Oral Histories

Dan Edelman

Interview Segments on Topic: Marketing/Advertising/Branding

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.


Edelman: I do indeed. In fact I don’t’ even like marketing public relations, it suggests that we’re another outlet such as advertising. We have nothing to do with advertising. We do a completely different kind of work and public relations involves, as I was suggesting earlier many other things. Marketing the company, marketing the brand. But also crises problems. Human resources problems. Situations in Washington. Legislative relations. And states depending on circumstances whether it’s a particular situation we get into state relations. So those are some of my thoughts on that subject.

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.

Interviewer: How do you feel that the public’s opinion about a product is measured. Is it just by sales or do you feel there are other intangible things that you can measure a customer’s commitment to a product or to a brand. Is it just through sales or do you feel there are other ways you can gauge that?

Edelman: Well you can’t downgrade the role of advertising. But the most important thing is it the right product? Is it a needed product? Is it a good product? Is it priced right? Does it do a job? Whatever it is and ultimately we can’t do anything about that. And the only people who can do something about that are the research and development people and the marketing people in the company. We can help in that regard as we get into marketing public relations. The history of the company. Have we talked about that earlier. The reputation and the brand. Often a brand is they don’t even know that as I said earlier. They don’t know the name of the parent company.  They go for the brand.

Interviewer: We spoke earlier comparing public relations to other industries such as law and finance. Do you feel that the industry will be recognized in the future as a profession that’s comparable to those professions?

Edelman: I don’t think we’re that kind of a profession. Law and medicine require medicine requires four years of medical school plus residency. Law requires three years of law school and often summer work in a law firm. Not as rigid as the residency rule in medicine. But we’re not that. We’re different. If anything we’re more related to advertising. I don’t like it personally but to the extent that people define us as being like advertising like marketing. I don’t like that. That’s not, we do that. We promote brands for companies as I suggested earlier but we have so many other aspects of the assignment if we have a broad corporate reputation program. Otherwise we may have a specific program that defines what we do very rigidly.