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Carole Felton: On My Radar….

Lincoln: The Man, The Tunnel & A PR Genius!

Abraham Lincoln: Statesman, Politician and….P.R. Guru. Who Knew?

Abraham Lincoln is heralded as one of our country’s greatest – considered a
hero, not merely one of our finest presidents, and an individual whose ideas
espoused in the “Emancipation Proclamation” ended a vicious practice in our

But, along with Victoria’s Secrets, there are many things about Abe that many of
us never knew and which seem to be well-kept secrets about the man and his
times. He was a brilliant marketer and Public Relations practitioner. Lincoln

As I watched National Geographic’s program entitled “Lincoln: American

Mastermind” (appropriately coinciding with the annual celebration of his February
12th birthday and President’s Day), I learned some fun facts about “Honest Abe”
that never showed up in any of my history texts, nor social reading I have done.
Here goes:

Abe Lincoln, Image-Maker, Par Excel lance

As a young lawyer, Abe’s life wasn’t notable except that he worked in a store and
kept books. He was considered to be reliable and trustworthy. He, himself,
proclaimed himself “Honest Abe” and kept that image before the public.
Moreover, to his credit, he also recognized the significance of perpetuating the
“man of the earth” image following a few time he split rails. He crafted his public
image carefully and blended seemingly irrelevant and disparate items as
significant building blocks as a “Rail Splitter” and “Honest Abe” – a backwoods
lawyer…simple man from the Plains vs.”just another lawyer.”

Photographing Lincoln proved to be problematic as his thin long, craggy face was
generally unappealing. His image needed work (long before plastic surgery). A
makeover was needed, at least photographically. Lincoln brought in
photographer Mathew Brady who used a technique akin to air brushing to brush
out lines and crevices of Lincoln’s gaunt face. His close-ups ended and longer
shots were used, along with growing whiskers to complete his “makeover.”
Polishing his image in photographs included shirt collars raised, and using his
height to convey dominance and power. As we say, he “worked it.”

Sound-Bites, Spin Control & A Winning Presidential Campaign

Lincoln’s brilliance as a strategic marketer/public relations whiz was never more
clearly evident than his skill in manipulating his presidential campaign against
Stephen Douglas. Talk about optimization! Lincoln maneuvered his position to
be seen on the same platform as Douglas, a recognized national figure, giving
Lincoln much greater visibility and conferred a position of esteem, early in the
campaign. The debates, despite minor outbursts due to medication Lincoln was
taking, further emphasized his oratory skills and ability to project his aspirations.
He polished his image further utilizing technology of the day. He used the
development of shorthand to get his ideas into the papers and worked the
Telegraph like no one had before him.

Lincoln, the President Sets Precedents!

Although he may never have read the“Art of War” by Sun Tzu, Lincoln invited
rivals and politicians who were adversaries and rivals to serve on his Cabinet.
William Seward, a vocal antagonist became a trusted and loyal friend when
appointed to serve as Secretary of State.

Another first for our country, Lincoln cleverly established what would be the first
White House Press Corp, in his mastery of skillfully shaping opinions and
keeping news items flowing along with many “photo opps” detailing his activities.
He himself became adept as “proofing” editing and working with journalists

The War Room – On the Battlefield!

A strategic genius, Lincoln then applied his amazing deftness as a strategist to
war. He read books and kept notes. Voila! General, 101! He then executed his
self-taught courses into action on the battlefield. As a micromanager, he took
personal command of the army and directed field action. Not happy with General
McClelland, he himself took arms as the Civil War in the 1860’s occupied the
country. Strategically, he provoked the South to fire to first shot at Fort Sumpter,
triggering the war. (He trumpeted sending his troops serious care packages of
supplies, that had the effect of forcing the Confederate Army to institute the first
shots as they tried to seize the Fort before a perceived onslaught of troops).
Lincoln then added military strategist to his growing list of accomplishments.
Photos Opps abounded with Brady one of the few photographers able to get to
sites to photograph the war. Lincoln was a hands-on Commander-in-Chief and
ultimately freed the slaves in the process of “winning” the war. He successfully
created buzz when needed and used the power of the media and all avenues of
news dissemination to tell his side of the story.

Lincoln solidified his position as one of our country’s greatest heroes when he re-
defined the war, talking about the union symbolizing Liberty giving merit to the
view that the war was more of a human rights issues than merely states rights.
The “Emancipation Proclamation” was more than ending slavery and giving
slaves the opportunity to fight alongside their Southern “brothers” as represented
by one of the reasons advanced for this sweeping action.
To this day, to many of us, his image remains “elusive”, but he will always be
viewed as sturdy, steadfast and one of the greatest Americans of all time.

As all P.R. practitioners have learned, substance is the greatest commodity to

sell. Lincoln possessed all that he professed – and knew how to sell it.