Charting the future of public relations
Obituary: Daniel J. Edelman
Holmes Report
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

Obituary: Daniel J. Edelman

Daniel J. Edelman, who founded an agency that has become the PR industry's biggest, has passed away at the age of 92.

Holmes Report

CHICAGO--Edelman founder Daniel J. Edelman has passed away at the age of 92. 

Edelman, who launched the agency in 1952, died from heart failure after a lengthy period of ill health. He is survived by his wife Ruth Ann Rozumoff Edelman; his children Richard, Renee and John; and grandchildren Margot, Tory and Amanda Edelman.

Click here to read Paul Holmes' tribute to Dan Edelman.

As a leader in the development of the modern PR industry, Edelman pioneered many of the practices which are now standard in the field. Over the past 60 years, his firm, now under the leadership of CEO Richard Edelman, has grown to become the largest PR firm in the world, while retaining its independent status.

Born in New York in 1920, Edelman earned a graduate degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, before being drafted into the Army in 1942.

He was assigned to the Intelligence unit of the 100th Infantry Division, which included the division’s PR operation. The role marked Edelman's first exposure to PR and saw him produce a daily newspaper for fellow soldiers. Later assigned to the Fifth Mobile Radio Broadcasting Company, Edelman analysed German propaganda, before winding up his military career in the US Army Information Control Division in Berlin.

Upon returning to civilian life in the US, Edelman parlayed his wartime contacts into a night shift position as a news writer for CBS in New York. His PR career began in earnest when he became a publicist at Musicraft Records, where he hit upon an idea to boost exposure for singer Mel Torme's show, in conjunction with sponsor Toni Company - packaging Torme’s latest records in an album designed to look like the Toni Wave Kit.

That idea eventually helped Edelman land a job in Chicago as PR director of Toni. After four years with the company, he decided to start his own firm, with Toni as his first client and Sara Lee as the second. When chosen by the California wine industry in 1966 to promote the region’s wines nationwide, Edelman retained movie star Vincent Price as a spokesman, marking one of the first uses of a celebrity in a PR campaign.

Other landmarks followed, including helping Concorde avoid a US ban; launching the first free consumer hotline for Butterball Turkey; building support for Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall; helping Advil make the switch from prescription to OTC; and, helping CBS in win its lawsuit with General William Westmoreland.

Meanwhile, his firm was expanding, opening offices in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC in the 1960s, and entering London in 1968.

Offices in other European cities soon followed, along with expansion into Asia-Pacific in the 1980s. Daniel Edelman has served as chairman of the firm since 1996, when Richard Edelman took on the CEO role. The last 20 years have seen major international growth at the firm, in Latin America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, along with the development of subsidiary companies under the Daniel J Edelman holding group banner.

Today, Edelman has 65 offices with more than 4,400 staff worldwide. In recent years, it has won numerous awards, including the Holmes Report's Global Agency of the Year in 2011 and North American Agency of the Year in 2012.

Edelman and his company have done work for many causes during his lifetime, including the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS and Save the Children. He also supported The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and served on the Board of the Committee for Economic Growth of Israel, the Illinois Children’s Hospital and Aid Society, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Northwestern University Music School and Save the Children Foundation. He is a former Chair of the University of Chicago Library Board. 

Edelman’s work and public service record received considerable recognition during his lifetime. He was named to the Chicago Hall of Fame, the University of Illinois-Chicago Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and the Arthur Page Society Hall of Fame.

He was also the recipient of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s first annual Dean’s Medal for Professional Achievement and Public Service, and the  Publicity Club of Chicago’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Other honours include an award from the China Public Relations Association; the Gold Anvil award from the Public Relations Society of America;  the Communicator of the Year award from The Jewish United Fund. Recently, he was named a member of ICCO's Hall of Fame. 

View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus