Daniel Edelman: Public relations pioneer


Wednesday 16 January 2013 21:30
Edelman honed his public relations skills in the Army
Edelman honed his public relations skills in the Army

Daniel J Edelman, who died on 15 January at the age of 92, built one of the world's leading public relations companies and pioneered celebrity endorsements and media tours. He developed many of the methods now standard after transforming the firm he started more than 60 years ago with two people into a global concern. The firm's clients include Microsoft, Pfizer, Wal-Mart and Royal Dutch Shell.

Born in New York, he worked as a reporter and editor before serving in the Army, honing his public relations skills in a psychological warfare unit analysing German propaganda.

His PR career began as a publicist for Musicraft Records, whose stars included Mel Torme, sponsored on radio by the Toni hair care firm. Edelman packaged Torme's records in an album designed to look like a Toni product, earning him a job as Toni's PR director in Chicago. By the 1960s, his own company was promoting California's wine industry. he retained Vincent Price as a spokesman and booked him on The Tonight Show, on which California wines won a tasting test. "It was a great coup," Edelman said later.

His career was littered with such coups: he hired feminist activist Gloria Steinem to promote birth control pills; when Michael Dukakis was running for president, Edelman proved that Morris the Cat, representing 9Lives cat food, had higher name recognition.

Kentucky Fried Chicken took centre stage on TV during Elizabeth Taylor's 1991 wedding to Larry Fortensky. Reporters were barred from the ceremony, so Edelman arranged for a KFC executive to show up outside dressed as the late Colonel Sanders, serving reporters chicken – which they mentioned during broadcasts.

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