My dad Dan Edelman founded his eponymous firm 70 years ago at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. He had one client, the Toni Company, where he had served as PR director for four years. He had four people pitching media and setting up media tours. Most of all, he had a dream, to build a global firm grounded in marketing PR but aspiring to do corporate and crisis communications. He believed that PR was superior to advertising because it offered a more powerful message than purchased media; it was third party endorsement through the credible source of mainstream media. Brick by brick, he built his company, taking the profits from the Chicago office to open an operation in New York City, then San Francisco to serve the California Wine Institute, then London and Washington, D.C.
He brought his clients to our home. I learned how to cook popcorn from Orville Redenbacher, who came to dinner with his jacket and bow tie. Charles Lubin, the baker who founded Sara Lee, taught us how to cut a cake properly. The Bensingers, who owned the sporting goods company Brunswick, used me as a Little League baseball player dressed in a McGregor uniform in their annual report. We had Kentucky Fried Chicken with owner John Y. Brown; I met Colonel Harlan Sanders on a media tour in New York City.
My mother was the invaluable partner and constant companion. She offered opinions on potential hires. She was the best advance person ever, walking up to famous people such as then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and dragging them over to meet my dad, “my brilliant husband.” She selected the menu for every managers’ meeting for 60 years; she entertained beautifully, with delicious food and flowers adorning the Astor St. apartment.
Walking through the Edelman Museum this morning, I recognized the power of imagination and determination, the American Dream come true. We have taken the road less trod, to remain independent and family owned, to diversify our offer but remain true to the mission of informing publics so that they can make good decisions. To all our clients around the world, thank you for believing in us and giving us the opportunity to serve. To all Edelman and Zeno colleagues, thank you for your ideas, your passion and insistence on excellence. To my three children who are now in the business, remember that our values matter far more than money, that the quality of the work will determine your success and that relationships built on trust with colleagues and clients alike are those that last.
I share with you a video on my mother and father as well as photos of the Edelman Museum. I want to give special thanks to my siblings, John, and Renee Edelman, plus Ginny Tevere, Emmy DeLoach, Alice Hogueisson and Pippa White who took this Museum project from fantasy to reality. There is much to celebrate as we look forward to the next 70.
Richard Edelman is CEO.