Edelman (firm)

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FormerlyDaniel J. Edelman and Associates
IndustryPublic relations
Founded1952; 70 years ago (1952)
FounderDaniel Edelman
New York City and Chicago
Number of locations
Area served
Key people
Richard Edelman
Matthew Harrington
(President and COO)[2]
Revenue$985m (2022)[3]
Number of employees

Edelman is an American public relations and marketing consultancy firm, founded in 1952 by, and named after, Daniel Edelman.[4] It is currently run by his son Richard Edelman. As of 2018, it is the largest public relations firm in the world by revenue and with 6,000 employees.[5][6]

Edelman has a history of establishing astroturf campaigns (seemingly grassroots groups that are fronts for industry) for its clients.[7][8][9] The company has provided services for the fossil fuel industry, which includes earning hundreds of millions of dollars to advocate on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute, a fossil fuel industry group dedicated to the advancement of climate change denial and blocking of climate legislation.[9][10]

Corporate history[edit]

Edelman public relations was founded in Chicago in 1952 by former journalist Daniel J. Edelman[4] as Daniel J. Edelman and Associates.[11] The company started with three employees[12][13][14][15] and grew to serve 25 accounts by 1960.[16]

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.[4][11][17] When Edelman started his own firm, Toni became Edelman's first client.[18] Toni was followed by Sara Lee, a small cheesecake company at the time,[19][20] and a bowling equipment manufacturer, Brunswick Corporation.[21]

The agency opened the New York office in 1960. This was followed by a series of office openings around the globe spanning seven decades including London (1967); Washington, D.C. (1968); Hong Kong (1986); Silicon Valley (1992); and Beijing (1994). In the 2000s, the company has opened offices in Calgary, Dubai, South Africa and Colombia.[22][23][11]

The New York office grew from $1 million to $20 million in revenues from 1979 to the late 1980s under the leadership of Daniel Edelman's son, Richard Edelman.[24] By 1981, Edelman had five international offices and it opened six more over the following decade.[25] Some former employees and industry experts said its focus on financial growth led to high turnover and client service issues as a result.[24] There was also an unsuccessful attempt by some employees to start their own firm with some of Edelman's clients.[18]

Richard Edelman was named Global CEO of the eponymous firm in 1996.[11] He took over for his father Daniel J. Edelman, who remained Chairman of Edelman until he died in 2013 at the age of 92.[26] 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.[25] The firm grew to $70 million in revenues by 1994.[24]

In 1995, Edelman was the first public relations firm to have a website and began web-based projects for its clients.[25] By the early 2000s it grew to $210 million with about 25% of revenues coming from Europe.[25] In September 2010, Edelman acquired a Houston-based firm, Vollmer public relations.[27]

With the introduction of Edelman Internet Services in 1995, Edelman became the first public relations firm to launch a digital practice.[11]

Edelman Internet Services would go on to become Edelman Digital. And in 2018, the 600-plus-member practice was named Global Digital Agency of the Year by PRovoke Media.[28]

An office was opened in Turkey in 2012.[29] By 2012, it had established the 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.[30] In January 2013, the firm launched The Daniel J. Edelman China Group.[31]

In 2012 it introduced the Business and Social Purpose division.[32] 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.[33]

Edelman launched a joint venture with United Talent Agency in 2014 that resulted in the formation of a unit called United Entertainment Group (UEG). UEG specializes in entertainment, sports and lifestyle marketing. The unit saw 10% growth in 2019.[34]

In September 2018, Edelman was listed by UK-based company Richtopia at number 4 in the list of 200 Most Influential PR Companies.[35]

Matthew Harrington, a 35-year Edelman veteran and current Chief Operating Officer, was named Global President of the firm in 2019.[2]

Judy John was named Edelman's first-ever Global Chief Creative Officer in February 2019.[36]

Lisa Osborne Ross was named CEO of Edelman's U.S. operation in April 2021. Ross became the first Black woman to run a PR operation of that size.[37]

Other clients have included Heineken,[38] Vidal Sassoon, Red Cross, Cantor Fitzgerald,[25] Royal Dutch Shell,[39] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,[40] and Starbucks.[41] Equifax hired Edelman for crisis control after the October 2017 privacy breach.[42][43] Edelman 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.[25][44] The firm worked with Symantec to promote the Norton brand of antivirus software.[45]


Edelman has a history of establishing astroturf campaigns (seemingly grassroots groups that are fronts for industry) for its clients.[7][8][9] The company has created front groups and advised clients to plant articles, letters and opinion pieces that appear to be spontaneous testimonials.[7][8][9]


In 2022, Edelman's subsidiary Zeno advised its clients to avoid speaking out against the potential end of abortion rights in America, and inaccurately claimed that it was a "textbook '50/50' issue" even though 72% of Americans support abortion rights.[46]

Microsoft antitrust[edit]

In April 1998 the Los Angeles Times reported that Edelman had drafted a campaign plan to ensure that state attorneys-general did not join antitrust legal actions against Microsoft.[7] Documents obtained by the LA Times revealed that the plan included generating supportive letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and articles by freelance writers.[47] The LA Times said the plan included, "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".[7][8]

Working Families for Wal-Mart front group[edit]

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 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".[9]

In 2007, it was reported that Wal-Mart paid Edelman approximately $10 million annually.[9]

Fossil fuel companies and climate change deniers[edit]

According to The Washington Post, Edelman's "work with the fossil fuel industry has been under scrutiny for years."[10] According to a 2021 study, Edelman is a major factor in the climate issue arena.[48]

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.[49] In 2009, to coincide with the weeklong "Climate Camp" range of protests, a group of naked protestors occupied Edelman's reception.[50]

Edelman was commissioned by TransCanada Corporation to run campaigns supporting the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed pipeline to carry crude from Canada's oil sands to refineries on the Gulf coast of Texas.[51] Edelman also developed a strategy for the proposed Energy East pipeline intended to carry oil through Québec, en route to a deep water harbor at Cacouna, Quebec for export abroad in supertankers and to refineries in New Brunswick. This resulted in a major controversy when documents leaked to Greenpeace revealed that Edelman had made some unethical proposals to sway public opinion in favor of its client. TransCanada distanced itself from those proposals as soon as the "dirty tricks" were published in the press.[52][53][54][55][56] In 2015, the firm said that it would cease work for coal producers and climate change deniers.[57] By 2022, the company still worked for oil and gas companies.[10]

The firm has provided services to the government of Saudi Arabia.[58]

From 2008 to 2011, Edelman was paid an average of $68.9 million a year by the American Petroleum Institute, which has been dedicated to the advancement of climate change denial and blocking of climate legislation.[10] Analysts estimate that Edelman earned at least $100 million more from the organization. Edelman used front groups to help the American Petroleum Institute reduce the perceived environmental damage caused by oil companies.[9]

In June 2016, Edelman was hired by the International Centre for Legal Protection (ICLP), led by Andrey Kondakov, former director in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The company was hired to "turn the tide of public opinion" and "help influence U.S. opinion on a massive court verdict involving the oil giant Yukos."[59]

News Corporation phone hacking scandal[edit]

Edelman provided crisis communication services to News Corporation during the phone hacking scandal.[41][60]

Private prison industry[edit]

Edelman supported private prison company GEO Group and helped in "laundering the reputation of private US concentration camps" in July 2019.[61] In May 2019, executives from the Washington, D.C. office, including office president Lisa Ross and former Trump White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, went to Florida to present the pitch.[62] In June, when word spread across the company that the work was being pursued, debate sprang up on networking app Fishbowl. The work was resigned by Edelman in July 2019 and announced during an all-hands meeting in Washington. On Fishbowl, an employee commented that the executives "took the opportunity to basically shame us for ruining the work for the company because they couldn't trust us not to leak it to the press."[62] Other employees on Fishbowl made similar comments.[62]

The company's official response was that "Edelman takes on complex and diverse clients ... and ultimately decided not to proceed with this work."[62] Edelman also refused to confirm they did similar work for another major private prison company, CoreCivic.[62]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Global Network, Edelman
  2. ^ a b "Edelman Elevates Matt Harrington to Global President". PRovoke Media. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
  3. ^ "Resurgent Edelman Reports 15.4% Revenue Increase In 2021". provokemedia.com. February 7, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c Miller, Stephen (January 15, 2013). "Daniel Edelman 1920-2013; Public-Relations Pioneer Began with 'Toni Twins' Stunt". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  5. ^ "Top 10". www.holmesreport.com. Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  6. ^ "About Us". Edelman. Retrieved June 23, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e GREG MILLER and LESLIE HELM. "Microsoft Plans Stealth Media Blitz".
  8. ^ a b c d Jim Drinkard; Owen Ullmann (May 30, 2000). "Microsoft leans creatively on levers of political power as breakup decision looms, 'stealth' lobbying efforts aim for survival". USA Today.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Goldberg, Jeffrey (April 2, 2007). "Selling Wal-Mart". The New Yorker.
  10. ^ a b c d "More than 450 scientists call on PR and ad firms to cut their ties with fossil fuel clients". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d e Wisner, Franz (2012), Edelman and the Rise of Public Relations, Edelman, ISBN 978-0978752200
  12. ^ Channick, Robert (November 7, 2012). "Public relations scion Richard Edelman, subject of an upcoming book, shares his take on the business in the digital age". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  13. ^ "Richard Edelman, CEO, Edelman Inc". North of Neutral. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  14. ^ Kirk, Jim (June 18, 2002). "Edelman savors nearly 50 years of independence". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 6, 2011.
  15. ^ "Ruth Edelman, behind scenes force at PR firm, 1929-2013". Chicago Tribune. October 22, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  16. ^ Bertagnoli, Lisa (January 30, 2012). "PR firm Edelman rises to No. 1 under second generation". Crain's Business. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  17. ^ Krishnamurthy Sriramesh; Dejan Vercic (September 10, 2012). The Global Public Relations Handbook, Revised Edition. Routledge. pp. 994–. ISBN 978-1-135-84554-4. Retrieved July 25, 2013.
  18. ^ a b Tina Gant (June 25, 2004). International Directory of Company Histories. Gale. ISBN 9781558625075.
  19. ^ Crain, R. (2010). Industry legend Dan Edelman reflects on the birth of a public-relations giant. Advertising Age, 81(27), 15.
  20. ^ Emily, L. (1). Pioneer revolutionized public relations. Washington Post, The.
  21. ^ Boorstin, Daniel J. (May 9, 2012). The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 189. ISBN 9780307819161.
  22. ^ "Edelman Moves into Colombia with Position Acquisition". PRovoke Media. Retrieved February 4, 2021.
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  27. ^ Kaplan, David (September 27, 2010). "Vollmer Public Relations acquired by Edelman". The Chron. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
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  29. ^ Sudhaman, Arun (October 30, 2012). "Edelman Launches In Turkey". The Holmes Report. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  30. ^ "Media Agency of the Year: PR, Edelman: Focus on international, digital puts world's largest PR agency at the center of the social buzz". AdWeek. January 23, 2012. Retrieved November 7, 2012.
  31. ^ "Edelman to expand in China|Economy|chinadaily.com.cn". Usa.chinadaily.com.cn. October 12, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
  32. ^ Elliott, Stuart (April 26, 2012). "At Edelman P.R. Agency, 'Purpose' Gets Put Into Practice". The New York Times. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  33. ^ Kiefer, Brittaney (October 30, 2012). "Edelman unveils employee engagement tool". PRWeek. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  34. ^ "Edelman Launches Joint Venture with United Talent Agency". Ad Age. October 7, 2014. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  35. ^ "PR Agencies Top 200: From Edelman to Porter Novelli, These Are the Most Influential Communications Firms in the World". Richtopia. May 3, 2015. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
  36. ^ "Edelman taps #LikeAGirl creator Judy John as its first global chief creative officer". Ad Age. February 11, 2019.
  37. ^ "LISA OSBORNE ROSS TAKES REINS AS CEO OF EDELMAN U.S." Ad Age. April 6, 2021. Retrieved May 13, 2021.
  38. ^ Bruell, Alexandra (July 19, 2012). "Heineken USA Makes PR Agency Changes". AdAge. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  39. ^ Ian Hall, "Edelman, Burson Land Global Deals With Unified Shell", PRWeek
  40. ^ "Public relations: Dan the (Not Mad) Man", The Economist
  41. ^ a b Bruell, Alexandra (January 23, 2012). "Edelman Is No. 8 on the Ad Age Agency A-List". AdAge. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  42. ^ "Equifax Picks DLA Piper", Kevin McCauley, O'Dwyer's, October 23, 2017
  43. ^ "Equifax Breach Response Turns Dumpster Fire". Krebs on Security.
  44. ^ Dobnik, Verena (January 15, 2013). "NY Public Relations Pioneer Edelman dies in II". The Associated Press. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  45. ^ Kiefer, Brittaney (June 27, 2012). "Symantec picks Edelman as global consumer AOR". PRWeek. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  46. ^ Legum, Judd. "PR giant advising corporate clients to stay silent on abortion rights". popular.info. Retrieved May 7, 2022.
  47. ^ "DOJ/Antitrust" (PDF). Retrieved May 9, 2007.
  48. ^ Brulle, Robert J.; Werthman, Carter (November 30, 2021). "The role of public relations firms in climate change politics". Climatic Change. 169 (1): 8. doi:10.1007/s10584-021-03244-4. ISSN 1573-1480.
  49. ^ "Activists target Edelman in climate change protest". PR Week. July 17, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  50. ^ "Edelman discovers the naked truth". Communicate magazine. September 2009. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  51. ^ Goldenberg, Suzanne (August 2014). "World's top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers". The Guardian. Retrieved August 5, 2014.
  52. ^ Energy East pipeline 'advocates' targeted in TransCanada PR move. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, article on CBC website dated 18 November 2014, retrieved 22 November 2014.
  53. ^ Greenpeace sees ‘dirty tricks’ in PR firm’s TransCanada plan Article published in The Globe and Mail on 17 November 2014, retrieved 22 November 2014.
  54. ^ Strategic Plan:Québec 46-page English-language PDF document available in extenso at the end of this Radio-Canada article published on 18 November 2014, retrieved 22 November 2014.
  55. ^ Leaked documents show TransCanada planning “dirty tricks” campaign to support Energy East pipeline Greenpeace Canada article published 18 November 2014, retrieved 22 November 2014.
  56. ^ Aulakh, Raveena (November 18, 2014). "TransCanada pressuring opponents of Energy East pipeline, documents show". The Toronto Star. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
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  58. ^ "Edelman Reps Saudi Arabia". Odwyerpr. March 20, 2013. Retrieved May 30, 2013.
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  61. ^ Doctorow, Cory (August 4, 2019). "Edelman PR drops GEO Group after employee revolt at the prospect of laundering the reputation of private US concentration camps". Boing Boing. Retrieved May 30, 2021.
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