Agency A-List: Edelman

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Richard Edelman
  • Links PR, new media
  • Biz surges in China
  • Joins "green" wave
  • Wins HP, Hyatt work
  • Firmly all in the family
Consider the dominant marketing and business trends of the past year, and there's a good chance that public-relations agency Edelman is already one step ahead of its competition in defining them.

Adapting to the new digital and social media marketplace?

Edelman last year established a distinct division, Me2Revolution, dedicated to incorporating new media into appropriate campaigns, and the firm's eponymous CEO, Richard, blogs regularly on the corporate website.

Expanding business in China?

Edelman's revenue increased 27% there, outpacing even its strong 25% growth in the U.S.

Embracing more green-friendly initiatives?

Edelman in 2007 launched Goodpurpose, a global unit that aims to bring social-responsibility marketing to its stable of blue-chip clients.

No sale
The one marketing movement Mr. Edelman has continued to resist, however, is the pressure to sell his family-owned business to one of the holding companies.

This go-it-alone strategy continued to serve Edelman well in 2007, as it notched dozens of new-business wins such as Hewlett-Packard, Hyatt and Mars while not losing an account of consequence.

More importantly, the PR giant created meaningful campaigns for its existing base of clients, most notably for Microsoft Corp. (for the launches of both Vista and "Halo 3"), Duke University (restoring the institution's reputation while growing its pool of new applicants) and Unilever's Dove (continued efforts for its widely recognized "Campaign for Real Beauty").

Chalk this up to a steady commitment to consumer marketing, something many other PR agencies have gotten away from because profit margins are higher in other practices such as public affairs and financial communications.

Nervous competitors
Led by Mitch Markson on a global basis with big names such as Rick Murray and (Advertising Age columnist) Steve Rubel in the U.S., the practice is arguably best-in-class among PR firms and even has some ad agencies with shared clients a bit nervous.

Importantly, Edelman managed to steer clear of any high-profile snafus a year after concocting a fake blog for Wal-Mart that momentarily sullied the agency's reputation, and that's no mean feat when you consider how Edelman is living on the edge of a new-media landscape. Add it all up -- an excellent new-business year, impressive work and a scandal-less 12 months -- and 2007 was a charmed year for Edelman.

With 800 new employees worldwide, including former Newt Gingrich aide Tony Blankley, Edelman is well-positioned to take on the PR challenges the U.S. presidential election and the Beijing Olympics are sure to present to its clients.

Among its tasks: continuing to grow in China and other emerging markets and recharging its Washington office, which lost two big rainmakers in the past year. Former Reagan adviser Michael Deaver passed away, and Leslie Dach went in-house at Wal-Mart Stores.
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