Oral Histories

Dan Edelman

Interview Segments on Topic: Challenges/Accomplishments

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: Looking back on your career in public relations, what are some of your biggest challenges that you faced as a public relations executive?

Edelman: Well everything is a challenge. In other words you can say that a crisis thing, which we’ve had plenty of for clients is the most important. But a marketing challenge introducing a product or a brand. Employee relations any facet of public relations, a government problem in Washington, a mistake, a problem. I can’t even identify which problems are particularly significant but at the time each one of them is crucial.

Interviewer: What would you say are your biggest professional success stories?

Edelman: Well you know we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of clients over the years. We’ve got 45 offices now around the world. I must acknowledge I don’t even know all the things that are being done in Kuala Lumpur let alone Sydney, or Melbourne, or London or Paris or wherever. I don’t even know what’s exactly going on in Sacramento or any of our other US offices except that I get status reports and to the extent of the international offices are faithful to the monthly status report. I’m pretty well briefed on that. The US offices tend to be more faithful and I think I criticize them more or call them and say where is it if I don’t get the status report. And it goes to other people of course not just to me.

Interviewer: What do you feel are the greatest challenges facing executives, public relation senior executives today and how can these challenges be met?

Edelman: Well I think we still have a recognition problem. I think we move from here to here where we’re gaining stature and recognition all the time but we have a long way to go. In other words it isn’t like the lawyer. It isn’t like a doctor. It isn’t a well known accepted recognized profession. And we’ll get there but I don’t think we should look to law or medicine or those professional areas. I think we should look to advertising. The problem is the advertising agencies have been acquired everybody but Edelman are in affect having a negative influence on what public relations does.  You know it’s too much like advertising and I believe it’s a way different kind of an activity or a profession if you will. Many different callings that I’ve commented on earlier.