Last night I was inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame. It’s an incredible honor made even more significant by the fact that I follow my father Dan, who was posthumously inducted five years ago.
I’d like to thank Steve Barrett and the staff at PRWeek for bestowing this honor upon me. I’d also like to thank the people at Edelman and Zeno for constantly striving to make real change in the world and for always putting our clients first.
Please see my acceptance speech below.
I am deeply honored to be on this stage tonight. I was here five years ago to accept the award posthumously for my father, Dan, the founder of our firm, my mentor and my best friend.
Tonight, it is my turn. I am not by nature a reflective person. In my mind, I am still in my early 30s and running the New York office, waking up every day to win new clients, to come up with great ideas for existing clients, to beat our competitors, to work with the media. But news of this honor has moved me to look back on the past 41 years.
Working at a family business is a special privilege. I had the opportunity to work with my dad for 35 years. I learned from my mother the importance of networking and of maintaining true friendships. My brother and sister have brought their unique talents in sustainability, HR and tech. My wife Claudia helps me to see the colors in life and has brought me into the burgeoning Hispanic community. Now my children are preparing to take this firm forward. But know that I am going to be around…for a long time because this is my life’s work.
I’d like to take a moment and acknowledge all Edelman and Zeno employees, past, present and future for your tireless work, commitment, fearlessness and drive to deliver innovative and industry-leading work for our clients every day.
I am so proud to have been a mentor to many of the most senior people at Edelman and the DJE companies. I am fortunate to have around me people such as Matt Harrington, Vic Malanga, Russell Dubner, Lisa Sepulveda, Katie Burke, Barby Siegel, Rob Rehg, Ed Williams, Kristine Boyden, Nancy Ruscheinski and Fiorella Passoni. And to have worked with people like Jody Quinn for more than 35 years.
I was lucky to have had mentors such as Mike Morley, Pam Talbot, John Scanlon, Mike Deaver and, most of all, my dad.
They have all dedicated their careers to the proposition that an independent firm can make it in a world of giant holding companies.
Among the many assignments and moments that stand out from my career are:
- The launch of Advil OTC ibuprofen with Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan; reputation work for Penn State and the Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company;
- And our nonprofit work including the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan after 9/11 and our current partnership with the Gun Safety Alliance to help reduce gun violence.
One of the things I am most proud of is the Edelman Trust Barometer. This January will mark the 20th anniversary of our annual look at the state of trust in the world. I had the idea for the Edelman Trust Barometer in 1999 after the “Battle in Seattle.” I am beyond pleased that it has developed into the industry’s most important piece of intellectual property.
I’m also proud of the bold move we made to be the first communications agency to significantly invest in digital, starting in 1997 with the Butterball Turkey Talk Line.
As an industry, this is our time to directly challenge ad agencies and digital firms. The traditional model of communicating through advertising is no longer effective due to ad blocking and Netflix. But in today’s complex world it’s not just about how you communicate, it’s also about what you do. We want to serve companies who are interested in real change and looking to become advocates outside their own arenas.
And that’s why Edelman will continue to sail on as a proud independent with the broader ambition to be a communications firm based on Earned Creative and strategic advice.
With all that to do, I feel that I am just getting started. Benjamin Button watch out.
Richard Edelman is CEO.