Chicago PR legend Daniel Edelman dies | WBEZ
Skip to main content


Legendary Chicago public relations man Daniel Edelman dies

Daniel Edelman (Courtesy of Edelman)
Daniel Edelman started his public relations firm in 1952 out of Merchandise Mart with just three employees on the books and one client: the Toni Corporation.

Advertising Age Editor-in-Chief Rance Crain first encountered Edelman when he was first starting out as a cub reporter for the weekly publication. Crain covered many companies that were Edelman clients.

"He was really good at coming up with innovative angles for stories," said Crain, who is also editor-in-chief of Crain's Chicago Business and Crain's New York Business. "We've got to say that Dan was the father of modern public relations."

With Edelman at the helm, he created the Toni twins campaign for his client. But there were many more successes for the company, including popular campaigns like Morris the Cat, Starkists's dolphin-safe tuna, and the creation of the Butterball Turkey talk line more than 30 years ago. (Today, the popular Thanksgiving help line isn't just available by phone, but via podcast, Pinterest and other modern media sites).


Crain said he struck up a friendship with Edelman based in part on the businessman's desire to keep his company independent and family-run, just like the Crains have done with their publications.

"I think he wanted it to remain independent so it could be that way for his kids," Crain said.

Today, Edelman has more than 4,500 employees in 30 cities across the world. Daniel Edelman retired in 1996. He died of heart failure Tuesday morning.

The company is run by his son, Richard, who is the current president and CEO.


Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.