Oral Histories

Dan Edelman

Interview Segments on Topic: PR and Technology/Change

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: How has the new media affected public relations, for instance the Internet?

Edelman: Oh I think it’s had an enormous effect and it’s only just beginning. Blogging and word of mouth and two way communication, citizen journalism, personal journalism. We had a meeting with Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld in Washington last week. He’s an old friend of mine from Chicago and we were able to arrange to bring 20 people over there. And he spoke about the fact that reports from the field, if a fellow goes out on a raid comes back and on the way back he’s talking to his wife or his girlfriend or his mother telling about what’s happening. Before the New York Times even hears about it or puts it on their Internet. But these soldiers, Don points out are in direct contact with US public by their disclosure calls to their contacts at home and you know in five minutes after they’ve done something people know about it well before it gets on the Internet of a major newspaper or in the paper the next morning. So it’s a different world. And personal journalism it’s a two way street. You don’t just send out as you do in top down or in a major newspaper or any newspaper. You expect to be involved in two way communications. People answer and they should answer. That’s the difference between that and the newspaper or a magazine. You can write a letter to the editor but it’s given certain space and a lot of people don’t pay attention to it.

Interviewer: What are the most significant changes you have observed during your career in public relations. If you needed to compare the industry now versus

Edelman: Well we used to just get the story published. That was the assignment. And however I must say that the four years I spent at the Toni Company were counter indicated. I tend to talk that way because I think that happens to a lot of people but we broadened out tremendously. We have a research operation in Washington. We have a little advertising group in our Washington office. Blue advertising which was not designed to compete with the big ad agencies in splashy shampoo or food advertising but rather issues corporate issues that sort of thing and we tend to do work for a lot of trade associations. As well as companies and many of our major clients come out of our Washington office which starts with a specific legislative assignment and then migrates into a very large corporate program. Maybe you get a brand first and then it grows from that. That’s happened to us several times just in the past year or two.