On Monday evening, we invited long-time clients, present and former Edelman team members and the Edelman family to Chicago to celebrate the publication of Edelman and the Rise of Public Relations by Franz Wisner. This has been a year in the making, with Franz conducting hundreds of interviews and sorting through my father’s school years and war-time memorabilia. The result is the first real history of public relations as a business and a lovely tale of a family committed to the success of the enterprise.
Franz was the ideal choice as author. He worked for Edelman in the 1990s in Sacramento. He had been at our presentation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) with the legendary Mike Deaver, when the President of the Church asked my dad whether a Jewish man could represent the LDS. To paraphrase Franz, “Dan said that he had studied the religion carefully and that both Jews and Mormons had been discriminated against for generations based on ignorance. He wanted to repair that situation.” Franz was especially kind to my parents, getting the inside scoop on their two-year courtship, the early days of the company and their 59-year journey as a couple.
My sister, Renée, was a tireless aide to Franz, unearthing never-before-seen documents, such as letters from my grandfather to my dad on whether to leave the Toni company to set up his own firm or from my grandmother to my dad in service in Europe during WWII, strictly forbidding him to marry a fellow GI before he had a chance to sample the women in New York City.
So many Edelman people were invaluable to the process, including my brother John, who spoke to Franz about my father’s values and how he instilled them into the firm from day one, Jody Quinn discussing her story of Fuji Photo Film and the LA Olympics in 1984, Pam Talbot on StarKist Dolphin-Safe Tuna, Mike Morley on the British Airways “Go for It America!” campaign, Matthew Harrington on how our New York office worked with impacted clients on 9/11, Rob Rehg on the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission and David Brain on how we decided to open the Middle East operation based on a phone call. I’d also like to give a special thanks to Amy Treanor, who helped drive the project from beginning to end.
Every Edelman employee will receive a hardcover copy of what we are affectionately calling “The Book of Dan” just after the first of the year. Clients will be given copies at the same time, along with professors of communications. We will post the URL for the book around January 8. I hope you enjoy the story and the speech that I delivered on Monday night, “How We Did It.”
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.