Daniel J. Edelman: The icon behind Edelman

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Daniel J. Edelman popularly known as Dan Edelman is one of the biggest pioneers in the PR industry. He was the founder and chairman of one of the largest public relations firms in the world – Edelman. This iconic firm had humble beginnings in a small office at Chicago in 1952. However, it grew into the biggest agency in the world with 63 offices in 26 countries and over 4,600 employees. The company generated a revenue of $660 million last year.
Daniel J. Edelman died of congestive heart failure in 2013 but his legacy remains and Edelman is still a power to reckon with. Born on July 3, 1920, he was the son of lawyer Selig and concert pianist, Selma Edelman.

Accolades & Awards

Daniel J. Edelman was much feted and received his alma mater’s first Dean’s Medal for Professional Achievement and Public Service along with the Publicity Club of Chicago’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. He was also the recipient of the Public Relations Society of America’s highest honour, the Gold Anvil.

Education & Early Career

He studied at the DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. He graduated from the Columbia University in 1940 and also secured a Master’s Degree in Journalism there. He started his career as a sports reporter at a newspaper in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Post. He served in an Army psychological warfare unit in World War II and this work was broadcast in Europe. After the war ended, he became a night news reporter for CBS in New York. He did not stay in this job for long and moved on to becoming a publicist for Musicraft Records. He has to his credit the promotional campaigns for jazz stars such as Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan and Artie Shaw.

PR Campaigns For Posterity

Some of his most brilliant PR campaigns have gone down the annals of PR history. Once he had to promote a radio show hosted by Mel Torme which was sponsored by The Toni Company. He came up with an amazing idea of packaging the album in a cover that looked like a hair care kit and distributed it to local DJs to grab press attention.
The campaign was such a big hit that he was given a second one too, to promote the brand’s home perm kit. He crafted a promo campaign with two identical twins, one who sported an expensive salon perm and one who had done her own at-home perm with a Toni set. The “Toni twins” were then taken on a tour and women were challenged to find out who had the home perm. This was a big hit too.
Another big campaign was when he had actor Vincent Price to promote California’s wine industry. He booked spots for him on ‘The Tonight Show’ and the actor challenged Zsa Zsa Gabor to distinguish California wine from French wine. She could not make out the difference.
He also dabbled with politics and had enough clout to push for of clients like Concorde with the Congress. He also worked on drumming up public support for Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial Wall project in Washington, DC.