The playbook states that a candidate would need, on the average, 18 months to be competitive during the campaign period. The various phases cover: pre-decision, introspection (candidate has decided), pre-campaign (listening tours, etc.) and campaign. A candidate should not run if the awareness rating is 70% and below. One cannot run and be competitive while working on awareness and preference at the same time.
A low awareness rating has impact on trust. High trust would mean having a good conversion which would mean high preference.
A national run needs a lot of preparation that by December of the year before the campaign, a candidate would have gone around the country at an accelerated frequency, either doing the vote-rich areas or the marginalized 35 provinces (island provinces that are often not included in the sortie schedules during campaign periods). That the candidate has decided to: 1) hire professional political workers at the provincial levels or 2) combine professional and volunteer political workers or 3) post professional political workers in harvest areas. The ground work is prepared first before the 90 day period.
A national run means the collaterals and productions, covering storylines, storyboards, FGDs and perception analyzer tests have been done before the start of the campaign period. Some would have banked the materials that would just need tweaking depending on how the 90 day campaign would shape up.
What we saw last May 2016 was out of the playbook for candidates Digong Duterte, Leni Robredo and Bongbong Marcos. These three candidates were very nimble, ready to change the narrative or drill it further if there is traction with the voters. Their teams were very agile unlike those with machineries.
Duterte became a candidate molded from what the voters wanted. Team Duterte had a very unique trait, they listened to the crowd and adjusted accordingly. There was no brand Duterte at the start. By the end, the crowd authored brand Duterte: “palaban, nagmumura, galit, may malasakit sa Filipino.” His monologue was simple and his conversation was straight from the gutter. It was a campaign that was quick to adjust from the reaction of the crowd. It fed what the crowd wanted to see and hear. The voters became the authors of how Duterte would campaign. There was not much control on the narrative but it was quite good in the element of propaganda via the social media.
Robredo on the other hand, went to more sorties than any vice presidential candidate trying to peak at the right time. Though there was LP helping her out, there were parallel organizations that carried her outside of LP. LP served to harness their base while the parallel groups reached out to those who were non-LP. The narrative was purposive depending on which group she was with. The politics of the laylayan was her contrast to the heavy sell of Daang Matuwid. There were instances when she moved around independent of LP and when the Kidapawan assault happened, Robredo came out strong, questioning the acts done by the police and the local government, thereby registering further an independence streak. A plurality of voters were in fact saying that if Robredo didn’t run as LP, they would have supported her. The anger with LP and the yellow administration was palpable. From a hesitant candidate to someone owing up her candidacy and ready to engage, in her own way, the 90 days proved to be more of a high octane run for volunteers. They made the case for Robredo and Robredo returned the favor with a debate takeaway that cemented it.
Marcos was forced to do more of a ground battle than an air war campaign. The decision not to do airway was very strategic. It cut the attack on the money for a high frequency air campaign. Sensitive to what the crowd was saying and asking, Marcos targeted the Ilocano and Bisaya votes and touch based with the old Marcos network from vote rich CALABARZON to Central Luzon and Mindanao. That he decided to do it the old fashioned way (campaigning mano-mano) showed to all that Marcos wanted the position and was willing to work for it. He even introduced in the narrative the symbolic gestures and poses of FM. He showed a mature individual during the debate, despite the heckling and all. He stood his ground on issues of the day. But it would have been different had an apology been made and a more direct response on the Marcos money. That would have been the kicker of an endgame that most were waiting for. The results of the Eday is already a “victory” to a Marcos. The future path is clear.
It used to be that a candidate can’t cover all phases and make it in 90 days. With technology, the ground is easier to crunch and the herd can be identified with careful knowledge of sentiments of voters. With social media, the entry to the fray can be managed well creating a buzz that can be sustained by organic influencers and distributed to various networks that can do their own campaigns. One thing is clear, a campaign team that is not nimble can’t understand the crowds and won’t be able to come up with solutions to get the lead or be over the top. Campaign teams need to listen more and understand the power of crowds. The other half of the story is to prevent victory from being hostage by errant operators.