I attended the opening of the new Edelman office in London ten days ago. This renovation of an old warehouse is a stunning example of creative office space that will set us apart from the competition. It is also providing an enormous lift to the UK team who have suffered through an extended period in a temporary space after being forced to leave our former offices which were scheduled for demolition.

We were joined by PR veteran David Davis, who was one of the early members of the Edelman London team, and his wife of 60 years, Beryl, an incredible partner. Davis spoke about the first office on Albemarle Street. British Telecom was slow to install new phones for small businesses. Edelman had to rely on a public phone booth nearby as a switchboard. If somebody was on the phone when a client call was scheduled, a suitable payoff was offered to end the conversation. Davis recalled a large hole in the carpet near the entrance; if a visitor stopped by one member of the staff was assigned to stand over the hole to protect the reputation of the agency. He brought the house down with a story about the pitch for the Celanese Corp. The client called to inform us that we had won the business; he said that it looked like we needed the revenue the most given the terrible sandwiches that they were served. Davis was eloquent about building a company on quality, that top class work led to more assignments and deeper trust. Under the leadership of Mike Morley and Davis, Edelman became a top five player in the market by the mid-1970s.

Ed Williams, now president of our international business and former CEO of Edelman in the UK, talked about the challenge of taking a U.S. firm and making it a global player. We now have four of our largest client relationships led by the UK. Edelman now ranks as the number two firm in the market, behind only Brunswick. In his twelve-year tenure at Edelman, Ed and team have quadrupled the revenue and moved our reputation ahead profoundly.

Jackie Cooper, our global chair of Brand, spoke later that night at dinner. I referred to her in my remarks as the spiritual heir to my father as lead in brand marketing PR. She talked about the entrepreneurial spirit of the firm, how everyone feels like an owner, able to bring forward ideas, empowered to act. Her sale of JCPR to Edelman nearly 20 years ago was the beginning of our ascent.

I became quite emotional in my address to the clients and staff. I have witnessed the progress of the firm, from my first visit to the UK in December 1967 during a coal miners’ strike, when the Edelman UK team donned gloves and overcoats to continue to bang out press releases and serve clients. I told them of the struggles in the early 90s, when I was appointed head of Edelman Europe, just in time for the UK office to lose British Steel and British Dairy during the Thatcher privatization, half of our revenues. I told the group that the journey of the UK office, now under the brilliant Ruth Warder, is in fact the story of our firm, the underdogs who remained private and independent, but found a way by constant innovation and reinvention.

I’d like to give a special thank you to the entire team led by Ruth Warder, Justin Westcott and Gavin Spicer who have ushered us into this new era for the UK operation.   

I posed for a picture next to the portrait of my father in his prime, with my daughter Amanda, now in charge of our Gen-Z lab and working on the Starbucks Europe business. I felt the reward of the forty-five years that I have been with Edelman. I observed the passing of the torch from Mike Morley and David Davis to Jackie Cooper and Ed Williams and now to Ruth Warder. I spoke directly to Amanda and tasked her with carrying on the tradition with her two sisters, Margot and Tory. In this, the 70th anniversary of our company, it was a moment to treasure.

Richard Edelman is CEO.

Photo by Imaginary Flavour on Unsplash