PRWeek entered the U.S. 25 years ago, in September 1998. Adam Leyland was sent over from the UK as editor-in-chief, his now-wife Jules was the publisher. I went back to the 1998 O’Dwyer’s Directory of PR Firms rankings to understand the scale of the agency business at that time. The largest firm was Burson-Marsteller at $258 million followed by Hill+Knowlton at $206 million. Edelman was seventh at $157 million, Weber PR (before the Shandwick merger) was tenth at $83 million. The total for the top ten firms was $1.45 billion. In 2022 the top 10 firms in the U.S. represented over $4 billion in revenue. How things have changed; PRWeek U.S. has played a critical role in the spectacular growth of the industry.

Michael Heseltine, owner of Haymarket, asked to see me in London in 1997. I was newly appointed as CEO of Edelman. It was quite an honor to meet this distinguished man who should have succeeded Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister of the UK. We made some small talk, then he got right to the point. Would Edelman support PRWeek U.S. with advertising? Would we be first to buy bulk subscriptions? Was there a niche in the market given PRNews and O’Dwyer’s? My answer to all of the above was ‘YES.’

Adam Leyland was quite bold in his first few weeks on the job, meeting each of the CEOs of the top ten firms. His stories were different for our industry, about personalities driving the business, the best creative campaigns, the coverage of the fast-growing tech industry during the dot-com era and pharmaceutical campaigns. PRWeek took chances, naming the 100 Most Important PR Executives of All Time (I remember that Adam took a lot of heat putting me on the list).

Adam was succeeded by his deputy Jonah Bloom. Jonah was a former prize fighter in the UK; his aggressive reporting and brassy special events were evidence of a disruptive attitude which saw the magazine profile digital work and other stretching of the classic definition of PR. We did a special report with PRWeek on the Edelman Trust Barometer which was an insert to the publication.

Julia Hood was a special favorite in her tenure as editor-in-chief. Perhaps the smartest event she held was a gathering in Chicago of four lions of the PR industry, Dan Edelman, Harold Burson, Al Golin and David Finn. Julia had to play moderator cum referee as Dan and Harold quickly disagreed on most issues, often with a degree of heat that characterized their four decades as competitors. Julia also saw Edelman emerge as the largest firm in the industry, surpassing our ad agency owned competitors.

Keith O’Brien had a short tenure as editor-in-chief. He understood the industry’s potential in competing with advertising, especially with earned-first creative and the rise of social media platforms like Twitter (now X).

Steve Barrett has been the longest-tenured editor-in-chief. In his term, the industry has diversified its offerings and PRWeek has kept pace, with events such as the Purpose Awards and top healthcare practitioners. Steve has paid attention to the rising firms such as W20 and to the difficult issues such as sustainability and climate. He has developed star reporters such as Lindsay Stein. He expertly moderated a discussion with Sally Susman and me on the publication of her epic book on our industry.

PRWeek has been an essential part of the growth of our industry. It has helped shine a light on the important work we do for our clients and society; from the launch of the PRWeek awards to chronicling the evolution of Public Relations and the agencies that practice it. We have had our differences on individual stories and other issues over the years. But Edelman and Zeno deeply appreciate the objectivity and professionalism of the reporters and editors and the recognitions they have bestowed upon us, in 2019 the publication named the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty as the Best Campaign of the past 20 years and honored me as the Best Agency Professional of the past 20 years. We wish you a very happy birthday next week.

Richard Edelman is CEO.