It seemed that the government of the Philippines was on the verge of ending decades of fighting with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front over ancestral homeland...
[Allies of the government] brainstormed about who could possibly raise hell in the process, and how to manage these persons. Then a businessman in the group popped a question: “So what is the [government] panel doing in terms of social marketing?”
Said a government consultant: “Of course, it suddenly dawned on us that we had not prepared for any information campaign.”
It would be simplistic to conclude that a mere failure in social marketing resulted in a botched GRP-MILF memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD). However, in interviews with Newsbreak, public and private sector officials involved in the peace process conceded that it constituted a large part of the problem.
The article points out how many of the people engaged in the negotiations realized that success of their efforts were ultimately conditioned on a plan to build public understanding and support as well as political will. But for various reasons, this 'key ingredient' was overlooked until it was too late.
It is an open question if the businessman's use of the term 'social marketing' was simply a reference to a public relations effort of some sort, or whether he was referring to the more comprehensive approach we often think of. In either case, it is encouraging to see that in some parts of the world communication and social marketing are seen by the government - and some business leaders - as integral to the peace process, and not something left to others or political posturing and framing. You should also keep in mind that this is the country where smart mobs using text messaging toppled a President.
With the support of the World Bank, which has hired a professional communication team, the OPAPP is launching mobile information teams in conflict areas, which will talk about the need for peace. These teams carry with them a one-hour TV documentary on Mindanao, to be shown to residents and local officials and business groups, all in the hope of rebuilding whatever is left of the peace process.
This is clearly more than a communication or marketing problem at this point, and there is much rebuilding of trust between the parties and other stakeholders that needs to be done. However, it does reinforce the point that diplomacy and social marketing can be two equally important levers that need to work in parallel to have effective and sustainable effects for achieving peace. As people become more empowered with new communication technologies to be active players in the political process, and not merely bystanders or quiet herds, we need to be more aware of where the opportunities for social marketing lie in contributing to improved social conditions.