"No prospect -- whatever the fee -- was more important than integrity to my father," Richard Edelman said last night in accepting the Paladin Award of the Foundation of PRSA in behalf of Dan Edelman, who died at age 92 on Jan. 17, 2013.
Photos: Bruce Wodder
"'PR is not like the law,'" said Richard in quoting his father. "'Not everyone deserves representation.'"
Daniel Edelman "became the voice for ethical practice in our industry," Richard told an audience of 185 at the Bryant Park Grill, New York.
He ticked off the main principles of his father:
- "Hire the best talent, and retain them by giving them the chance to be entrepreneurial."
- "Every account is a team effort, and everyone, regardless of title, should do client work. Everyone's an account executive."
- "It's great to be the biggest firm, but we must always strive to be the best."
- "Remain independent so you serve no one's interests but those of your clients, and never take on debt."
- "Expand in new markets by reinvesting all of your earnings each year. Not a year after Tiananmen Square, he had the guts to open an office in China. In six decades, he opened Edelman's offices in 65 cities outside the U.S."
Early Life of Dan Edelman Traced
Richard traced the early life of his father, who was one of four children of a family of first-generation Americans. His father was a bankruptcy lawyer and his mother, a concert pianist.
After earning membership in Phi Beta Kappa at Columbia College, Edelman went to the Columbia School of Journalism.
During World War II, he analyzed Nazi propaganda for the U.S. Army, recommending ways to respond to it via leaflets and radio.
After a stint in journalism at CBS Radio, he took a PR position at Musicraft Records promoting Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald and other artists.
Assigned to Chicago by a New York PR firm, he joined one of the clients, the Toni Co., as PR director, creating the first ever media tour by sending six sets of identical twins to print, radio and TV media throughout the U.S. Edelman PR was founded in 1952.
Had Deep Belief in PR
"My father had a deep belief in the potential of PR," said Richard. [Full text of Edelman's speech is at http://odwpr.us/15QWKeM.]
"He believed that PR occupied a superior place in the marketing mix, above advertising, which spoke only to consumers. PR establishes a connection to all of the stakeholders and is a matter of great importance to the CEO, he would say.
"He was unabashedly proud of our profession. As you saw in the opening video, he was quick to correct anyone who referred to him as an ad guy. Dan was a PR guy and proud of it. He believe that at its very best, PR could help move business and society forward. And in the final decade of his life, the world caught up with Dan's idea.
"In today's world, business must engage in an evolved form of PR -- what Dan believed business could and should do. Deliver for both shareholders and society alike. We see many companies [clients] practicing this today -- from Walmart taking on societal issues such as sustainability, hunger and nutrition . . .YUM addressing the issue of high school graduation rates . . . GE creating partnerships around returning Iraq veterans . . . Starbucks engaging employees and consumers through initiatives such as My Starbucks Idea and Create Jobs USA.
"Dan Edelman lived to see the 60th anniversary of the firm he founded. But more than that, he lived to see PR fulfill the promise he knew it would."
Sarabdeep Kochhar, a Ph.D. student of the University of Florida, received the Chester Burger Scholarship for Excellence in PR from the Foundation.
Founding sponsors of the Paladin Award Dinner are the faculty and students of Syracuse University's Newhouse Executive Master's Degree Program in Communications Management.
The University says that since 1995 it has offered "Our unique limited residency/distance learning format" that provides "an interdisciplinary curriculum of best practices in PR, business and leadership for mid-career professionals from around the world—the next generation of champions."
Table sponsors were Alcoa, Apco Worldwide, Burson-Marsteller, Fleishman-Hillard, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Kaiser Permanente, Ketchum, MSL Group, Ogilvy PR, PRSA, Prudential Financial, Verizon, Viacom and Weber Shandwick.
Louis Capozzi is president of the PRSA Foundation.