Passing of a Legend: Dan Edelman, 92

Daniel J. Edelman

Public Relations lost one of its greatest advocates and innovators today with the passing of Daniel J. Edelman.

Dan was a civic leader and patriarch of the Chicago PR community, and he laid the foundation for what would become the largest public relations firm in the world.

Dan moved to the Windy City from New York over 60 years ago when he was named PR director for Toni Company, which is now part of Gillette.  Toni was a hair permanent “kit” that Dan put on the map by promoting it via 12 sets of identical twins who toured the U.S. Consumers were asked to guess which twin’s curly hair was from a Toni.  The PR campaign was a huge success and Toni’s market share soared.  Dan, at age 32, left Toni to open his own agency in 1952.  The Toni account soon followed as did Charlie Lubin who had recently started a new bakery named after his daughter, Sara Lee.  Dan’s firm was off and running with a staff of three, including wife Ruth, who now has the agency’s integrated marketing unit named after her. Dan and Ruth were a great team and the new PR shop thrived.  

Take a moment to hear Dan describe in his own words the early days of his firm during an interview with his long-time friend Rance Crain.

In 1996, Dan retired and turned the company over to son Richard, who had helped build Edelman’s sizable presence in New York.  Dan’s daughter, Renée, helped Richard build the New York office, and son John is in the Chicago office where he headed human resources for the agency before recently taking on CSR initiatives.

While most other large agencies were lured into acquisitions by advertising holding companies, the Edelmans resisted the big money temptation and remained an independent agency.  It was a brilliant decision.  Not being held to margin demands of a parent company, Edelman was able to out maneuver its competition and move from the largest privately held agency to last year becoming the single largest agency in the world.

Edelman employees now number over 4,500 in 65 offices around the world.  An additional 35 affiliate agencies and specialty firms expands the agency’s global reach.  Condolences to the entire Edelman family on the passing of a great man who accomplished extraordinary things during his long and event-filled career. The success of the public relations profession today is due in large part to the creativity, ingenuity and passion of Dan Edelman.


One thought on “Passing of a Legend: Dan Edelman, 92

  1. I had several opportunities to speak with Dan–when he was voting! We use to live in the same local precinct and I was politically active at the time. In addition to being a poll watcher, I would send letters to everyone in the precinct explaining why my favorite candidates deserved to get their vote.

    One election Dan saw my name tag and recognized me as the sender. From that time on, he would share something positive about what I had written, though not necessarily about who I had said it. Even now, about 15 years later his words make me feel good, because they came from him.

    Fortunately great legends live beyond their lifetimes.

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