A PR Lesson from Jejomar Binay

Jejomar Binay

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 fourth part of our series, we examine the campaign of former vice president Jejomar Binay.

Former mayor of the richest city in the Philippines, Jejomar Binay has already made Philippine history as the first local government official sworn in as Vice President. His ambition for the Presidency, however, turned him into a living target for critics.


Embrace Who You Are

Allegations of corruption, such as overpriced Makati City Hall Parking Building II, hounded Binay’s accomplishments and innovations. Subjected to scrutiny in both the Senate and the press, his response is one we’ve all heard before in countless other corruption allegations: protestations of innocence, misdirection, and lawyers’ statements.

The accusations became more mean-spirit, especially on social media, with some tagging him with the moniker nognog. Binay was denigrated for his height and the color of his skin—insults that feel more suited to elementary school bullies.

But while others might rail against the injustice, Binay’s campaign instead embraced the label. He positioned himself as the underdog—or rather, the under-askal. He leveraged the name-calling and his own humble origins to represent himself as a man from the people.


Nothing Beats Legwork

However, Binay’s greatest strength was his head start. The Philippines has many examples of vice presidents eventually becoming president themselves by beginning a publicity charm attack from their incumbent position. Binay was no exception.

When the campaign period began in earnest, reporters noted his willingness to get up close and personal with the electorate. He also kept his messaging clear and consistent, projecting a pro-poor, anti-poverty platform. (That catchy campaign jingle probably helped, too.)

While it ultimately failed to secure him the presidency, Binay’s campaign has been an exercise in PR crisis management. He has been attacked relentlessly but he has managed to deflect the worst by digging deep into the Philippines’ roots, where he becomes indistinguishable from and as resilient as the common tao. Brands should pray that they will never have to face such a challenge but if they do, they should note Binay’s path and rely on their connection with their consumers.

This is the fourth of a five-part series. Read our previous pieces on Mar Roxas, Grace Poe and president-elect Rodrigo Dutere.