A Storied History

In 1952, Daniel J. Edelman decided to open a small public relations agency in Chicago for one simple reason: he thought he could do better than the competition.

At the time, public relations was a rudimentary practice, dominated by a handful of firms employed primarily as “press agents” and publicists. Dan, a former journalist and World War II public information officer, had a greater vision. He dreamed of offering clients a range of superior PR services that had never been seen before.

Working with companies like the Toni Company, Sara Lee, Brunswick Bowling, Paper Mate and ReaLemon, Edelman introduced the concept of telling stories through the media (including the creation of the first media tour) to sell products and build corporate brands, helping them capture a market niche.

With its grounding in consumer marketing, the firm then diversified into health, public affairs, technology and crisis management. As the client list grew to include Roche, Nestle, Dow Chemical, S.C. Johnson and Mobil, practice expansion paralleled geographic reach. We opened offices in New York (1960), Los Angeles (1965), London (1967) and Washington, D.C. (1969), and, in the decades that followed, in Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, Canada, Europe & CIS, Latin America and across the United States. 

In the 1990s, the firm expanded its solutions for clients with strong research, experiential, paid and consulting offerings, including a global, multidisciplinary research, analytics and data consultancy, which is now Edelman Data & Intelligence; an interactive services division, now Edelman Digital; and used our background in Global Citizenship to expand into Corporate Social Responsibility. DJE Holdings puts PR at the center of the marketing and corporate communications universe.

Over the span of more than a half-century, Dan and Richard Edelman, father and son, led Edelman to become the world’s largest public relations firm. They shared a belief that ethics, respect, passion, innovation and breakthrough ideas — as well as consistency of thought and leadership — bring success. Dan passed away in 2013, and his spirit and legacy live on in our work every day.

Today, our communications approach is helping our clients remain agile and grow their reach as digital communications and media transform the practices of marketing and public relations. They continue to rely on our firm’s ability to anticipate change; more than 80 percent of our largest clients are long-standing partners. We’ve helped Heinz lead its category for 31 years, Butterball for 30 years, Starbucks for 20 years, Microsoft for 19 years and Samsung for nearly two decades.

A complete history of Edelman can be found in the book Edelman and the Rise of Public Relations, available for free download here.