Oral Histories

Dan Edelman

Interview Segments on Topic: Characteristics/Qualities of PR Professionals

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: What qualities do you look for when hiring a senior executive in your company?

Edelman: Well I’m not doing as much interviewing as I used to but I would say willingness to work hard. An attractive personality. A good speaker, a good writer. A person who can communicate and experience depending on the level in which we are hiring. If you are right out of college, that’s another kind of thing. But we’re interested in what your credentials are from college. Did you work on the school paper? Did you succeed in extracurricular things? Did you have a good academic record? So, we look at all those things and hope to get the best. I think public relations is improving in that regard. We had a hard time getting the best. And even today we tend to recruits from the PRSSA schools that have it, have a PRSSA chapter. I’d like to have more Ivy League people. More of people who are pre selected when they were young to be outstanding because they learn hard at schools. I don’t think we’re there yet, we have to become better known better respected before we get all these kinds of opportunities to recruit the very best that have been preselected for various reasons. High school records and what not. We’d like to have more of them. But it’s happening. We have a good staff and quality people here and all over the world.

Interviewer: In your opinion what constitutes ethical public relations?

Edelman: Well it starts with who you are. I mean are you an ethical person? If you have to bring to public relations what it is you represent the kind of person you are. If you are an ethical person and you grew up that way and your parents; my father was a wonderful role model for me in terms of ethics and standards; he practiced law for over 50 years. And one brother was a lawyer. The other one is a doctor. So, I had a professional environment. And I think that’s critical in making a public relations person.

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.