A PR Lesson from Grace Poe

Grace Poe

With Philippine presidential election results now clear, it’s time to take a look back at the public relations strategies each candidate used during the heated campaign period. In the second part of our series, let’s take a look at Grace Poe, who eventually finished third in the presidential race and was the first to concede to Rodrigo Duterte.

In a political system seen by Filipinos as filled with traditional politicians (or trapos, as most would unkindly put it), presidential hopeful Grace Poe brought forward a brand that many people find sparingly in politics: decency.

The adopted daughter of film star Fernando Poe, Jr., she ascended to the Senate on a wave of sympathy for her father’s 2004 presidential loss, which was heavily tainted by the Hello Garci Scandal. She came into the limelight again when she rode the MRT to investigate the problems of the beleaguered metro train system, and later on, led the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano tragedy, fearlessly criticizing the administration’s lack of support for the troops. Her actions established her in front of the public as a moral statesman untouched by corruption.


A New Hope

Her personal brand was ably exploited by her campaign. Garbed in lily white dresses, she promoted a simple message: Gobyernong May Puso. In three simple words, her tag line communicated a platform of advocacy—for the downtrodden, for women, for ethnic minorities, and more.

Her TV commercials promised “Aayusin Natin ang Pilipinas”—an inclusive call to action that specifically targets issues that citizens felt neglected or mishandled by the previous administration.  


Opponents Strikes Back

However, her pure-as-the-driven-snow image had its downsides. White may symbolize purity, but it could also be the color of naivety and inexperience. Her political credentials were called into question, as well as her alleged links with big businessmen.

Additionally, Poe came under fire for her citizenship. Disqualified by COMELEC for this very reason, her candidacy was later reinstated by the Supreme Court—an issue that sowed confusion in the electorate.


The Return of Grace

Her campaign went full speed on dispelling the confusion as quickly as possible. She used advertisements and other media platforms to declare that her candidacy was valid.

In debates and campaign sorties, she aimed to demonstrate her competence, as well as a nurturing side. In debates, she came off as well-prepared and ready to speak out for the people. Unfortunately, her efforts were not, and when the final votes were cast, she placed third in the presidential race.

Grace’s campaign is a lesson in the power of a good brand. Her father’s career as an actor and fallen presidential candidate gave her the jumpstart she needed, but it was her own projected, ahem, grace and poise that sustained all the way to the ballot box. Her campaign also highlighted the necessity for quick action to counter allegations that cause confusion in consumers. Brands that follow her PR path can reap real goodwill.

This is the second of a five-part series. Read our previous piece on president-elect Rodrigo Dutere here.