Oral Histories

Richard Edelman

Interview Segments on Topic: Mentors

Richard Edelman Biography

Richard Edelman is the president and CEO of the world's largest independent public relations firm with wholly-owned offices in 53 cities and more than 3,600 employees worldwide. He was named president and CEO in September 1996. Prior to that, he served as president of Edelman's U.S. operations, regional manager of Europe and manager of the firm's New York office.

Richard has extensive experience in marketing and reputation management, with current assignments for the National Dairy Council, Hewlett-Packard, McGraw-Hill and Scotts Miracle Gro. He has counseled several countries on economic development programs, including Egypt, Israel and Mexico.

Richard won the Silver Anvil, the highest award in the public relations industry, in 1981. He was named "Best Manager of the Year" by Inside PR magazine in 1995. In 2006, he was awarded "Entrepreneur of the Year 2006 - NY Metropolitan Area" by Ernst & Young. Richard was named the "Most Powerful PR Executive" by PR Week in October 2008, for the second year in a row, and "Agency Executive of the Year" by AdAge in January 2008. In 2010, he was named one of "America's Favorite Bosses" (#8) by Forbes.

He serves on the Board of Directors of the Ad Council, the Atlantic Council, the Children's Aid Society and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. He is also a member of the World Economic Forum, the Arthur Page Society and PR Seminar.


BOLTON: What about the competency that’s required for strategic counseling of business leaders? How do people, as you bring them up in your firm, how do they develop that?

EDELMAN: They get strategic experience in counseling partly by watching masters at work so someone who’s attached to a Gary Grates in doing change management will see the work on a Kraft-Cadbury merger and say you know, I get this, I understand the tradeoff on nationalism and I get the concern about plant closure. So one of it is sort of a mentoring, that’s a classic. We’re also trying very hard to automate some part of this. We’ve put together a thing called the Digital Belt System where—and it doesn’t sound as S&M as you might think. It’s all to do with—you get your blue belt and then your orange belt and then ultimately your black belt. We’ve created a curriculum and I think 2/3 of our people have taken it. If you make it available, they will do it. It’s a little bit like, make the baseball field and people will come. It’s important to keep this training aspect of the business front and center.