|Headquarters||New York City and Chicago|
|Number of locations||67|
|Key people||Richard Edelman
(President and CEO)
Edelman is a public relations firm founded and named after Daniel Edelman (July 3, 1920 – January 15, 2013) and currently run by his son Richard Edelman. Founded as a team of three in the postwar boom, today the company has revenues of over $734 million annually, employs over 5,000 people with co-headquarters in New York City and Chicago and is the world's largest independently owned public relations firm. The firm specialises in crisis management and employs controversial techniques such as astroturfing.
Edelman public relations was founded in Chicago in 1952 by former journalist Daniel J. Edelman as Daniel J. Edelman and Associates. The company started with three employees and grew to serve 25 accounts by 1960. Edelman established a second office in New York that same year and a third in Los Angeles in 1967.
The firm opened offices in London, Canada, Asia and Europe in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The New York office grew from $1 to $20 million in revenues from 1979 to the late 1980s under the leadership of Daniel Edelman's son, Richard Edelman. By 1981, Edelman had five international offices and it opened six more over the following decade. Some former employees and industry experts said it was so focused on financial growth that it encountered some high turnover and client service issues as a result. There was also an unsuccessful attempt by some employees to start their own firm with some of Edelman's clients.
In 1985, the firm's founder, Daniel Edelman, retired and his son Richard Edelman became the new CEO. In the 1990s, offices were opened in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, South Korea, China, and Belgium. In the United States, a Silicon Valley office was opened in 1992 to serve technology clients, and in Sacramento, California, in 1994. It also opened offices in Florida, Georgia, and Washington[clarification needed]. The firm grew to $70 million in revenues by 1994.
In 1995, Edelman was the first public relations firm to have a website and began web-based projects for its clients. By the early 2000s it grew to $210 million with about 25% of revenues coming from Europe. In September 2010, Edelman acquired a Houston-based firm, Vollmer public relations.
An office was opened in Turkey in 2012. By 2012, it had a digital an Edelman Digital division with about 600 staff and about half of its work was social media-related. It acquired technology public relations firm, A&R, in 2006.
In January 2013, the firm launched The Daniel J. Edelman China Group.
- Business + Social Purpose
- Consumer Marketing
- Crisis and Risk
- Public Affairs
In 2012 it introduced the Business and Social Purpose division. It also introduced the Employee Engagement Connections Index, which helps users evaluate employee engagement through data collected in employee surveys, social media conversations, and feedback from human resources departments.
Edelman is considered the only remaining large, independently owned public relations firm. Eighty-two percent of the company is owned by the Edelman family, while 18 percent is owned by executives. The firm is known for remaining private, despite a market trend towards consolidation and offers for an acquisition. Daniel Edelman turned down an acquisition offer by DDB Worldwide in 1978 and instead persuaded his son to work at the firm so he could carry on the family business. Two competitors offered to purchase the firm in 1997 and were rejected.
According to Edelman's 2012 corporate social responsibility report, it donated $5 million to charitable causes through pro-bono services, rewards to employees that do volunteer work and cash donations.
Edelman's founder, Daniel Edelman, is credited with inventing the corporate media tour for his work with his previous employer, Toni Home Permanent Co. He toured the country with "The Toni Twins", a set of twins, where one used a professional salon and the other used Toni's home hair-care products. When Edelman started his own firm, Toni became Edelman's first client. Toni was followed by Sara Lee, a small cheesecake company at the time, and a bowling equipment manufacturer, Brunswick Corporation.
Edelman also worked with Finland to improve its image in part through the Finnfacts Institute it founded in the 1960s. It promoted wine for the California Wine Institute and promoted bowling for the National Bowling Council by emphasizing it as a way to stay in shape.
Other clients have included Vidal Sassoon, Red Cross, Cantor Fitzgerald, Royal Dutch Shell, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Starbucks, and the government of Saudi Arabia.
The firm is also known for working with organizations like the American Petroleum Institute and deploying front groups that create the appearance of a grassroots organization that are actually corporation-sponsored.
Crisis PR work
The company also has notable achievements in the "crisis-PR" field:
In April 1998 the Los Angeles Times reported that Edelman had drafted a campaign plan to ensure that a dozen state attorneys-general did not join antitrust legal actions against Microsoft. Documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times revealed that the plan included generating supportive letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and articles by freelance writers. USA Today responded to the astroturfing saying, "the elaborate plan hinges on a number of unusual and some say unethical tactics, including the planting of articles, letters to the editor and opinion pieces to be commissioned by Microsoft's top media handlers but presented by local firms as spontaneous testimonials".
In the 2000s, Edelman created a front group called the Working Families for Wal-Mart, which said it was a grassroots organization, but was actually funded by Wal-Mart. It paid for two bloggers to travel the country interviewing Wal-Mart employees, one of whom was a senior Edelman employee's sister. According to The New Yorker, "everyone she talked to was delighted with Wal-Mart". In 2006, BusinessWeek reported that the public relations effort, which was positioned as a grassroots blog, was actually paid for by Wal-Mart. The New Yorker called it a "blatant example of astroturfing".
- News Corporation
In 2008 Edelman's work with E.ON, which planned to build a coal power station at Kingsnorth attracted protests at Edelman's UK headquarters. In 2009, to coincide with the weeklong "Climate Camp" range of protests, a group of naked protestors occupied Edelman's reception.
- Keystone XL pipeline
Edelman publishes an annual Trust Barometer report. In 2009 the report found that trust in corporations had reached a ten-year low.
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