This week is the six-year anniversary of the passing of my father, Dan Edelman. I find myself sitting in his office today, as I try to do as often as business will allow. I feel close to him here, and feel I can connect with him, and update him on the company. Why, you ask? Well, every day for the 35 years we worked together we would talk on the phone about the business. Or the classic case of a visit to the hospital room where he insisted on seeing the monthly financial statement and making caustic comments about underperforming offices. It was what we did. It was our constant connection. So here goes, Dan, the unexpurgated view of the business you started and trusted me to run.
- The Media — You would be amazed at the change in our business. Our oxygen supply, the means by which we communicate, is being slowly cut off. The number of reporters at local papers has dropped by more than 50 percent. We are creating our own content and going direct to consumers. But we still love the great placements on the TODAY show or in The New York Times.
- Our People — We have six hundred creatives, planners and paid experts, along with 700 people in digital. So, a quarter of all employees are no longer classic PR experts. They do things differently, with more visuals, better production value and with social opportunity, whilst still aiming for earned at the core. They are entrepreneurial and assertive, don’t worry.
- The Ad Agencies — You saw this day coming. Can you believe that Y&R is now VMLY&R? Or that JWT, after 154 years, has been subsumed by Wunderman, the direct marketing and now digital firm? We are partnering with Wunderman Thompson for Shell and more often than not, our clients select the best ideas, without favoring ad agencies. Sounds like Valhalla, right?
- Developing Markets — You were so right to take us into China in 1991. And India, Indonesia and the Middle East. You actually started Edelman Asia in Malaysia. But the business is changing in those markets. We are no longer simply representing Western multinational corporations. There are now hundreds of challenger brands coming out of these local markets, for ride-sharing or consumer products. And there are serious competitors in PR from these markets, such as BlueFocus in China.
- The Work — You always loved this the most, so proud of the big ideas such as running Morris the Cat for President or the Butterball Turkey Talk Line. Well the good news is that we are still coming up with those ideas, such as the Asics Blackout Track campaign or the Surf Walk Across the Log campaign in India. Our ideas are now as present in Corporate and Public Affairs as in Brand. I think you would be proud.
- Purpose and More — Brands are speaking up, taking the place of government that is paralyzed. You remember Dolphin Safe Tuna for Star Kist? Well it has gone far beyond that, with your former client Gillette taking on bad behavior by men as the core of their new ad campaign.
- Giving Back — Your son John has made the Daniel J. Edelman Family Foundation the center of our philanthropic activity in communities. We are helping out in crisis, with teams volunteering their time after tragic shootings that occurred in Orlando and Dallas. We are building schools in China. We give away $5 million in time each year to support local charities through our PR teams.
- The Family Business — Margot is doing well in San Francisco, learning on the front lines, managing technology clients. After four years in digital and consumer, Tory is at Harvard Business School, following her sister and her dad. Amanda is the one who has escaped so far, working with an NGO in Queens, training diverse young people how to do computer coding. Renee is still doing tech PR but is also helping us to recruit diverse talent. I know you would be as proud as I am of all of them for their commitment to carrying on your legacy in their own way.
- Zeno turns 20 — Can you believe it is 20 years since you started our sister firm Zeno. Secretly you wanted something to run since I became CEO. Well, Barby Siegel and team have grown the business to over $75 million in fees and are honored as mid-sized agency of the year almost every year. She wears a Fearless logo on her wrist...that sums it up!
- We Are Still No. 1 in PR — Weber Shandwick is our toughest competitor, nipping at our heels. Burson-Marsteller has been merged with Cohn & Wolfe, known now as BCW and ranks third. FleishmanHillard is fourth in the rankings, then Ketchum and MSL. But we always remember your admonition, “It is great to be the largest firm, but we must always strive to be the best.” And yes, your other tenet still holds true: “Everybody at Edelman is an account executive.”
So that is all for now. We miss you very much and try to live up to your very high standards every day. We continue to put clients and the work first, stay humble and loyal and invest in our people. I hope that you are still interested in the Bears…we came close this year. Big love. Your son.