Oral Histories

Dan Edelman

Interview Segments on Topic: Selecting a PR Career

Dan Edelman Biography

Daniel Edelman is founder and chairman of Daniel J. Edelman, Inc., the world’s largest privately held independent firm with 45 offices across the globe.  He began his PR career as director of public relations for the Toni division of Gillette in 1948 where he created the first-ever product media tour, taking 12 sets of identical twins across the country.   The success of the tour gave him the confidence to launch his private firm in Chicago in 1952.

Edelman continued his “big ideas” with other products, defining Edelman, Inc. as the expert in marketing public relations and excelling in new product launches, brand building and setting the standard for the direct marketing industry.


Interviewer: Thank you very much. I wanted to begin our interview today by asking you if you could explain some of the inspiration behind your beginning a career in the public relations profession.

Edelman: Well, I must acknowledge that I started out as a journalist. I was in psychological warfare during the Second World War. I was doing a lot of writing and nightly analysis of German propaganda. And even before I was drafted into the service a year after Pearl Harbor I was involved in public relations. I had made the move over and I had heard about it and it seemed enticing and I decided to make that my career.

Interviewer: And what was your first position in public relations? What was the first job?

Edelman: Well, I had a brother- in-law later we felt who had a record company and I did public relations for that company and through that I met the Toni people who were sponsoring Mel Tormet and that’s a long story. That’s how I got involved and  I joined the Toni Company as public relations director and I was there four years. I did a lot for them but I also taught myself public relations. Every facet of it. Legislative problems in the state. Employee human resources. Situations in marketing certainly marketing PR for the brand company and the products. And it was a complete exercise. By the time I finished four years I figured well I can do this for other people and that’s how I happened to start the company on October 1, 1952. Just fifty-four years ago this October.

Interviewer: Did you find your company here in the Chicago area?

Edelman: Well I had moved to Chicago for Toni. And that was a natural place to be. It was a Chicago based company until Little Richard came along and became big and finished Harvard Business School and he joined us and then it became Chicago and New York co headquarters. They are about equal size now. Both, our two largest offices.