Daniel Edelman, who built the largest public relations firm in the world, died on January 16, 2013 of heart failure at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He was 92.
Edelman is credited with developing many of the methods now standard in the field of public relations. He transformed the firm he started more than 60 years ago with two people into a global marketing force with more than 4,500 employees in 66 offices worldwide. ~ Wall Street Journal / Associated Press
Rememberances of Edelman's great accomplishments include being described as the father of modern media relations in the tradition of Edward Bernays, the father of PR. Further, Edelman successfully proved that public relations could increase sales and be very persuasive in shaping public opinion.
So, what is Daniel Edelman's tie to Auburn?
It is the impact he and his agency have had upon the many Auburn graduates that are prospering in careers at Edelman. We felt that a fitting tribute to Daniel Edelman and his firm would be hearing from those alumni. Here they are, in their own words. (Image via Chicago Business)
Becca Lakin, Auburn PR '11
I was fortunate to experience the pioneering spirit of Dan Edelman by participating in the first run of the Edelman Enrichment Rotation program. Over the past 18 months, I saw his legacy embodied in work by the talented teams that comprise Edelman’s many departments. I know we will continue to see his influence and innovation across the industry. ~ Edelman Chicago
Maria Prysock, Auburn PR '09
Edelman has impacted my life in wonderful ways. Starting my career at an agency with so many inspirational leaders has been a dream. Edelman is a family business and everyone that works here are a part of the family. Dan has instilled a unique, welcoming culture at Edelman.
Working at the world’s largest public relations firm and given the opportunities to work with top brand names is beyond exciting. Every day I’m pushed to challenge myself to learn and grow in my career.
I’m very proud of all of the amazing work Edelman has accomplished since Dan first opened its doors and am looking forward to more to come. ~ Edelman Chicago
Jenny Rikelman, Auburn PR '12
Edelman is a great company and highly respected within the industry. It is a place where individuals strive to be the best, leading in the public relations and marketing space. Dan Edelman built a company based on ethical principles with a client-driven focus. He never compromised his vision and grew the company into the largest PR agency in the world. I am honored to be a part of Dan Edelman’s legacy. ~ Edelman Atlanta
Kristen Hill Wooten, Auburn PR '07
It’s hard to say where I’d be without Edelman. It’s been my life for nearly six years – ever since I came on board just one week after I graduated from Auburn.
At Auburn, we always tout that we are an “Auburn Family” and at Edelman we do the same.
People ask me all the time why I love my job and my answer is always the people. I work with the best and brightest in the industry and not only are they smart but they make work exciting, each and every day.
This can all be attributed to Dan.
He created a company that allows for all of its employees to be entrepreneurs. We are encouraged to take chances, try new things and push ourselves to go above and beyond to deliver great work to our clients. This is why Edelman is number one in the industry and it’s what makes us strive to not only be the biggest, but the best. ~ Edelman Atlanta
Mary Metcalf, Auburn PR '07
Looking back, if I would have known that the presentation to the Auburn advisory council would mean presenting to an executive from Edelman…I probably would have been a little more nervous! Following that presentation and a subsequent month of stalking the Edelman executive that was in that meeting, I landed a position that would change the course of my life.
What started as a first-job to get my feet wet, has led to nearly six years of greatly fulfilling work. Dan’s commitment to his employees and to making Edelman a place where you are in control of your future makes work exciting and allows you to not be afraid to take risks... because that is celebrated here.
Edelman has given me the confidence to go after my dreams. Dan created an environment that provides constant challenges, seeks innovations at every angle and supports its employees at every moment. As we’ve read many times the past few days, “There will never be another Dan Edelman- indomitable, ever modest, always resilient, ready for the next challenge. His story inspires us all.” ~ Edelman Orlando
I interned between my junior and senior year of college, and on the last day of my internship, I remember telling my manager that I wish I could stay on at work instead of going back to school.
Once back in class, I was equipped with so much knowledge. Writing came easily, I knew how to pitch and I knew how to handle a client crisis. I knew that I wanted to go work at Edelman after college.
After working at a smaller firm for a year, an opportunity became available at my dream firm. Since starting full time in July, I have already grown so much as a professional. Edelman inspires me to get better every single day. ~ Edelman Atlanta
Erin Caldwell, Auburn PR '06
Dan started Edelman back in 1952 with the attitude that “we can do better than the competition.” That drive to set his own standards and blaze a trail across uncharted territory – that innovative and entrepreneurial spirit – is still at the very core of the Edelman culture, and one of the main reasons why I came to Edelman nearly seven years ago, and why I plan to stay here for a long time.
When I interviewed with Edelman – as a youngie fresh out of college -- I was asked what I was looking for in a job. I blurted out, “I want to be creative, and I want to be able to think for myself.” Well. Edelman has given me that and so much more. It is so tremendously valuable and rewarding to be surrounded by such smart people every day; people who are WAY more creative than me and who come up with fresh, original ideas at every turn. Edelman attracts top talent, and I’m in awe that the standards that Dan established so many years ago still set the bar at the firm today. Granted, we continue to push the bar higher and farther as we move the industry forward, but Edelman’s values – quality, integrity, respect, entrepreneurial spirit, mutual benefits and citizenship (added last year) – light our path.
Much like the Auburn Family, being part of the Edelman Family is a privilege and brings with it a sense responsibility – to bring the utmost level of excellence to every endeavor. Dan did this from day one, with his “we can and WILL do it better” attitude. I’m so proud – and consider it a privilege – to be part of the Edelman Family and part of his legacy. ~ Edelman San Francisco, formerly Edelman Washington, DC
Gabrielle Hoyt, Auburn PR '12
Since I officially became a PR major at Auburn University in 2009, I knew I wanted to work for Edelman. Not just because of Edelman’s ties to Auburn or the amazing research we’d study in class, but also because of the famous quote from Daniel J. Edelman. “It is great to be the biggest PR firm, but we must always strive to be the best firm.” That's how I always viewed my own work ethic – it’s good to be great, but how can I be better?
I wouldn’t have gotten my internship the summer after I graduated (and then, eventually, my full time job) without the legacy Dan and others created. In early 2012, I applied for the Daniel J. Edelman/PRSSA Outstanding Student in Public Relations Award. After discussing the opportunity with internship supervisors and professors, I decided to apply for the national award. To my surprise, I received a phone interview, and a week later was informed I was the runner-up to the award. I received a cash prize and an internship interview at the office of my choice.
I was ecstatic. I knew it was difficult to stand out among of the hundreds of internship resumes received each term by HR, but through this award I was in the office in Atlanta, dressed in my nicest suit, in what eventually became my “last” job interview. When the account executive interviewing me asked why I wanted to work for Edelman, I had my answer: “Because of Dan Edelman. Without him, and his legacy, I wouldn’t be even in this room today able to interview. Like he said, ‘It is great to be the biggest PR firm, but we must always strive to be the best firm.’ And I want to strive to be the best – and can do that at Edelman.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. ~ Edelman Atlanta
Editor's Note: Sadly, we couldn't get all of our Auburn Edelman alumni included in this article. There are dozens of them - both current Edelman employees and Edelman alumni now. This is a sampling of the many Auburn alumni with Edelman today.
Many thanks to Mary Metcalf for pulling together these alumnae and having them share their stories. Auburn University's public relations program is grateful to Daniel Edelman, his son Richard - CEO of Edelman today, and Edelman Chicago President Rick Murray - who serves on the Auburn University PR Advisory Council. They, and many others at Edelman, have been so very kind to our students. We are deeply grateful. Our sympathies and heartfelt prayers go out to the Edelman family. You are loved.
Rance Crain Chats with Dan Edelman in June 2010