If it looks like you don’t have a chance to win, don’t run. Don’t believe the myth that if your face is always on some tabloid or tarp… or, if you’re a candidate in just about every election, you’ll build name recognition and get elected. The reverse is true: being “visible” all the time may heighten the voters’ highly-developed “epal” detector… and the more times you run, the less likely you are to win. Most folks who run the second or third time do not win. Also important, if every survey finds you in the tailend of perceived winnable candidates, take it as a sign. To abort.
Basic basic – find out how many votes you need to win. Moderate your ambition. If you want to become a senator, realize that you have a lot of ground to cover to garner the required millions of votes to win. (If you can’t get even 200 people to like your Facebook page, you need very serious thinking time. Badly. Urgently.) A lot of ground means a lot of expenses. One running for representative or local office requires much, much less funding. Be realistic: create a vote goal – an estimate of the number of people that you need to like you enough to vote for you. The simple act of creating a vote goal can save you a lot of time campaigning for a race you might not have had a shot at.
Have a differentiator. Politics is a comparative game. Especially in political campaigns where you are running against multiple candidates, you need to create a contrast. You need to create a reason for voters to choose you. Avoid the perennial cliches, i.e. “Serbisyong Totoo”, “Atin Ito”, “Para sa Mahirap”, “Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao”, etc. They may have been big ideas in the past — but big ideas are only big ONCE.
Run for the right reasons. Don’t run to be able to afford upgrading your audiophile sound system. Don’t run because your car needs a license plate that’s not subject to coding. Don’t run because you hate the good looks of your opponent. Run because you have the intelligence and talent to do the most good for your town or community.
It’s about the voter. Your campaign should center around the question “What’s in it for the voter?”. Imee Marcos instinctively knew the primal desire of most of her provincemates when she run for governor and stuck ruthlessly to the promise “Manang Imee = Trabaho”. Political campaigns should be about delivering results for the greatest number of people. The candidate is a vehicle for that, but a lot of times campaigns can get lost in the weeds and focus on personal details about a candidate that are not relevant. Example: Koko Pimental for Senator – Bar Topnotcher.
Budget for a winning political campaign. The “goodness of your heart” won’t singlehandedly win you an election. You must budget for any campaign; make sure you plan to have the money you need to win your campaign. Check out the costs of similar campaigns and candidates, while also assessing potential competition and the cost of a winning strategy. Live with the fact that, as a candidate, you will spend a great deal of your time asking (even begging) for financial help – mostly, from moneyed total strangers.
Listen more than you talk. It is not about the candidate; it is about the voter. Majority of candidates get so focused on the political campaign that they start to believe that the election is about the campaign itself. But that is not the case. Political campaigns are a means to get our message out, they are not the message itself.
Tell a great story. Good campaign planning requires good storytelling. Always remind yourself that voters are hopelessly riveted to movies and teleseryes that spin tales of struggles, setbacks and happy endings. Use this insight to drive home your compelling message. President Duterte didn’t need to have a catchy jingle or the endorsement of movie stars; he won by singlemindedly enthralling us with his personal experiences of fighting criminals, corrupt officials and druglords.
The stories got us craving for more.