. But things reached a new low after the Court's Dobbs decision.
Critics executed an amazing PR playbook, hitting the same message about the Court from diverse angles: calling for Senate oversight over the Judiciary, allegations of conflicts of interest among individual justices, and influencers describing the Court as “radical” and “dangerous.”
Conservatives have been unable to counter, because each new attack comes from an unexpected angle. And that’s what makes these new polls and analysis so powerful: they are strong data points not coming from Court defenders.
Here are PR principles that could help turn the tables:
- Substance is the best foundation for good PR, because spin and fluff will fall apart under scrutiny. Therefore, Court defenders should lead with the polls and the analysis in all near-term messaging. Getting into a political food fight about authoritarianism vs freedom vs constitutional interpretation won’t convince anyone – but objective data tells a different story.
- Drive home to the target audience – undecided voters – that the substance is coming from third-party sources. Citing non-conservative sources like The Washington Post and Axios moves the pro-Court narrative better than citing sources like Fox News or the Republican National Committee. The power of third-party information, data and support is why Barack Obama sought Ted Kennedy’s endorsement against Hillary Clinton in the primaries for the 2008 presidential election, and it’s why businesses regularly cite surveys, consumer data, federal agencies – when touting their products and services.
- Spread the message fast and wide to all relevant media outlets. Getting on Fox is one thing; getting on The View or interviewing with Jake Tapper is far more useful.
- Get your timing right. Axios reported on similar Court analysis in 2022, shortly after the Dobbs decision. That would have been a good time for SCOTUS and its defenders to step up the public-facing campaign. Instead, they let themselves be overwhelmed by the opposition, with the Court itself largely holding its fire until spring of this year...months too late to blunt the “radical Court” narrative.
- Remember that brand-building is a long-term game. It’s probably too late to reverse the “radical Court” narrative, but there is plenty of time to reverse how the narrative will impact moderates’ voting decisions in the coming years and even decades.
The point of public relations is to convince people of your narrative. These principles could give the Supreme Court defenders the opportunity to turn the narrative around.
Dustin Siggins is founder of Proven Media Solutions
[Editor's Note: These views are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of PRNEWS.]