A PR Lesson from Miriam Defensor Santiago

Miriam Defensor Santiago

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 final part of our series, we examine the campaign of Miriam Defensor Santiago, who placed last in the elections.

In 1992, a witty, incisive firebrand campaigned for the presidency. Her critique and points inspired the youth, along with other demographics, to come out in droves and vote. She was Miriam Defensor Santiago, former Commissioner of Immigration and Deportation and Secretary of Agrarian Reform who cleaned up her respective agencies, and she was ready to clean up the Philippines in the same way.

Unfortunately, she lost in 1992 in a highly controversial vote count. Running again for the presidency in 2016, Miriam faced a tougher fight than 1992.


Listing the Challenges

In her previous presidential bid, she was the favorite to win. However, this year, her resources, party apparatus, and survey standings have all been much curtailed. Additionally, her cancer diagnosis placed into question her ability to perform as president. People were afraid that her fire was slowly sputtering out.


Applied Memetics

Even before the campaign period began, however, Defensor Santiago had already established a strong presence on a new battleground for the hearts and minds of the electorate: social media. With over 48 million Filipino active users, social networks provided a wide audience for a budget candidate. With her fiery personality and humorous one-liners, Miriam fit new media like a glove. No other politician had accumulated a list of quotable lines that were just begging to be converted into viral image macros. Her sassy attitude and pointed responses were also perfect for Twitter, which was demonstrated in her campaign’s use of Twitter parties to unite followers.

Coming from behind with a limited budget is difficult for both presidential candidates and brands. However, it is not impossible with the help of digital marketing. To follow her path, brands need to take to the internet, and let their personality win and engage followers.

This is the final article of a five-part series. Read our previous pieces on president-elect Rodrigo Duterte, Mar Roxas, Grace Poe, and Jejomar Binay.