Misc 08/12/2020

The goal is to avoid being an invisible candidate

The political parties are working against the clock to make their candidates known

Aleix Moldes
5 min
Objectiu: evitar tenir el candidat invisible

BarcelonaWho is this gentleman/gentlewoman on TV? If this question is asked by many people, a few months before the elections, it means that his or her party has a problem. On 14-F there will be a record number of new candidates: only one, Miquel Iceta, will repeat as leading candidate. And he is the one who has least to worry about his awareness index, a variable that obsesses communications teams.

Among the newcomers, the current Vice President of the Government has an advantage. The Barometer of the Center for Opinion Studies has not yet asked about him, but the recent survey of the Institute of Political and Social Sciences points out that 70.3% of citizens know him, and that this figure exceeds 80% among pro-independence supporters. A year ago, in an internal survey by Esquerra, he was around 60%. What has happened in this time? "When we presented him as a strong man a year ago, many of his critics said that he was a good manager but that he had little leadership. But when the covid-19 arrived it turned out that managerial capacity is a value on the rise", reflects the coordinator of the Office of the Vice President, Raül Múrcia, who also rejects that Aragonès does not have charisma. Since Quim Torra's disqualification he is the maximum representative of the Generalitat and, therefore, his screen share has grown.

The polls say that Aragonès will dispute the presidency with Laura Borràs, of whom there are no recent data. It's only a week since she won the JxCat primary, but the party is not worried about her popularity. "While she was councillor of Culture she did not go unnoticed, she has been leading candidate in the general elections and has had projection in Madrid", remarks the head of communication of the party, Pere Martí. Now they have a specific plan to grow awareness about her, similar to the plan Aragonès and Oriol Junqueras have: she will share protagonism with Carles Puigdemont. "She is the first woman with real possibilities of being president", emphasizes Martí, implying this will make her work easier.

The PDECat's leading candidate is Àngels Chacón, for whom there is no public data either. "I've never been worried about being more or less popular, taking more or less photos, doing more or less tweeting. I have been concerned about working", she said a few days ago in the Diari de Tarragona. However, experts recommend that candidates worry more about these kinds of things.

Artur Mas was chosen by Jordi Pujol to replace him as leader of CiU in 2001, when he was appointed Minister in charge. In 1999, not even 30% of Catalans knew Mas, the Minister of Economy. In 2003, the CIS already placed him around 80%, and in the first CEO Barometer, in 2004, this figure was 86.7%.

Media exposure

"When you don't have a notoriety index above 70% it becomes very difficult to compete", Joan Francesc Cánovas explains, who headed the Generalitat's communications office at the time. "We had to go from a government focused on one person - the last one of Pujol - to explain that governing was not the work of a single person", he remembers. However, Mas was appointed spokesperson in 2000 and this gave him a certain awareness index. "For a while we said yes to virtually any media involvement. And the images were very important: in 2002, he participated in one of the 24-hour relays in Montmeló. In the photo his hair was uncombed and sweaty, and that image placed us in favour of F1".

He had previously given another boost to his popularity when he began to be imitated on the TV3 (the Catalan TV channel) show Set de nit. "At first they imitated Pujol and that was it. We suggested that they imitate him in whatever way they wanted to, and they did it". The awareness index "shot up".

The first time that Xavier Domènech was on TV3, no one knew him. After a few weeks he went from being a completely unknown candidate to winning the general elections of 2015 in Catalonia. A few months later, the Centre for Opinion Studies assigned him an awareness index of 41% (he reached 65% in 2018). Unlike the government and communications teams that worked on Mas, in his case it was up to four people in three weeks. "We went to every possible media outlet, even the smallest radio station", he says. He remembers the election debates were a good platform.

Alícia Sánchez-Camacho's first figures in November 2008 put her at 52%. By the time the 2010 elections came around, she had reached 77%, even though she was not a member of parliament. Even so, she went to the plenary sessions and made all the statements to the media. Interviews? As many as they asked, even to the sports press. And her team made an effort to make her known beyond politics. "We presented our own logo and a campaign called Alicia 2010. The important thing was that people knew her name", says Leyre Usón, then head of the press office of the Parliament. Behind the campaign there was merchandising with balloons, key rings and leaflets that were sent to homes in order to explain who she was. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and even a video blog helped. And, of course, the state apparatus of the PP.

The current PP candidate has a problem similar to Camacho's in 2008, but with little time to react. Alejandro Fernández is known by 35% of Catalans, according to the Centre for Opinion Studies. "We have a new candidate, not well known, with the smallest group and low media coverage", the party's deputy communications secretary, Albert Fernández Saltiveri, justifies. When he took over from Xavier García Albiol, a campaign was launched to make him known: "Your new voice in Catalonia", said the slogan, which played on referencing the television show that seeks out unknown musical talents. Now they are aware of what is at stake. "We have to make the most of the few moments of attention we have", explains Saltiveri. In two years, Fernandez has invited Torra to dinner on Christmas night, told him that they are both "Spaniards", or sang to Manolo Escobar in Parliament. "And these videos have had an impact on the web".

The candidate of the comuns, Jéssica Albiach, is not known by half of the Catalans (40.9%), and her team is aware that they have much work ahead. "In order for them to listen to you, they must first get to know you", says the candidate's press officer, Ariadna Cortés. In January, after the budget agreement with the government, they recorded a peak in awareness: a communications plan was designed so that Albiach could explain the pact to all the media.

The importance of the acronym

In Ciudadanos, neither Carlos Carrizosa nor Lorena Roldán come close to the awareness index percentage that Albert Rivera or Inés Arrimadas had, despite having been the first party in Parliament in recent years. Additionally, the CUP is the only party that has not yet chosen a candidate. Their leader awareness have never been their strong point (Carles Riera is known by 48.8% of the population), but they flee from personalism, usually changing their heading candidate. This is not a problem for their voters. According to a recent survey, CUP voters are the ones who value the party the most (67.9%) over the candidate (17.9%). In general, the acronym is more prevalent when it comes to the vote (55%-29%). However, everyone is working to ensure that their candidate for the 14-F elections is not invisible.