A Public Relations Pioneer

Daniel J. Edelman (1920-2013) founded Daniel J. Edelman and Associates in 1952 in Chicago with just a few employees. The company, now called Edelman, has grown to become the largest Public Relations firm in the world with over 5,000 employees working in 65 cities across the globe, states Edelman’s website. The firm also has affiliates in over 35 cities.

A Brief Bio of a PR Pioneer

In Daniel Edelman’s obituary written by The New York Times’ Dennis Hevesi, Maria Russell (the Chair of the Public Relations department at Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications) is quoted as saying:

“When I teach the modules on the history of public relations, I tell my students that Mr. Edelman was one of our pioneers…Specifically, he helped public relations professionals move away from being order-takers to respected counselors to business executives and government leaders.”

Edelman, originally from Manhattan, was a journalist before starting his PR firm. He earned his Master’s degree at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. From there he worked as a sports reporter for a Poughkeepsie, N.Y newspaper. During WWII he served in a U.S. Army psychological warfare/information control unit. After that he worked for CBS in New York as a nighttime reporter, and then promoted jazz artists like Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw and Sarah Vaughan as a publicist for Musicraft Records.

Before starting his own firm, Edelman worked as the PR director for Toni, an at-home hair perm company. Edelman came up with the idea to send sets of twins–where one had a salon perm, the other a Toni perm, and women were encouraged to guess which was which—on tour to 72 cities as part of an advertising campaign.

Edelman and his company worked/work with such clients as Sara Lee, Paper Mate, Nestle, S.C. Johnson, Apple, KFC, Starbucks, the Mormon Church, Samsung, Kraft, Microsoft, General Electric and many more. Projects have ranged from Edelman hiring Vincent Price to be spokesman for California’s wine industry and helping Finland “overcome the reputation that it’s a Soviet satellite country”—for which Edelman was knighted by the country—to the firm setting up a “consumer helpline” for Butterball Turkey, rebranding UPS, assisted with Dove’s global “Real Beauty” campaign and managing/planning the presentation of the Iraq Study Group Report.

A Family Firm

Currently the President and CEO of Edelman is Richard Edelman, the son of the company’s founder, the late Daniel J. Edelman. Richard had not originally planned to work for the Edelman firm. According to Advertising Age’s Alexandra Bruell, Richard was planning to travel to Europe and take a marketing job with Playtex after completing his Harvard Business School degree. But his father convinced him to come work for his company, telling him that after a year, if he didn’t like it, he could leave. That was over 35 years ago.

According to Bruell, in her 2012 article, Richard’s three daughters had all expressed interest in working for the firm. At least two of them had spent time interning or working for one of the Edelman offices in the U.S. or overseas in the midst of their college studies.

Did You Know?

In the late 1990s, Steve Jobs was looking for a new PR agency to run the campaign promoting Apple’s comeback. Edelman was among the agencies selected to pitch to Jobs. During his meeting with Jobs, Paul Bergevin, who was Edelman’s leader of global technology practice at the time, started answering questions. Within five minutes Jobs began outlining the steps of their PR campaign, hiring Edelman on the spot.

PR Careers with Edelman

Edelman has offices and affiliates spread across North America, Latin America, Europe and the CIS, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.
If you take a look at the company website’s job board, you get a sense of the variety of careers available at the world’s largest public relations firm.

For example, advertised positions may range from account services and creative to administrative, market research or financial; they may be in general divisions or specialized, such as in consumer marketing, health care, corporate, crisis management, technology or public affairs; they may be internships or permanent full-time.

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Meet the Author

Michelle - Contributing Editor

Michelle Brunet is a freelance writer who contributes to numerous print and online publications, including JournalismDegree.com. She holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Studies/Biology and a B.Ed. Prior to writing, Michelle spent time teaching (in Canada and South Korea), volunteering on an organic farm in Ontario, camp counseling in Hong Kong, and a range of other short term gigs, from waitressing at a resort to separating recyclables on a conveyor belt. She loves meeting new people and is constantly fascinated by their unique stories.

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