Team of Rivals

(photo from Sec. Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Office)

I read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book the Team of Rivals a few years back. And it popped back into my head after I saw this photo. I have been an avid supporter of then Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte in the past because of what he has done and accomplished in Davao City. I knew him to be an action man but I didn’t really know anything about the inner workings of City Hall more than was written in the press.

The book Team of Rivals details Goodwin’s research and analysis of how former US President Abraham Lincoln was able to provide great leadership during his time and how we was able to recruit his main rivals for the presidency to join his cabinet. It is a rare thing in politics when a leader goes out of his way to accommodate his intellectual “foes” and works with them for the common good. While both Lincoln and Duterte have major weaknesses, there’s a lot that can be said for leaders who try to bring everyone to the table. Lincoln paved the way for slavery to end in North America.

What Goodwin said about Lincoln (in this HBR interview) holds true for Duterte for me as well:

Interviewer: More books have been written on Lincoln than on any other American president. What does Lincoln’s magic as a leader really come down to?

Goodwin: Well, it wasn’t anything so immediately felt as charisma. In fact, it took the country some time to warm to Lincoln; his popularity almost came from the inside out. His cabinet was the first to see something unusual about him.

Take William Seward, who originally was a rival. Some eight weeks after becoming secretary of state, Seward wrote to his wife that Lincoln was unlike anyone he’d ever known. Other members of the cabinet came to think so, too. One after another, they came to power thinking Lincoln was rather unexceptional and ended up believing that he was as near a perfect man as anyone they’d ever met.

What Lincoln had, it seems to me, was an extraordinary amount of emotional intelligence. He was able to acknowledge his errors and learn from his mistakes to a remarkable degree. He was careful to put past hurts behind him and never allowed wounds to fester. The rare example I could find of Lincoln’s being unable to forgive someone was his father. Lincoln never visited his father when he was dying, which suggests that he could not let go of the anger he felt toward the man who considered the future president’s fierce desire to learn a sign of laziness.”

Duterte’s legacy as presidency remains to be seen.

10 takeaways from Duterte’s digital campaign

I’ve followed the campaign from the start and can see similarities between the Obama campaign (2008) and PNoy’s campaign (2010), here are some key take-aways:

1. The most successful digital strategies for the campaign were things that helped create a movement around the mayor – it created an advocacy around Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte.

These activities included but were not limited to: Building a sizable base on Facebook including proliferation of Facebook pages and groups talking about the candidate. Building an email database. Sending of high-quality and engaging emails and other materials. Making the supporters an important part of the story. It allowed supporters to create compelling stories of the candidate in various forms like video, images and text. Facebook (along with email and mobile) were heavily used to ask supporters to join in on offline activities.

2. The Duterte campaign built a team from various volunteer groups who probably numbered in the thousands at the end of the campaign. Many of the most talented people in their individual professions became part of this team. For example, Nic Gabunada, former ABS-CBN top sales and marketing honcho, marshalled the digital warriors throughout the campaign period. Notable bloggers and social media specialists volunteered and worked side by side with their traditional media peers.

3. More so than any other campaign in our history, the Duterte campaign was a data-driven operation. A simple and concise digital strategy was developed to be at the heart of the campaign. Virality of content became one of the key goals. The team tried its best to measure every aspect of the digital campaign including messengers, messages, design, video, voice, segmentation and other tactics. Resources were directed to higher-performing activities. This is especially true for content that was going viral – the team helped by boosting it on Facebook.

4. The campaign’s recognition of the value of maximizing social media led to a critical decision of making the team an important part of the overall campaign – having the same priority as the field operations and finance and other units. The campaign was open to crowdsourcing content from the start noting that it came with risks of not being able to check all the materials.

5. The campaign used a simple measure of success: the value of higher engagement on Facebook over the lifetime of the campaign. The campaign boosted content that were resonating with the supporters and voters. Building the relationship with supporters over time produced better results – done by engaging with the different volunteer groups locally and from abroad.

DIGITAL. Thousands of online/digital content are created by volunteers and supporters of Rodrigo Duterte during the campaign. (Image from Rappler)

6. What made Duterte’s campaign materials special? The volunteers and supporters were given the creative leeway to design it based on their own interpretation of the campaign narrative and it then allowed the messaging to be strategically aligned with what voters cared for at the moment. This even spread offline where supporters created their own tshirt designs and used their own money to print them as well.

7. There was strong coordination between the digital and field teams. Facebook allowed faster communications between different supporters and groups supporting Mayor Duterte.

8. Thousands of online/digital content were created by volunteers and supporters themselves – this included hundreds of songs composed and created by various musicians for the candidate. The vision for the use of video was different from past campaigns. The team was not selling a candidate, they were simply covering the movement around the campaign. The team was able to engage people, draw in viewers and make them feel like they were part of something big. This was called by one online social media firm as citizen-led campaigning and that’s what happened.

9. The team curated content that was coming out from the volunteers and supporters and segregated it based on the target market: Facebook videos and image memes for Class D, E; high-quality and informative videos and platform-based content for Class A, B, C – overall, the team allowed supporters to co-manage the campaign.

10. It has to be mentioned that the way the candidate conducted himself allowed his supporters to create content about him and about his campaign. In the end, the candidate allowed the people to see him as the authentic candidate compared to his rivals who were perceived to be following a script.