A Titan of the PR Field - A Man Who Put Ethics Into PR - Was a Great American
By Ned Barnett
This blog was originally published in the trade journal PR News
as a memorial to a great man
Daniel J. Edelman, founder of one of the world’s largest PR agencies, died on January 15, 2013 at age 92. He left a profound legacy for our industry, among his clients, employees—and even among his competitors.
I never met Daniel Edelman, but I competed against him for clients, and—by doing so—I learned a number of valuable lessons. We went head-to-head for clients when I was a partner with America’s largest healthcare-only agency; and again, when I was an exec with the Silicon Valley subsidiary of Fleishman-Hillard. I always made it a point to “know” the competition, and through time, I came to feel as if I knew the man.
Here are some of Daniel Edelman’s lessons. They’ve never let me down.
Integrity: Daniel Edelman was known for integrity. In our
business, which many feel is lacking in that essential commodity, he
demonstrated that integrity was not only the “right thing to do,” it was
also a sound business investment. The first time I went up against his
agency, my biggest initial challenge involved proving that my agency had
the same high standards of integrity that Edelman was known for.
Involvement: In trying to land Edelman clients, or when
trying to out-compete Edelman for prospective clients, I learned very
quickly that Daniel Edelman knew the value of personal involvement. No
matter how big Edelman had become, he was not “too important” to meet
face-to-face with clients or prospects, even ones who weren’t (yet)
Fortune 500 clients. He had name-brand recognition, to be sure, but he
brought more than his name to those meetings, including a keen creative
insight which never failed to impress clients and prospects.
Bottom-Line Creativity: I never saw an Edelman PR campaign
that didn’t reflect the distinctive bottom-line strategic and tactical
creativity that Daniel Edelman and his company brought to the table. In
my experience, he never focused on ephemeral measurements, such as Ad
Equivalency, when he could instead point to sales or other more
substantive business measurements.
Billing: In addition to serving his clients, Daniel
Edelman knew how to create profit for himself, as well as his clients.
For instance, while he often met with his clients—generally for
strategic creative sessions where his immense expertise added real
value—he never traveled alone. He brought his team of senior agency
execs, men and women who understood the client’s needs, and each of them
legitimately billed for their time. Until I first tried to wrest a
client from his agency, I’d never heard of a thousand-dollar-an-hour
meeting. Yet the Edelman clients I knew had no qualms about this
seemingly astronomic figure, because they always received real and
perceived value from these meetings. Following his example, I now bring
my team, rather than trying to represent them, and I’ve found that my
clients also appreciate this added depth this.