Lincoln Speech Teaches Unify Electrify Relate


As history tends to do, it keeps coming back to me. Even though I like to say I’m a futurist, without roots there’s no base to build on. Today, on Abraham Lincoln’s 202th birthday, I did some research to see what’s new with Lincoln and found that history keeps repeating itself in three PR dimensions: unify, electrify and relate. I'll also share one of my earliest Lincoln stories and ask: what’s your Lincoln story?

One of the greatest speakers of our time, Lincoln's farewell address is only 155 words. Rather than copy and paste it here, the graphic at the top of this post is an outline made by wordle.net. Even in a brief speech, these themes stand out: one man, hope and assistance.

Reading Lincoln's Farewell Speech Aloud in Unison

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's farewell speech and to begin the Civil War Sesquicentennial, groups of people around the country gathered yesterday, on February 11, 2011 at 11:00 am, to recite the speech. With a goal to set a Guinness World Record, the event made news beyond Springfield where this video was taken.

PR Takeaway One: Unify with Communications

In 1861, Lincoln left Springfield with stops along the way to Washington to deliver his message from depots and train stations. Yesterday, crowds read Lincoln's speech in unison. Whether or not you’re trying to set a world’s record, doing anything together all at once is powerful. What if everyone in your company posted the same update at the same time? Where are your crowds, your train stations and depots?

PR Takeaway Two: Electrify with Technology

Search YouTube for Lincoln farewell address and you can watch videos from events around the country. That's today's technology. Two years ago I wrote about Abraham Lincoln and technology:

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. While there’s lots of talk about our new president being the first to bring technology into White House communications, maybe this reference really belongs to President Obama’s role model, Abraham Lincoln. Back in the 1800s, Lincoln used the telegraph. What's the best form of technology to communicate with your community?

PR Takeaway Three: Relate and Connect

Lincoln looks back and forward in this speech.

My own Lincoln stories go way back. Here's one of the earliest I can remember.

Growing up in Danville, Illinois we really did walk in Lincoln's land. One summer when I was 10 or so, my parents told us they'd like to take us to see Lincoln's home in Springfield. A budding history buff with a lively imagination, I took my camera with hopes this would be an important and momentous occasion. And it was. When we got there, a tree in front of the home was coming down. A tree that Mr. Lincoln would have seen everyday, an important tree to an important person. My sister and I waited in line to get a souvenir we would we treasure for years, a round tree slice. Although it took years to develop as a turning point, I realize now that I took my first event photos that day.

Last week, we used this Lincoln quote in a client's project:

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing. Abraham Lincoln

Bringing in a voice that people recognize can underscore and amplify your own. How do PR and social media relate to connect voices and stories?

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