If you’re on trial, which matters more: public opinion, or the opinions of the jurors in the courtroom?
Actress Amber Heard, who is being sued for $50 million by ex-husband Johnny Depp, and who has counter-sued for $100 million, seems to care about both. She replaced her PR team on May 1 because of bad headlines, and claims that she nearly lost her role in a 2023 film because of the Depp trial. (A Warner Brothers executive disputed this claim in court testimony.) Insider reports that she’s getting creamed online, where 44 million supportive TikTok hashtags are vastly outnumbered by 12 billion favoring Johnny Depp.
But Insider also cited multiple legal experts who believe that Heard may win in the court of law. The facts of the case may mean more to the 7 jurors in the courtroom than the opinions of millions of people across the country.
Do you want 7 jurors or 12 billion hashtags? It depends
Businesses, nonprofits, and political groups face this same tension between narrow target markets and wider public opinion. Many organizations highlight large social media followings, big-name endorsements, and positive press placements – even as sales stagnate, candidates aren’t elected, and donors flee. The most successful organizations take the opposite approach, prioritizing a disciplined communications strategy which:
- Reaches and influences important target markets.
- Creates metrics of, and incentives for, success in reaching and influencing those target markets.
- Ignores what people outside of those markets think, say, and believe.
Boeing took this disciplined approach when former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley criticized it for seeking a federal government bailout in 2020. Haley’s comments and departure from Boeing’s board received widespread positive coverage in conservative media. But as far as we can tell, Boeing didn’t say much about the matter because its target markets were regulators, government financiers, and investors – not conservative activists. And it secured $25 billion in help from the Federal Reserve.
Netflix, which has begun shedding subscribers, has likewise decided to not let a vocal minority guide its business practices. In a recent memo, the company said it would continue prioritizing program diversity, and employees who are offended by this practice should leave. The employee and press actions were mixed, but customers got the message: Netflix was putting them first.
And nobody expects Omaha Steaks to market to vegans, airlines to target people who don’t travel, or snow plow companies to have a presence in Florida.
Putting first things first
Heard is between a rock and a hard place. Depp is among the most popular Hollywood actors, so poor standings in the court of public opinion could hurt future earnings. On the other hand, not convincing 7 jurors could result in a very costly judgment against her.
These kinds of tough decisions are why we work closely with our clients to identify their most important target audiences. Our process is designed to create messages that matter, get them into press which reaches and influences your target markets, and creates the positive outcomes you desire. We’ll help you decide whether to put the 7 jurors first…or the 12 billion hashtags.
Proven Media Solutions note: We updated this post on June 2 to reflect that there were 7 jurors in the trial, not 12. We regret the error.