Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Daniel Edelman: Creative PR guru

Daniel Joseph Edelman, founder of world’s largest independent PR consultancy Edelman, passed away on January 15, 2013. He was 92.

Journalist-turned-PR professional Edelman was known for his awe-inspiring creative PR work which had laid the foundation of modern PR. Some of his inventions are today an industry standard. These include, according to Verena Dobnik of Assocatied Press:
·       Media tour: In 1948, Dan Edelman invented the media tour – meeting journalists in their office
·       Celebrity connect: Retention of film star Vincent Price as a spokesman for the California's wine industry in 1960s and activist Gloria Steinem to promote birth control pills. A KFC executive dressed as late Colonel Harland David Sanders (founder of KFC), and served chicken to the waiting media at actress Elizabeth Taylor's 1991 wedding to construction worker Larry Fortensky, resulting in positive coverage for KFC
“PR people, I'm told, have the reputation of being glad-handers and schmoozers, intent on getting their clients' stories into print or on the air without much regard for how newsworthy those stories are,” wrote Rance Crain, President and Editorial Director of Crain Communications Inc, which publishes nearly 30 weekly business newspapers and trade papers including Ad Age.   “My opinion is that the good ones consistently come up with great story ideas, and so it's up to me to glad-hand and schmooze them so they won't give their stories to somebody else. And Dan Edelman... was definitely worth cultivating. No. 1, he had great clients that we at Advertising Age (and other Crain publications) liked to write about... And No. 2, he always came up with good story angles.”  

“One of the highest accolades you could receive from Dan was the recognition that you were a ‘hard worker’,” wrote David Brain, President and CEO, Edelman Asia Pacific “But if you were lucky enough to hear that you were also aware that he worked harder still… Any firm that loses a founder will mourn his passing and look to his legacy and re-visit his teachings. But few founders have the same effect on their whole industry.”
“In the same way that the automotive industry will never see another Henry Ford, that the fast food business will never see another Ray Kroc, PR will never see another Dan Edelman.”  wrote Paul Holmes in the Holmes Report. “Along with a handful of contemporaries -- Harold Burson, Carl Byoir, John Hill, Al Golin, Al Fleishman and Bob Hillard, David Finn -- Dan invented the modern public relations firm. But while most of the firms these individuals created are structurally similar (in terms of international offices, practice areas, sector focus), they were culturally quite distinctive -- and none was more distinctive than Edelman.”

Quoting from Franz Wisner’s book, Edelman and the Rise of Public Relations, Julia Hood, Executive Vice President,  Haymarket Media / PRWeek, narrated how the late PR legend had made his son Richard head of the New York office after struggling to find a replacement manager for the office. “Why don't you just take a shot at this until I find somebody decent,” Daniel apparently told Richard Edelman, who was 27 then.
Daniel retired as Chief Executive Officer in 1996, when Richard took over.  Richard is now the President and CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm with 66 offices and 4,500 employees worldwide. 

Richard said his father was PR  "a marketing and public relations genius, because he really understood that PR could sell brands". 

 “He was a true entrepreneur,” wrote Richard. “Sometimes that led us to do things a bit backward…we began our Asian operations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia because one of our UK executives was marrying a man who lived there and wanted to stay at the firm.”