Mission accomplished, there will be a great person at the Castle. But I won’t go into politics anymore, says the head of Pavlova’s campaign
If everything had gone according to plan, Pavla Nýdrle would now be sailing around the world with her husband Michal and children. But sometimes plans diverge from reality, and so new corners of the world appeared. Last summer, they plunged into the vortex of Petr Pavel’s presidential campaign.
And even though it seemed that these would be unfamiliar waters for you as an experienced marketer, I admit that these were months of learning for you. “In business you don’t have to face personal and imaginary attacks like you do in politics. That’s also why the whole campaign was emotionally demanding for me,” he says.
You have never specialized in political marketing before. Why did you accept the offer?
I’ll take a little detour. I met Mr. General for the first time in person only last year. The one who knew him before was my husband Michal. He was approached by our friend Petr Kolář, who was looking for someone to help him put together a marketing team for Petr Pavel and act as an advisor. But Michal knew that we were going to travel around the world, so he just recommended some other people and separated himself from the team.
We had planned to come to the Czech Republic to vote and then continue our journey. But in March the mast broke on our ship, we were fighting for our lives and the lives of our children, on top of that there was a war going on in Ukraine and in the Caribbean we saw how the Chinese government was buying the influence of all those small countries by paying for their infrastructure and roads.
And suddenly we realized that democracy is not so automatic again, and that if we managed to save a life, maybe we should contribute what we can to elect a person to the Castle for whom freedom and truth are important.
So you came home and offered your services to the election team?
The husband called Tomáš Richter, who was in charge of fundraising in the team, from the wrecked ship, to see if he was still looking for an election manager, and since I have led marketing teams all my life, I slowly started to get involved in the presidential one.
He was already built for the most part, it was just necessary to supplement and expand some positions, and then just drive him. And because there was Michal Repa, a political strategist who in the past was involved in the campaign of Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová, or political marketer Martin Burgr, I was probably competent to be there, otherwise I wouldn’t have allowed myself to do it. But for me it was mainly a personal mission.
Now you have a comparison between how a marketing team works in business and how it works in politics. Did you encounter something during the campaign that threw you off?
The fact that the colleagues had dozens of political campaigns behind them means that they are used to misinformation flowing through various channels. And that the possibilities of how to stop or influence them are quite strong. But for someone like me, who went into it out of personal conviction, it was difficult. You know lies are being spread, but you don’t have much of a way to stop them. Sure, you can hope for a video to be taken down by google, but what about disinformation chain messages. What will you do with them?
When there are too many, you can make fun of it, but that’s not always the solution either. Nobody attacks you that hard in business, it just doesn’t happen. In politics, you work much more with people’s emotions, and you can also manipulate them much more easily. On the other hand, you could see the huge wave of support from volunteers, personalities, institutions, and donors. This does not happen in normal marketing.
And even though some of the attacks were really over the top, it confirmed to us that I’m doing the campaign well. But I just couldn’t turn off much, every day I was waiting for the liar to emerge again. It was very emotionally demanding.
And any moments you weren’t prepared for?
Certainly the first media attack that came with Petr Pavlo’s classmate from the news postgraduate. This was very painful for me. You suddenly realize that evil is against you, that there are people who don’t want someone in the Castle who speaks the truth, who won’t help anyone. We felt an even greater responsibility in the fact that we had to be successful. We also had it at the end of the campaign that the truth wins, that a truthful, decent person has a chance to win.
Did you know from the beginning what style you wanted to run the campaign?
The line was set from the beginning. It was based on the strategy of Michal Řepá, which built on the strong attributes of Petr Pavel as a candidate. So on experience, diplomacy, responsibility based on his career. And then we tried to give it a nice packaging. And the flannel shirt and Mick the cat served well in this.
They both sort of got into it on their own. In the beginning, we discussed the general’s plaid shirts a lot, mainly the stylists told us that it didn’t look very good, but in the end we decided that instead of pushing him somewhere he doesn’t want to be, we’d rather give the style a better style. We bought a few flannel shirts and people liked it, they enjoyed it. Then it was a problem to even find a flannel in Prague or Brno.
And it was the same with the cat. It is a pet for the husband and wife, and although at the beginning of the campaign it was clear that Mr. Pavel had no need to share photos with Micka, over time he discovered that it is not harmful if the personal level is shown. So it came naturally and Micky became a celebrity.
Danuše Nerudová in her candidacy for the competition and the whole family, i.e. besides her husband and children. How was it with General Pavel?
The professor’s children are younger and it was probably an opportunity to spend free time together. I would probably feel the same way, I would cooperate with the children so that they know what is happening, why it is happening. Mr. and Mrs. Pavlovi have three adult children with their families.
But, and this probably escaped the media a little, Honzo’s son traveled with us in the Czech Republic, was involved in collecting signatures, and also plays in election spots. Mrs. Eva’s daughter and I knitted Christmas wreaths again. We just didn’t talk about it as much publicly and didn’t base the campaign on them more.
General Pavel maintains a “poker face” under all circumstances, which could give the impression that he is emotionless. On the other hand, he did not allow himself to be provoked. Did you advise him on that too?
One of the things that was challenging about this campaign was a lot of people telling you what it should look like. You get a lot of unsolicited advice. And one of them was Petr Pavel’s performance, his poker face. That he should give give give more emotions.
I think that during the campaign there were moments when he showed more emotion, for example in the moments when we had meetings with citizens. And then there were moments when his poker face came in handy. For example, in televised debates with an opponent.
Weren’t there opinions among the advice that he should also toughen up before the second round, when Andrej Babiš led a rather intense campaign against him?
Rather, we thought to ourselves that when everything was dug up about Petr Pavle, why didn’t the media also mention Babiš’s past in the same way. But I think running the campaign decently, telling the truth and not avoiding accountability was the right way. The practice from the advertising agency that I have always followed is that there is one captain, that is the strategist, and he tells how the ship sails.
And I also honored Michal Řepá. We could have debates together, sometimes he testified for me, sometimes I for him, but Michal had the final say. And then it depends on what the candidate himself wants, because it makes no sense to put him in a position that doesn’t suit him. And Petr Pavel has his own style, he doesn’t get flustered by anything, nothing takes him by surprise, he is trained by experience, which was seen at many events.
Did you tend to refute misinformation or did you wait for it to blow up?
What worked in this respect was civil society. And that on two levels – it was a network of supporters, volunteers, influencers who contacted us saying that this is circulating on the networks, what they should do, how they can refute it. So we prepared an anti-disinformation leaflet, which we then spread through our channels.
And then there was the second level, where civil society functioned perfectly. A wave of creativity arose, people ordered a billboard and wrote on it, for example, what Babiš promised in their city and what he did not do. This was, for example, the case of Governor Martin Půta, who wrote down everything that Babiš failed to accomplish in the Liberec region.
Or Honza Látal again made a video about what goes into pensioners’ mailboxes, what kind of lying leaflets. These people did work that we no longer had the capacity to do, and we still needed to hold the campaign line. at all, Mr. Pavel has a huge wave of supporters. It’s as if those people suddenly got their wits about them and started fighting the lies themselves.
An interesting meeting was also in Prague’s Kolkovna, after the first round of the presidential elections, where he met with Danuša Nerudová and where hundreds of people came to see him. Did you plan this ahead?
This arose after it was already clear that Danuše Nerudová did not make it to the second round. And at the same time she provided support to the general. My colleague Míša and I discussed how to connect volunteers from the professor with ours. And so we came up with the idea that they would go to Kolkovna for a beer.
Then it turned out that Danuše Nerudová would also go there, she also invited Mr. Pavel, and suddenly someone put it on Instagram and the pub was full of people. The security guys had it tough. This was an unplanned event, no calculation. Mr. Pavel likes to meet people, it is his strong point. So even now in February we are already planning some trips to the cities.
Now what? What will you do next? Any other marketing action in sight?
If it hadn’t been for Mr. General, I wouldn’t have gone into marketing. But my husband told me that he would be a good president, and I believed him. It was a personal thing for me, more than work. On the other hand, at that time we were going on a trip around the world to relax. The campaign was challenging in that the family was enormously sidelined. My kids took it away, there were even weeks when we didn’t see each other. It was something for something.
But it wasn’t just me, politics is terribly relentless if you want to do it well. So now I have made a commitment to myself that my only job will be my husband and children. Here I will pack it up, give it away and have peace of mind to devote myself to my family. My mission was accomplished. I don’t want politics anymore, I like to play One Campaign, One Victory. It was enough for me, and I also know that there will be a great person at the Castle.
What about your trip around the world?
The ship is still being repaired at the shipyard. But such a path means that we would again have to tear the children from their social ties, from school, and that would not be good now. So we will stay in the Czech Republic for a while, we will think about what activities we will revive, but I am also looking forward to not doing anything at all for a while. Marketing is a more time-consuming job, I think we will focus on development, real estate, looking for projects that make sense. I rely on my husband for that, he is the visionary, I am the manager.
What would you most like for Peter Pavlo right now?
To have time and space for his work. It will be extremely difficult for him now, there will be great demands and demands on him, people will want to know the answers, the results of the audits. It will be a while before he can start to change anything at all. As long as he doesn’t get to the Castle and has a mandate, he still doesn’t have much authority. And I don’t think handing over the office will be easy – no one will make it easy for him. But he can handle it. He is full of strength. And he feels like it.