If you had to pick one name that epitomized the modern PR industry, that name would probably be Edelman.
Daniel, the founding father of his eponymous agency back in 1952, sadly passed away in January this year soon after the company's 60th anniversary celebrations. But son Richard has more than taken the baton in becoming the best-known PR person in the world since he took the reins of the agency in 1997.
Richard is routinely quoted on global issues, especially in the context of the firm's Trust Barometer, unveiled annually around the Davos World Economic Forum, which has become the de facto reference point on reputation and trust for global media of all types.
It is worth remembering that, since 1997, Edelman the agency has grown more than threefold to become not only the biggest independent PR firm in the world, but also the largest of all.
Much of this should be attributed to the strategy, drive, and leadership of Richard, who stepped into some very large shoes, but built Edelman into something bigger and better than anything before – with 2012 revenues in excess of $665 million and more than 4,650 staff.
Richard's ambition now is to grow his empire to be the first $1 billion PR group: in addition to the Edelman agency, his umbrella group DJE Holdings also includes the fast-growing Zeno Group and conflict shop Krispr.
In the past 12 months, he has faced the challenges and opportunities of integration, convergence, and social media with customary zeal, plunging his agency into the worlds of native advertising and paid media to complement its core communications services.
Once a hardliner in his commitment to keeping advertising and PR separate, Richard has since adjusted his position and believes content creation for brands has changed the game and that his agency needs to reframe its business during the next five years – as long as the context and definition of what it does lies in expanding the scope of PR, not becoming a full-service provider.
He is not resting on his laurels and is remaking the future before it remakes his agency.
*An earlier version of this article contained an inaccurate usage of the phrase "jumping the shark" in relation to the Trust Barometer - this has now been removed.